Doug’s post last week got me thinking about how personal brand and reputation map to identity. By way of disclosure, I’ll preface this post by saying that before SMG, I worked for a company whose primary business is domain names and related services.
Those of us immersed in social networking and related web services, are often so focused on the next big thing we forget about domain names which remain the primary building blocks for establishing an online identity. Savvy marketers and communicators think about domain names first when coming up with campaign ideas, naming a new business venture or even deciding on a baby name. At $10 per year it is a small investment to make, even if you aren’t ready to develop a site. At the very least, it is a shrewd defensive move to purchase hold your name so someone else can’t purchase it and use it.
I’ve heard the arguments against domain names – that they’re irrelevant because of the power of search and that web services with hostnames (e.g. yourname.myspace.com) are the future. These hostnames, or so-called “vanity URLs” are the names you choose across social networking sites and web services. While important that your username be consistent and that you take steps to register your name on multiple social networking sites, I don’t believe these replace domain names. Just for kicks, you can use namechk to check out your own user name availability at multiple social networking sites.
And, of course, I won’t discount the power of search. In fact, a well-chosen and optimized domain name can boost your search engine results significantly. Given our personal brands are spread across scores of sites, surely bringing together all those disparate services and organizing them under a single domain (which you control) makes sense. And it is a heck of a lot easier (and more professional) to tell someone to go to socialmediagroup.com to read your blog instead of socialmediagroup.blogspot.com or worse.
One of the latest developments in domain names is .tel. It is a global directory service that brings your contact information together in a single place. You don’t need to build or host a website to use .tel, it is easy to update and manage and a fast way to connect with people using the web or mobile devices. You can take a closer look at mine here. You can read more about .tel’s plans to become the world’s largest phone book, here.
If I’ve piqued your interest in domain names, here are some other sites to check out. My favourite “inside baseball” domain name commentary and news site is CircleID. Check out Hover to create your own personal URL shortener as well as simply buy and use your domain names. Finally, I like Domainr for name searches beyond the standard .com and .net.
So, what do you think? What is the role of domain names in social media?