Why don’t you use your real name?

Some people use the internet to build their networks, promote their businesses, or even sell their products and services. Others use it purely for recreation. Here, I’m speaking primarily about the former.

One thing I’ve never understood is why it is that people choose online nicknames, screen names, etc that identify them with a specific company or project. I see it all the time on Twitter.  Jim is @jimfromsomecompany. Jane is @company_jane.

I have no problem with this.  I just don’t get it.  Why don’t they use their real names?

When they move on to the next company, they’re gonna have to change accounts everywhere.  What if I subscribe to one of these people on Friendfeed and I miss the little note about having a new job and migrating online presences?

I use my real name because I can take it with me from project to project, I see it as a way of building my own brand, and I’m easy to find this way (think of that as a sort of content creation bit).

Do people just see it differently from the way I see nicknames, user names, etc?

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  • http://www.adrianeden.com Adrian Eden

    People are scared that they will have to defend what they are saying when they use their real names. I personally use my real name everywhere I can because I believe in what I have to say. Monopolizing your Government name has never been more important than it is today. Nice post.

  • TN

    Your name is also ERIC. Easy to spell and pronounce, with no embarassing or offensive pop culture connections. What if your name is already attached to an established brand? Also, if other people start to know you by a different name, it only makes sense to go by that. Like Penelope Trunk.

  • http://www.ericpratum.com Eric Pratum

    That last bit about your government name reminds of something a friend said the other day: “Promoting yourself under your own name is becoming the new job search.”

    Thanks for commenting Adrian.

  • http://www.ericpratum.com Eric Pratum

    Good point. I remember seeing a Scoble on Twitter, and in his bio, it said something about not wanting people to follow him simply because of his name.

    I guess I was wondering more about when people connect themselves to a brand that is not under their control… comcastscott for example. It seems to me like he's really tying his online personality to that one company.

  • http://www.adamok.net Adam

    I guess a lot of people prefer to blog anonymously because it gives them a lot of freedom to write and rant about work, friends. colleagues and anything under the sun. Once you put your real name, you have to think twice. In some countries, you may even be jailed or tortured.

  • KarenDenovich

    I suspect it could be required by the employer. Their thinking – if he's blogging on our dime, he needs to brand our company. They don't pay their employees to brand and market themselves.

    Or it could an ethical decision – same rationale as above, but self-imposed. For example, as president of my local business association or when representing a client, I don't promote myself. Just by being there and representing my client/association well, I am promoting myself – basically the high road.

    That said, as a shameless self promoting freelance copywriter, I want my (real) name out there wherever I can. My user name has always been my name from two trains of thought. First and foremost – increased Internet presence and second, I stand behind what I say or I don't say it.

    When I joined Twitter, nicknames seemed like the thing to do and so, I signed on as eloquentwriter. My real name and web address are listed in my profile. But I like eloquentwriter because more than a nickname, it describes me and what I do. I like it so well that it is the domain name for my new venture into the blogging world.

  • http://FlowingDesert.com Stephen

    I agree. SmugMug_guy is a great screen name when he is working for SmugMug, but what if Flickr or PicasaWeb hires him away? He can probably not keep using his original name as that would be misrepresentation and thus would lose a big chunk of his network.

  • http://www.adventurouswench.com Adventurous Wench women

    Using nicknames is a great way of deflecting spam mails.

  • http://www.ericpratum.com Eric Pratum

    That makes sense and is a great point actually. Thanks for saying that. I guess I was mainly wondering why people don't do it when they're working online to promote themselves… and maybe in some cases why they don't do it when also promoting a business.

  • http://www.ericpratum.com Eric Pratum

    It seems like eloquentwriter has, in some places, become interchangeable with your real name, right? And, my guess is that it's a name you not likely to need to get rid of as you'll probably always be a writer, unlike when you work for a client or employer, right?

    I'm with you on the shameless self-promotion. ;-) Thanks for the comment, Karen.

  • http://www.ericpratum.com Eric Pratum

    Exactly, and having to change his screen name will likely have negative consequences on his reach, perception in his network, etc. Thanks for the comment, Stephen.

