Noms de Plume & reputation management

After many years online, Facebook and the others social sites have pretty well convinced me to abandon my nom de plume. As someone who has been self promoting (in a good way) using her first, middle and last name for many years, what do you feel have been the most beneficial outcomes of this? Though more obvious, what have been the down sides? -Brodie

The best outcome is having what one journalist referred to as a "large online blast radius." As someone who works in online marketing and public relations, it's hugely valuable to have so much of my work so readily accessible to those who might be interested in it. In addition, using your real name with your own websites can give you a lot of control over your digital reputation and presence, ie when someone searches for you online, they find you presenting yourself, instead of someone talking about you.

The downsides are having to be very conscious about what you write online at almost all times. Many years ago I went through the Electrolicious archives and sanitized dozens of posts, but every now and then something will still pop in the "past posts on this day" sidebar that I'm like HOLY FUCK I CAN'T BELIEVE I PUT THAT ONLINE! I think there's a bit of a statute of limitations on this stuff (what coworker would hold me liable for being violently hung over in 2000?) but I definitely have learned to be very careful about what I write — even when I'm on other people's blogs. I have trolls known and snark about me on other people's websites, so I have to be conscious even when commenting elsewhere online. (Side note: the devotion some people have to loathing Brand Ariel is truly humbling. Thank you, oh tenacious trolls, for your undying dedication to your efforts!)

Mostly it comes down to reputation management. When you use your real name online, you have to hold yourself to pretty decent standards in terms of communication. For someone who works on marketing/pr, it's worth it to

  1. I used my online handle until like 2005. Then I just switched to my real name, Sondr, which is pretty unique and easy to search. I only started using "Sondr" when networking and blogging sites all started to have options.

    Also, if you find anything about yourself that you deem detrimental, there are easy ways to remove yourself from most search engines. I had to get rid of some embarrassing friendster results, and google and yahoo both immediately pulled the offending search results.

  2. all very good points.

    and, although in a professional sense my blog hasn't really affected much, i've had so many extremely positive interactions with new people (friends of friends, etc.) because they could connect me with my blog/online persona. the number of negative ones have been very minimal. just the other night on the dancefloor this very cute boy came up to me and said "hi amy leBlanc. DOT COM. i love your blog and i read it all the time…" and i think i blushed.

    i also just think it's valuable, personally and generally, to have to be accountable for what you write. it forces you to consider what you're saying will reflect about who you are. now, i understand that there are some where writing anonymously is a better idea – if you're criticizing a union you work for, etc., but unless there's a practical reason for you to be anonymous, i think it only leads to you saying things you'd never say to anyone's face, and that generally leads to no good and down a path of assholism.

  3. Hi, thanks for answering my Q.
    I really do like the idea of controlling your own message/brand.

  4. You know, as someone who can't use their full name online (at the moment) I still think your words of wisdom about holding yourself accountable are good ones. When I write I remember what Maggie Mason wrote a few years ago and I tucked away in my head. "Keep in mind, no matter what you think now, sooner or later, your grandmother is going to get your URL and start reading your blog."

    So, I write like that. The internet is not a good place to store secrets.

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