I was having drinks with friends not too long ago, and one of my friends mentioned that she had been at a conference where someone asked about her Twitter account. When she gave the other person her Twitter handle, the other person was surprised that my friend did not use her real name as the account, thinking it lessened her presence on the web.
As we discussed this, we were all in agreement that your identity online is not dependent on your name. While some people successfully brand themselves utilizing their name, others are equally successful recreating themselves under monikers of their own creation. We felt that not only was her chosen username of limespark perfectly valid as her personal “brand,” but that it was a very creative name. Thoughts of how it could be represented, possible logo ideas, and other related ephemera related to her chosen nomenclature to push her personal brand even further.
Brian Simpson, food and beverage director of the Roger Smith Hotel, stated that “We’re ALL customer service people @RShotel!” when someone from a large hotel chain stated he was “not a customer service person” at the 140 Conference earlier this year. This not only holds true for companies but for individuals. Looking at a company like Zappos is an example for every individual who wants to push their personal brand further. Zappos responds to every email they receive, every mention of them on Twitter, and center their company on customer service. While they sell shoes at a price that could be rivaled on other sites, like Amazon, what keeps people coming back is the way Zappos treats their customers. Little things like interacting with their customers and giving the occasional random free shipping upgrade make people happy and brings them back for more.
Plenty of people are able to build up their brands online regardless of name. On one hand, you have Walt Ribeiro [link], the Internet’s Music Teacher. He loves to create and teach music, and it comes across very genuine to his userbase. He makes videos orchestrating rock songs and teaching music, but he also reaches out to each and every person who watches his videos. He follows the Zappos model and happily answers people through Twitter, email, or if you just stop him on the street. On the other hand, you have Agent_M. Agent_M is the digital editor at Marvel.com and runs Marvel’s Twitter account. What Agent_M offers in his personal account that he doesn’t offer as much of in the Marvel account is personality and interaction, which is why his personal account catapulted its way into being one of the most popular accounts on Twitter. In addition to talking up Marvel Comics, he talks about music, tacos, and even answers my question about the missing Daredevil Omnibus.
My personal brand isn’t my real name. If you Google my real name, I don’t even come up in the top 5 responses. My personal brand is JustJon. My website, my Facebook, my Flickr, my Myspace, my phone number (as of this week, thanks to Google Voice), and other assorted websites that I am a member of or do the duties of webmaster for. The fact that I don’t use my real name isn’t as important as the value that I give the people trying to connect with me because at the end of the day, people will remember the name you give them for the value you create.