Real names. I've had this on my list of topics to address for some time and then I saw a post on the NAMS forum from David Perdew, the producer of the Niche Affiliate Marketing System workshop, letting members know that if they don't use their real name, they'll be removed from the forum.
It's become a total nightmare in the blog comments. Recently I announced that I have moved to moderated comments because of the torrent of spam comments from names like SEOLondon or Web Marketing Expert. Those comments generally do not get through. NOTE: If you want your comment approved, use your real name.
The problem is that many real, legit people also do this. They think they're being clever. But in fact, they are doing themselves a disservice if they are building a legitimate online business. People don't do business with a brand, clever slogans or keyword phrases. They do business with people. Use your brand name and slogan in your profile and the site you link to in your comments and profile.
Before you get all crazy on me, I do know the power of branding in comments and forums. I used to put Denise aka The Blog Squad in the name field for blog comments. Sometimes I still do. I also used @BlogSquad for my twitter ID (I still have the BlogSquad account since a lot of people search for me by that brand name). And then about a year ago, I changed to using my real name and many people commented that they preferred that, since after all, I am a person and not a faceless company. The Blog Squad is my business and I am the person who represents the business.
Now I'll contradict myself and say I understand there are real reasons why people want to remain anonymous online. They have multiple businesses; they have a J.O.B. and don't want their boss to find out about their hobby biz; they are affiliate marketers and manage many niches. I'm sure there are hundreds more reasons.
This is where the visibility tip comes in. For the sake of argument, if you're trying to establish yourself as an expert in your niche, then use your real name. The people I primarily work with are professionals and small business owners and if that's you, then I respectfully ask that you use your real name when you comment and when you participate in forums. You don't introduce yourself as your brand name or slogan or keywords at networking events or conferences do you?
I want to know who you are. I want to be able to read your profile and find out more about you. I want to look you up on Google to see what else you're up to. So do a lot of other people who may be your ideal client. Make it easy and help them find you by using your real name. Please don't hide behind a cryptic username.
I may get some flack from this, so be it. I know there are exceptions. There are plenty of people who identify themselves only by their brand. I'm just saying, for the majority of the professionals out there, if you want to build your online visibility and get known and findable on the web as the go-to expert in your niche, use your real name. It's much easier to relate to you and take that leap to a business relationship.
What's your take? Use your real name or not? Why or why not? Chime in on the comments below.