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Business - Written by on Thursday, July 31, 2008 17:33 - 17 Comments

Brittany Creamer™

If each person is their own brand, like my marketing professor says they are, then your online identity is a large, integral part of that brand. But how do you manage all of the content, yours or otherwise, that becomes attached to your name?

Take, for example, the other Brittany Creamer. She’s a blonde basketball player in a state several hundreds of miles north of the unathletic, brunette me. I was a little surprised, when logging in to Facebook one day a couple of years ago, to see pictures posted of me with blonde hair surrounded by foreign faces. Although quickly untagging these pictures resolved my mini identity crisis, how do you prevent and manage larger, more serious cases of mistaken identity?

Blogger Esther Dyson suggests the idea of curating your online identity in her blog in MIT’s Technology Review. She raises thought provoking questions about new complexities of personal identities that are less than private-say when your information is hosted on a platform or stored in a database. While she concluded that less vague and abstract user agreements and privacy settings are the quickest fix, I’m still a little skeptical. More specific user agreements could solve disputes about ads tailored to your interests, but I’m not sure how they could help manage user-generated content.

I use stringent limited profile settings on Facebook to prevent my colleagues from seeing my less-than-professional side. My work friends can’t see my wall (no offense!) because I can’t control what my friends post. With Facebook’s redesign, though, a person’s wall is now the page a viewer lands on when they click through to see that person’s profile. The content I created about myself is hidden in secondary tabs. So much for creating your own Facebook persona, now your friends do it for you. So what do my poor work friends see when they land on my new profile? My tight privacy settings now result in my profile looking like a barren desert. My solution? Well, I don’t have one yet. But I’m working on it.

My plan of last resort, should it come to that, will be to generate a fake identity and start all over. It only takes a click of the mouse.


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Dan Schawbel
Jul 31, 2008 18:41

Nice blog entry here. You have to decide what your brand is before letting others judge you.

Naumi Haque
Jul 31, 2008 22:45

Good point Brittany – the new Facebook format is not very work-friendly. On the flip side, if your wall feed contained work-related content, it would be a good way for colleagues to see what you were working on, what project teams you were involved in, etc. I guess this would be the next evolution of Facebook’s social graphs.

Daniel J. Pritchett
Aug 1, 2008 9:57

I am handling this duality by keeping my personal Facebook page private (only friends can see it) and then setting up a wide-open Facebook page that syndicates my blog. The blog is the center of any personal branding I actively do online.

Lawrence Chen
Aug 1, 2008 12:50

Great post Brittany! It was pretty creative and I thought you brought up a very interesting point. I wonder what people think of my brand when they access my Facebook profile.

Katie Carty Tierney
Aug 1, 2008 14:14

Personal Branding is absolutely essential in today’s job market, too, so having control over your name is important. Potential employers will look you up, and won’t always be able to tell the difference between you and some other Brittany Creamer with a shady internet presence.

Unfortunately, that level of control is also impossible. There are tons of Katie Tierneys in the world, so I decided to differentiate myself by using my maiden name and becoming “Katie Carty Tierney” on-line. It’s a baby step towards cementing my brand, but it’s certainly not the entire solution.

The Screen Actor’s Guild has the right idea. You can’t join SAG using the same name as an existing SAG member. That’s what gave us Michael J. Fox, after all! Maybe we can lobby all the governments of the world to do the same thing. They can create a database to track names, and not allow anyone to give their new baby a name that already exists anywhere in the world. Then we eliminate this problem altogether because everyone in the world would have a unique name. That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? :)

Mike Dover
Aug 1, 2008 14:47

When I joined P&G, I was the second Michael Ian Dover. My email was dover.mi.2@pg.com, so the first Michael Ian Dover got a lot of my email.

He received my invite to a conference and when he forwarded it, he asked me if I could get him an invite as well.

I did, and we ended up eating dinner together. Nice guy, but it seemed a bit surreal.

