Identity is essential to building a strong foundation before you start developing your digital influence.
In the Digital Influence framework, identity is the first step of INFLUENCE – because you need to know who you are and claim and control your online identity before you set out to assert influence online, begin a digital marketing campaign or building a brand.
See bottom of article for presentation slides
Claiming your online identity should be one of your first steps to building your digital brand.
Your identity is fundamental to your ability to be found, to connect with people and to assert influence in the online world
In a recent Digital Influence webinar I shared some of the simple steps you can take today to claim your online.
Some of the areas where you need to research and claim your online identity are:
- Email addresses
- Online Identity Profiles
- Social Media / Networking Profiles
- Passwords and Security Systems
Domains for Identity and Influence
Most people are aware of the importance of having a domain name to represent yourself, your business or your brand online.
In some cases, the best domain for your business is obvious, but in others it can be a challenge.
For organic search ranking it is attractive to choose domains based on keywords that your customers use to search for your products and services, but when it comes to claiming your online identity you should focus on domains that represent your name (for personal brands), business name, brand name, product name or event name.
For example, I use these domains to protect my personal and business identity online:
- dallasmcmillan.com.au (I’m located in Australia, the .com is already taken or I’d use that too)
- influential.com.au and influentialdigital.com.au (My business name is Influential Digital – my brand is influential)
- DigitalInfluence.com.au is my product brand
As well as providing a location for your website, your identity based domain names also provide the opportunity to have email addresses that clearly establish who you are or what you do.
If you are in business, having a personalised or business domain is essential – personally I use my business emails for most business mail, and a gmail account for personal (friends and family) mail to keep things separate.
My business mail is hosted with Google (Google Apps for Business, or whatever they call it this week)
Domains aren’t everything – when it comes to the social web, we often need to sign in or communicate with others online using tools like email, social media and other channels.
While today we all recognise the preeminence of social networks like Facebook, it’s worth being aware of a group of platforms that have been developed specifically to manage identity.
The general concept of these is that by having a single central account for your online identity, this can be used anywhere online to authenticate yourself (eg for login, purchases, privacy etc) and to personalise your experience.
Prominent identity management profiles examples include:
- https://en.gravatar.com/ (Primarily focused on your image/avatar)
- http://openid.net/ (Primarily focused on signin)
- https://onename.com/ (One of several bitcoin blockchain based identity platforms)
- https://disqus.com/ (Primarily used for commenting on articles and blogs – see also Livefyre.com and
These platforms attempt to solve the problem of creating a universally recognised and mobile identity allowing recognition, access and security.
The challenge is the user base of these products was quite small (mostly bloggers, geeks and early adopters) and there were often technical issues that made using them as much hassle as just using the old way (name, username, email address, passwords etc)
Social Media and Social Networking Profiles
Social Media and Social Networking site profiles are now one of the most important aspects of your online identity.
While 10 years ago you just had to worry about finding the right domain for your business, today it’s also important to get a facebook, twitter and instagram account (depending on your market). Likewise, networks like Linkedin, Youtube and other social media and social networking accounts allow customisation of the username to include your personal, business or brand name.
One of the best ways to check for these is to use a site like http://namechk.com that allows you to search for available domain names and social media profiles en-masse (see video for how to use)
“Vanity” Domains and Usernames: Not only for the Vain
When you get a personalised or custom username on a platform like Facebook or Linkedin, it’s often called a “Vanity URL” – reflecting the idea that it is a minor conceit to want a web address with your name in it.
The benefits of a name-based URL go much further than stroking your ego though.
Having consistent naming of your social media accounts and domains builds your brand trust (learn why by reading Robert Cialdini’s 6 principles of influence in this article on authentic influence)
It also prevents people accidently viewing the wrong person or business online – people will sometimes assume that your domain or social URL matches business and type it in directly or find it on Google – if you haven’t claimed your online identity you risk losing customers to your competition.
Another reason why vanity URLs aren’t just about vanity is that they are important for search engines to find and index your content. It’s much easier to rank for a specific name or a search term (Like Digital Influence) if you have that term in domain names, in URLs (like article names), and in social media profile URLs (Often called “Handles”)
All these websites, email addresses and social media accounts create a serious challenge for us as internet users, publishers, or business owners – remembering passwords.
Remember that your online identity is almost like a passport – if someone can hack into your online accounts they can steal your identity.
This can be bad if they misrepresent you online (eg spamming your social media with porn images) but it can be much worse if they also access your personal or business financial records.
Thus securing your online identitiy is as important as claiming it.
The foundation of online security is using secure, secret passwords.
Unfortunately humans aren’t much good at remembering passwords – in fact that’s one of the reasons passwords won’t necessarily last for long as our primary way of securing identity – it’s much easier for hackers to steal a secure password than it is for you to remember it!
By secure passwords, we mean passwords that are sufficiently difficult to guess (by being long, random or unusual). Often using short unusual phrases are a better way to remember passwords that random strings. (“Ginger Elephants Mixmaster”is secure, but easier to remember than “sQ1K40Qtt5MRdcLlXf4z”)
If you have to remember more than a few passwords (don’t we all!) then don’t make the mistake most people make – using the same password on all sites.
Be particularly careful with email and banking passwords (if someone hacks your email account it is usually easy to move on and hack all your websites, social accounts, and other online accounts including banking)
When you want to manage more than a handful of passwords it’s useful to use password management tools such as:
Your computer and your browser also offer password management software – use it and understand how it works (and make sure it’s secure itself – otherwise you may be unwittingly leaving your passwords exposed.
Digital Influence – Identity Webinar – Claiming your online identity