  • http://www.ericpratum.com Eric Pratum

    I don't get hardly any spam really… Well, to me, hardly any means maybe 5 pieces/day.

  • ThorErik

    I agree with you on using real name, I began doing so when I began blogging a little over 5 years ago.
    I also try to swap out the old accounts that is something like “c3po” or “thor551″ cause they aren't obvious that their mine.

  • http://www.ericpratum.com Eric Pratum

    Every now and then, I'll catch people tweeting, IMing, etc something like “Just to let you know, I'm changing from MikeyN1981 to MichealDewalt” or something like that. I don't believe it's horribly wrong to have to make that change… Now that I think about it though, one benefit is probably that the only people who will add your, transfer you, etc are the people who are actually paying attention ;-)

  • http://www.miscellaneousfinds4u.com Connie

    Perhaps there are a few of us that still believe in keeping personal information just that, personal. Or perhaps some of us are women who've been told not to open our doors to strangers and now on the internet we're being told to fling the door open. I say who cares if you're using a real name or not. As long as you're posting or tweeting responsibly I don't care what you call yourself. Start being a jerk and I'll block you or report you and move on.

    Perhaps it's time we give up on the hangups of what name we use.

  • Alias

    I don't see the point of using my name online.

    I'm not trying to brand myself or “network.”

    I'm networking for new friends, to learn more, and to share my opinion. But, my opinion isn't necessarily connected to my employers, former employers, schools, etc. Putting your name out there can easily lead to too much info being shared, and potential issues (stalking, employer issues, etc.). If you say where you are (“going to H&M on 52nd St.”) or “work sucks” with your real name, it could be more problematic than anonymous.

    I give my friends my usernames and where to connect with me online. Better yet, they know my phone number and e-mail and can connect with me personally.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neal-Freeland/219264 Neal Freeland

    I totally agree. This is a basic personal branding point. Anonymous aliases also seem more linked to troll-behavior, at least in my experience. Using your real name also encourages you to follow the best social norms of the internet: be polite, honest, transparent, respectful.

  • nealfreeland

    I totally agree. This is a basic personal branding point. Anonymous aliases also seem more linked to troll-behavior, at least in my experience. Using your real name also encourages you to follow the best social norms of the internet: be polite, honest, transparent, respectful.

  • http://ericpratum.com Eric Pratum

    @alias You make a good point about the problems that can come with using your real name. I guess that my issue is mainly that tying your name to a company is a bad idea since, when you part with the company, it will be difficult to take your connections with you… because after all, you chose to tie your name to the company. However, as you point out, not being anonymous online can definitely lead to problems…even if you have an effective filter. :-)

  • http://ericpratum.com Eric Pratum

    @alias You make a good point about the problems that can come with using your real name. I guess that my issue is mainly that tying your name to a company is a bad idea since, when you part with the company, it will be difficult to take your connections with you… because after all, you chose to tie your name to the company. However, as you point out, not being anonymous online can definitely lead to problems…even if you have an effective filter. :-)

  • http://ericpratum.com Eric Pratum

    @Neal Definitely. As most of us know by now, anonymity can bring out the jerk in even the nicest people, and using your real name online makes your interactions more real… in that, you are representing yourself (or if you use your company name, a brand), and none of us would want an online confrontation to boil over into the ‘real world.’

    As far as personal branding goes, I completely understand why many people do not feel the need to brand themselves online nor the need to make their presence known, but for those who do, I strongly feel that tying your name to a company is a big mistake.

    Thanks for commenting, Neal. :-)

  • http://ericpratum.com Eric Pratum

    @Neal Definitely. As most of us know by now, anonymity can bring out the jerk in even the nicest people, and using your real name online makes your interactions more real… in that, you are representing yourself (or if you use your company name, a brand), and none of us would want an online confrontation to boil over into the ‘real world.’

    As far as personal branding goes, I completely understand why many people do not feel the need to brand themselves online nor the need to make their presence known, but for those who do, I strongly feel that tying your name to a company is a big mistake.

    Thanks for commenting, Neal. :-)

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