Brittany Creamer
Aug 4, 2008 10:24

Thank you for the Facebook suggestions! I can see how useful it would be to keep colleagues posted via the wall, but unfortunately I use Facebook almost entirely for social purposes. I love Dan’s focus on his blog as his primary branding tool. I have been considering purchasing my own domain and think I may finally be convinced!

And Katy, that is also how we got Jonathan Taylor Thomas from Home Improvement, too! And you will be happy to know I’m already planning on having my domain name tattooed on my forehead.

Aug 4, 2008 19:16

Privacy doesn’t seem to be as big an issue as it used to be. Arguably the more open people are these days the more successful they are at attracting opportunity and gaining further advantages in the market.

Openness=value, because it shows (1) you have nothing damaging to hide, and (2) that you’re not afraid of what other people think of you.

Daniel J. Pritchett
Aug 5, 2008 10:02

Brittany: My site only costs me $10/year for the domain, it’s still hosted for free at Blogger. The only downside is the navbar but I really like a near-free hosted blog for use as a low-stress personal site.

Avinash: I agree with that openness is good business but it’s still rough having your friends’ indiscretions reflected in your Mini-feed and Wall. It’s one thing to have to police comments on your blog, but trying to sanitize Facebook friends who don’t share your concern for professionalism will be a Sisyphean task unless you just mercilessly un-friend some folks. I’m sticking with a friends-only FB profile for now.

Brittany Creamer
Aug 5, 2008 11:01

Avinash, I completely agree that openness provides value. The caveat, I think, is that I do not know what kind of value my friends’ weekend pictures and other shenanigans contribute to my online identity. I doubt a recruiter would find my weekend pictures or slightly inappropriate wall posts as funny as my friends and I do.

Daniel, watch out for brittanycreamer.com! My domain would be right at $10 a year, too. Funny story about how godaddy.com suggested “milk emergency” as an alternate to Creamer. I’m not quite sure that’s the brand I want to create!

Wikinomics » Blog Archive » Hidden Skeleton in Your Closet? Think Again.
Aug 5, 2008 15:32

[...] my last blog I pondered my personal brand and how to manage my information. While I am fortunate—or maybe just [...]

Aug 7, 2008 6:04

Unique names would be a big, big problem.

Ditto with unique numbers.

Out of 6 billion; 800-900 million speak Engilsh, with 331 million as a first language, which probably means similiar naming conventions.

Even user-selected ‘unique’ names become issues, like Hurricane Jane and the like. Rhymes, alliteration, etc also have linguistic limits. The move by universities to firstinitial.lastname.number at email is not a solution, if you’ve looked at any of those who aren’t ruthless about being rid of alumni.

Good luck on segregating people.

Katie Carty Tierney
Aug 7, 2008 13:04

Hey, ~ender – the part about the unique names was a joke. :)

Watch What You Type! « nGens of Talent Acquisition
Aug 18, 2008 12:11

[...] (and my very own mentee!), Brittany Creamer, wrote an insightful post on the Wikinomics blog on managing your personal identity online. Her main point was that you really can’t control what becomes attached to your name on the [...]

Daniel J. Pritchett
Sep 8, 2008 13:50

1) This is now the #1 hit for your name on Google.

2) Check out this free eBook on personal branding by blogger Chris Brogan: http://www.chrisbrogan.com/free-ebook-on-personal-branding/

Daniel J. Pritchett
Sep 8, 2008 13:52

Wow, my last comment looks like total spam. Let me just say that this eBook was released TODAY and reminded me of Brittany. That, and I have no relationship with Brogan whatsoever.

Pondering purging…my Facebook photos. « Brittany Creamer
Nov 11, 2008 0:46

[...] sees what. The number one thing I restrict: photos. A few months back I posted a couple of blogs (here and here) on Wikinomics.com contemplating my online identity. When I started this blog, I posted [...]

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Don Tapscott and Anthony D. William's latest collaboration, Macrowikinomics: New Solutions for a Connected Planet. Learn more.

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