Is your name web-ready?


What is building your personal brand worth when your name is John Smith?

A small illustration of the hard fought battle for online identity: Patricia Gallot-Lavallé was very well placed on Google [France] for… the keyword Patricia. Lucky her!

But, disaster, she just fell several positions at once. Blame the Patricia Kass comeback at Eurovision.

The singer that was eating my name

I, Julien Dorra, have my own personal Google drama. If you forget a little R when typing my name, it’s a singer coming out of nowhere 2 years ago who gets all the results!

You’ll have to guess who…

Today, Google even goes so far as to suggest the singer’s name as the correct spelling for my name… Obviously I have the vague hope that he will just be a fad…  but it seems very unlikely.

What does it mean? You personal brand is worth nothing

Statue de... John SmithLet’s begin with a 101 crash course on digital identity with a short article on controlling your personal brand.

Ok, this is all nice and sweet, but… what is building your personal brand worth when your name is John Smith?

In a world where everybody is going to be online, the traditional use of names is coming to an end.

Homonymy creates scarcity. Resources that should be unlimited — URLs, user names — become the objects of first-come, first-served runs.

There can be only one @johnsmith on Twitter. Or Facebook. First come, first served.

Some technical solutions  might be found to moderate this vanity url run, but they are yet to be invented.

And anyway, the problems are not only technical and online-specific. They are now even multiplied in off-line world.

Homonyms multiplied by the web equals confusion

The web augments the range of our activities.

If you do something, somebody somewhere will be notified. If your homonym does something… your friends will be notified!

Pierre Mathieu, from France Télévision, told me that he was attributed the activities and productions from his homonyms: a tv host, a painter, a sex therapist.

He has few options: deny the qualities he is attributed with, or appropriate them.

Homonymy build a chimeric Pierre Mathieu, capable of much more than each Pierre Mathieu separately!

Homonymy can give a false sense of anonymity. But to be mistaken for somebody else can bring its share of big, big trouble: who wants to be the homonym of an international terrorist? Or the homonym of the target of a bomb ?

Conclusion? An unique name is a must for 21st century children!

Some tips in no particular order:

  • Combine the name of the 2 parents to make your child’s name more rare

    Martin-Smith, it’s immediately less common…
  • Use your middle name systematically if your name is too common

    Pierre John Martin-Smith is a totally open spot on Google !

  • Beware of your spouse’s name: in case of separation you could lose the right to use it, depending on local laws and judicial decisions.

    Using another name dilutes your online personality. As doctors and lawyers often do, use your birth name even if married.
  • Use your right to identify yourself with a pseudonym. You can even add it to your various ID cards depending on your country — totally possible in France, not really in the US.

    If my grand-father “Zaki” and my grand mother “Loleth” did it, you can do it!

Western names have changed throughout history: simply a first name, first name with a quality or a place of origin, then a fixed name that you give to your children.

The online presence of more and more individuals is going to accelerate new changes.

Is your name — and your children’s names — web ready?

Version française de l’article : Votre nom est-il prêt pour le web ?