This brand is my brand…

Name Tag How valuable is your online identity? It’s a question that I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. I’ve had the same email account about as long as I can remember, but over the past couple of years, I’ve begun to realize that your email address is only one small part of your “brand identity.” Oh yeah. I said it. You have a brand, just like Nike, Coca-Cola, or McDonald’s.

With the advent of Web 2.0 services like Twitter, Facebook, and Windows Live, it’s becoming just as critical to have a recognizable @username as it is to have an email address that your friends and followers can easily associate with you.

My first (personal) email address was valin@xtn.net (don’t bother trying to send anything to me there, XTN has been bought, sold, and closed since then). “Valin” was a character; a little in-reference that made sense to no one but me and a handful of friends. At the time, it was really cool to have an online persona, like I was a secret agent or something equally cloak and dagger. The Internet was such a new technology, and frankly, I wasn’t sure just how much I could trust it. Besides, it was an opportunity to create a barrier and remove myself from my online activity. As the old saying goes, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Now, it just seems like 180º from what I want: a simple straightforward identity that communicates my presence to my family, friends, and fans. These days, I’d feel more than a little silly promoting myself online as Valin.

Anyone who follows me on Windows Live should know that my email address is my name, as I’m pretty wide open about it. It’s listed on my Windows Live Space, in the signature line of my email messages, and in my Windows Live Profile. I also generally throw my space’s personalized URL (my so-called vanity URL, also my name) into most blog comments and other communications I send these days. I’ve found that it’s a great way to drive traffic to my content, and it promotes an atmosphere of “trust” (and I use that term loosely) between myself and my network.

I know that I’m much more inclined to communicate with jimpatterson@hotmail.com than hackerdude@hotmail.com (both addresses pulled completely out of the ether, so follow at your own discretion). Yes, I realize that it’s just as likely that Jim isn’t really Jim at all, but my point is that I prefer communicating with someone who at least seems like a real person and not someone hiding behind the wall of an invented persona.

So, recently I’ve found myself on something of a quest to stake my claim to my brand in a variety of locales ‘round the Internet. Comcast, Yahoo, Twitter, FriendFeed, WordPress, Blogger, Flickr, Yammer, Ping.fm, just to name a few…I got ‘em all. I even got my preferred Facebook URL this past weekend. So far, the only one that has really eluded me is Gmail. Oh, I have a Gmail account, but it’s not my name, at least not in quite the format I’d like it to be. I guess I’d also like to have my dotcom, but let’s face it, having your own vanity dotcom (especially for an individual) isn’t nearly as relevant as it used to be.

I started by sending a courteous email to the owner of my coveted Gmail account and was promptly informed that he’s not interested in giving it up just yet. I have no idea whether he’s just squatting on it, or whether he’s really using it a lot. For the moment, it seems I’ve been thwarted. Where do I go from here? What do you think an email address is worth? Would you be willing to pay someone to get an email address you want? What would it take for you to sell your address, a piece of your brand, to someone else?

– Greg

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11 thoughts on “This brand is my brand…

  1. "Hey. I’m not a brat." <- That one? I like that too! LOL!I sometimes wish there was a system that could verifiably tie your "brand" to you. They are doing verified accounts on twitter, but just do this in general like with OpenID or something. Just a thought. Nice post. Oh, I did the vanity Facebook thing too.

  2. Copy right of Greg Edwards? We must have been on the same wavelength for a bit because I was thinking about my online identity this morning esp in relation to my email address ‘jasmineblossom16@hotmail.com’. I had this email since I was a teen when the Backstreet Boys were considered cool (even then though I still filled in my proper names and other details for the account). But now that I’m 30 years old, (ahem, no longer young and foolish), I want to do more with my online life like knowledge sharing, artistic expression and social connection (on a very selective basis). To that end, there is nothing wrong with having a public personna like a company profile – i.e, profile that is created for a purpose. My only regret is of course I can’t change my address to a more suitable name (Diana Le and even Ngoc Le – my Vietnamese name are both taken) because I have a ‘profile’ so to me my email address is worth a lot now despite the silly name. Therefore, I probably wouldn’t pay for my email address to change as long as I achived my aim- knowledge, enjoyment and connection – I’m happy. :)

  3. I too have had the same email address since I started using a computer, and even though it gets it’s fair share of spam, I’m reluctant to throw it away. It is my name and was attached to my original space. I opened a second space (in those days, you just did, mainly for trying out hacks and for playing jokes) but I just sat and thought up a name, and I had no idea at the time I’d be stuck with it! It’s still attached to the space I now use, I’m sure if I’d known I’d still be here 5 years later, I’d have thought more carefully about it ……………. wobblyone

  4. Morning, Greg. I actually take my online identity very seriously! I know I can have up to five email addy’s but I’ve never felt the need for extra ones. We have a shared addy from our ISP that my husband uses and I have my own, here, which is only ever given to trusted contacts. Since WLT are always telling people not to stick their email addy’s on open forums, like this one, ya geddit if I let ya! Funny. I was setting all my security up only yesterday, so it’s strange to see you blogging on something similar!

  5. Thanks for all the comments and feedback. While I think your name makes a great brand, I understand the risks associated with spreading your identity around the Internet. Remember that a brand doesn’t have to incorporate your name (after all, McDonald’s was founded by a guy named Ray Kroc), but it should be a consistent label that identifies you far and wide.I just Binged "gregsedwards" and the entire first page was stuff related to yours truly. Looks like my brand is doing its job.

  6. LOL. Enjoyed rdng., especially how creative ppl were with early email addys, then business just put ‘real’ name @ xyz company and/or organization so some, for privacy, had to think-up even more less obvious name. Depends on what exposure one wants/needs, point raised well here. You’re still the #1 greg edwards.

  7. Well it depends doesn’t it on whether or not you want to blast your real name around the place or use the name that most know you as. You are unfortunate Greg in sharing the same moniker as a very famous singer so you always tend to take a back seat. Try typing into Bing the word Technogran and see what you come up with! I am not only on Windows Live but also Flickr etc. But certainly not by my real name which I would not welcome! Again, each to their own………..

  8. I searched you as well, Greg. You’ve got tons of stuff! If I plonk me own name in, I only get one line, possibly two, if I look hard enough, and that’s just dandy, as the say;-)

  9. Oh, I’m not just a singer (Bing), but a comedian (Google), motorcycle racer (dotcom), and a dentist (Yahoo). I guess you could say that "gregsedwards" is my brand, which helps to distinguish me somewhat from the others who share my given name. I completely understand the need for a certain degree of identity security, but I’m careful to only share my location information with those in my respective networks, and I’m careful whom I allow into said networks. I don’t put anything out there that would be considered private or otherwise secret information. Hackers: that’s not a personal challenge to you. Thanks everyone for your comments.

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