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?

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5 Comments

  1. I think “my own domain name” will be the channel for “my social media”. My domain name becomes my OpenID and almost all of the domain name registrars give rudimentary web hosting where I can store my content. With some additional programming logic, I can share those content with my friends identified by their OpenID. Which is what social networks like Facebook offer.

    You can see it operational at enthinnai.com

  2. Leona Hobbs

    @Aswath Rao – that’s a cool system you’ve developed. OpenID has a tonne of potential. I didn’t touch on it in my post, but are you using Google Apps or similar to manage your email?

  3. Janine

    I took your advice and registered my own domain name. $15 a year is a steal!

    Cheers!

  4. Thanks for the positive comment. But I didn’t get you question regarding Google App and email. If you are referring to enthinnai, we do not offer email service as such. It is platform that we have developed and running it on an Amazon EC2 instance.

  5. @Aswath – It was more of a comment. I think email is a natural extension for domain-based identity services.

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