Identity 2.0 - A Primer

Google your name. Right now. I’ll wait.

Good. What came up?

Look at the first page of results and ask yourself these questions about each one:

  1. Is it really me?
  2. Did I create this?
  3. Do I control this?

You need to be able to say “yes” to all of these for at least the top two or three results. (As I write this, the RSSmeme page repeating my Google Reader shared items has crawled above my blog, and I’m upset about it.)

Creating Identity

I’m lucky. My last name is very rare, so even if you Google just “Socol” I come in second—only to my father, and ahead of Wikipedia. You may not be so lucky, saddled with a name like Jones or Smith or, even worse, you might have the same name as a celebrity. You may have an uphill battle.

People with common names need to get creative. It can be as simple as adding an initial—my friend became Alec R. Johnston to distinguish himself. Something a little more creative—Lisa Bettany named her blog Mostly Lisa. Or you can geek out, like Ben Lew, who uses the name n0s0ap. (Those are zeros.)

Ben uses the name n0s0ap on, flickr,, Digg, Twitter, etc. Lisa uses a combination of “MostlyLisa” and “LisaBettany.” I use a combination of an old name, “UrbaneExistance” (I know it’s spelled wrong) and “JamesSocol” for all new registrations.

But all of us, Alec, Ben, Lisa, and I, make sure our real names are linked to our identities. It’s no Clark Kent: n0s0ap is Ben Lew, with the glasses on or off.

Owning Identity

Do you own your own domain name? Why not? Go buy it. Now. Go!

I have this conversation with friends all the time. Would you want someone signing your name on paper documents? Of course not, so why would you let them do the same thing online? I own,, and, just so no one else does. Even if you do nothing but have it redirect to your social network of choice, you should own your name.

If your name is taken, reread the last section and get creative.

Now, about those social networks. You don’t need to be on every one, but get on a few, build a profile, and put your name on it. You can create and control your own Facebook and MySpace pages without knowing a single HTML tag. Once you’ve got a name, whether it’s your real name or something else, use it.

Controlling Identity

The best way I’ve found to control what the web knows about you is to start your own propaganda campaign. Put your name on a lot of things, preferably with links back to your own site.

An easy way to start is by commenting. Blog comments help the most, since you spread that influence around the whole internet, but within MySpace or Facebook posting real, meaningful, interesting comments on profiles and walls will make sure people think of you when they hear your name.

If you have the time, try blogging. There are a lot of blogs with great advice, but you can always just “write what you know.” Once you find your voice, the writing flows.

What else? It depends what you like. If you take pictures, get a Flickr stream. is a great way to share and find music you like. GoodReads is a similar site for books. Twitter is great for finding people with similar interests and building connections. LinkedIn is a professional social network, particularly good for people in marketing or new media. Blogger, while not the best blogging platform, has some good community features. There is a lot out there.

Be Yourself

Don’t let someone else be you! Own your own identity and be proud of it. It will help you build authority and when a potential employer or client googles you, they’ll get a good idea about you from the first page of results.

What else, 2.0-savvy readers? What did I forget?