Regardless of whether you're an agency account manager, client-side marketer, business owner, or just a marketing professional who cares about managing your online reputation, you owe it to yourself to secure a few key social media user names and domain names right now.
Even though your professional identity may currently be linked with your company's brands or agency's accounts, you never know how your career will evolve. You may change companies, locations, or even start your own business down the road. Therefore, you should take a few simple steps to secure your individual, personal brand assets online in case you want to start building your own personal brand now or in the future.
Why you should do this today
Now, you may be thinking, hang on Joseph! "I'm currently working full time, and I have no interest in bolstering my own profile or being on every social media platform out there."
Even if you think there's a 1% chance you want to create your own personal brand or become a thought leader in your field, you should secure your social media real estate right now.
Please do NOT delay doing this. Trust me.
I can speak from personal experience. When I was working full-time as a client-side brand marketer for brands like Gü Puds or Häagen-Dazs, I never imagined I would ever start my own business, nor did I ever think I would want to build an online social media presence. Far from it. I actually wanted to stay as invisible as possible so my current employer couldn't take issue with anything I was doing online.
Regardless, you never know what the future holds, and securing your key social media assets and profile pages will not hurt you. Most are free, and only take a few minutes to set up.
Think about it like this. If someone offered you a free house you could keep forever, you would grab it before someone else does, right? I'd recommend you follow the same principle with securing your social media URLs (aka web addresses).
The idea here is to secure your FirstnameLastname domain and username. So if you set your username on Twitter to @FirstLast, you will also get the Twitter.com/FirstLast URL. For example, if your username is @JohnSmith, your URL will be set to Twitter.com/JohnSmith. Why is having your FirstLast URL important?
- Search engines like Google tend to favor accounts where the person's name is in the website URL, allowing them to rank more highly in search results, thus being more visible, according to BrandYourself.
- Having your FirstLast username often means you can also secure that /FirstLast URL.
- FirstLast usernames & URLs just look much more professional.
You can see an up-to-date list of the most popular social media sites at Statista. I'm going to focus on the ones that are both popular and useful in building your personal brand. I'd recommend you secure the following sites right away, in order of priority, although it does depend on your industry & professional sector.
Get your FirstLast.com. This also allows you to have your own email using that domain name as the end of the email. If your .com is taken, you could get a .NET, .ORG, .ME. I've also see a proliferation of .CO.
Secure your Facebook.com/FirstLast page if you can. Here are instructions on creating a custom Facebook Page URL.
Grab your Twitter.com/FirstLast. This also means you'll have the @FirstLast username. You can also include your middle initial if @FirstLast isn't available. If you're not already on Twitter, you can sign up here. If you're already on Twitter, and want to change your username to be FirstLast, you can follow these Twitter instructions to do so. And if you're one of those people who does not have ANY interest in Tweeting, it's okay. Still secure your username and make your Tweets private. At least this way, you have your username in case you ever want to use it in the future.
Grabbing your LinkedIn.com/in/FirstLast URL is more of a convenience than a necessity, but I still recommend it because it just looks more professional. Here are the instructions on how to set your personal URL on LinkedIn. You may also want to set up a LinkedIn.com/Company/FirstLast company page just in case you ever decide to use it in the future. Here are instructions to create a Company page or change your company page URL if you've already set up a company.
If you're in a business that's quite visual or creative, you'll want to be on Instagram. Claim your Instagram.com/FirstLast by either signing up for an account and selecting that username or changing your username following these instructions (currently must be done from mobile app).
If you plan on creating & sharing videos, be sure to grab your YouTube.com/FirstLast URL. This one's a bit trickier, and Google seems to to continually change the steps needed to set a custom URL, making the process as convoluted as it gets. Here are the latest YouTube instructions on how to set a custom URL.
Pinterest is the virtual pinboard of the internet. Again, if you consider yourself part of a creative or visual industry, be sure to grab your Pinterest.com/FirstLast URL. You can either create a personal board or business page, which provides more analytics.
If you intend to publish articles or long-form posts, consider creating an account on Medium, securing your Medium.com/@FirstLast URL. You may not have heard of this Medium, which is an online blogging platform owned by Twitter. As of Oct'16, Medium has 25+ million unique monthly visitors and over 75K posts/week according to the Medium Support team. In fact, the White House has an account along with all major newspapers. You can create your account at Medium and select your username (which becomes your URL) when you join.
Don't put this off
You may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all these social platforms, but I strongly recommend you secure each of your personal URLs right now. This way, you have them in case you ever want to use them in the future. It means people Googling your name will more easily find you. By grabbing your desired URL, it also means someone else with your name CAN'T grab it.
What if someone has the username I want?
Welcome to the club. This happened to me too. You would be surprised how many early adopters named Joseph Liu exist out there. If fact, by the time you read this, your desired username will like already be taken unless you're VERY lucky or have a very uncommon name.
If your desired username is taken, alternatives can include (depending on the platform):
- Recommended: Add a middle initial (I've done this across all my profiles).
- Next best: Adding a special character like an underscore "_" or hyphen "-"
- Add a number (Not ideal). Feels a bit amateur though.
- Add a short modifier (e.g., coach, comms, tech). A bit clunky.
- Add a relevant abbreviation (Co, Inc, Biz). Again, a bit clunky.
Avoid using numbers or weird spellings. Ideally, you should still have your FirstLast in there somewhere.
Here are a couple handy tools to make things a bit easier for you as you build your online personal brand.
- See which usernames are available: NameChk scans across all major social media platforms so you don't have to check each one individually.
- Find out which domain variations are free: GoDaddy's Bulk Domain Search- see if your desired URL is available across various TLDs (Top-Level Domains like .net, .com, .org, etc.)
- Find out owner of taken domain: WHOIS Lookup shows you the owner, address, and expiration date of taken domains (if info is public)
- Attempt to purchase taken domain: I recommend GoDaddy Domain Broker, which charges a small fee and commission to attempt to negotiate the purchase of a taken domain. I've successfully secured taken domains using this service, although it's not always successful. Never hurts to try though! I've found GoDaddy to be more effective and personal than sedo.com, another popular buying service.
If you found this helpful, please let me know in the comments below. I'd welcome your thoughts on other platforms you're on or tips that helped you stake out your social media assets online. Good luck!
Joseph Liu is a career consultant and speaker who helps professionals & small business owners relaunch their careers with resources to help them navigate career change and more powerfully market their personal brands. He's also the host of the Career Relaunch podcast, featuring inspiring stories of career change. Follow him on Twitter @JosephPLiu.