Those of you who already know me, will be aware that I’m exceptionally clever. That being said, even a superstar like me can screw up royally. The old adage of ‘keep business and pleasure separate’ has recently come up and slapped me round the chops. As a phrase, it’s not one I tend to agree with, business can be jolly pleasurable after all. It’s not illegal to have fun whilst you work and as we learned from Connect a while back, it’s cool to tweet about your cat. But if I’d followed a very simple rule a while back, I wouldn’t have spent the last few days pulling my hair out and cursing at the computer screen.
So, what’s the rule?
The rule is simple, when signing up to things online take five seconds to think about which email address you want to use, personal or business. And then take a further 5 seconds thinking about your username. A general rule of thumb is to try and make your handles as similar as possible across the interweb, unless you’re posting on some dark and dirty forums late at night in which case you may want a secret identity.
Email addresses, handles…what’s the big deal?
Granted you may at this point be wondering why the heck it really matters what email address you chose when you sign up to stuff, if you’re really hard to please you may even be wondering why they let a Brit on AgentGenius in the first place. Well, the big deal comes when you have a zillion online profiles and you change companies, as I have just found out. My work email address, which I’ve loved entering in to every registration form going, no longer exists. Which means being notified about new friends, comments, photos, kittens etc is nigh on impossible. Trust me when I say it takes forever to remember everything you’ve ever signed up for and to go through the hullabaloo of changing emails, verifying emails and so on.
The handle issue is even worse.
Being the type of person that loves to pimp their wares online, I thought I was so brainy by including my company name in my handles. Every time someone would see anything I wrote, they’d get a nice reminder of the super duper company I worked for! Yay! Yay with a cherry on top! But now I don’t work for that company, regardless of my handle implying I do. Bummer. Bummer with a big fat stinkbomb on top. Online branding is fantastic, but to confuse your personal identity with you professional identity is just plain dumb. I’ve just had to fluster 400 odd Twitter followers by changing my name, so I won’t make this mistake again.
No doubt I’ll lose out somehow.
My heart bleeds a little when I think of all those comments I’ve made and links I’ve created to profile URLs that no longer exist thanks to this stupid name change. My advice would be to promote yourself, let your name be your handle, and then make the (easily changeable) profile links drive traffic to your company sites. You’ll always be you, but your professional interests may change.
I’ll get over it, slowly, but I just thought I’d share my story and maybe someone out there will learn from it.
September 4, 2008 at 8:42 am
Where were you a year or two ago? You might have saved me from the same fate. I lost a lot when I sold my business and went back to the corporate world.
My 2 cents (pence?) worth, if you do your online activities FOR the company, use a ‘generic’ address – then when you go, someone else can (try to) pick up the torch. If you do it for you, then as you said – just link and be able to change that link.
Great post Poppy!
September 4, 2008 at 8:48 am
Welcome to AG! Way to start off with some good advice. Yes, you are kind of clever. Superstar? probably will come soon enough. 🙂
September 4, 2008 at 8:50 am
I don’t know how AG does it, but it is becoming scary…I think about things and then some snarky author here goes and writes about it. This is a great tip, Poppy, and something that crossed my mind this week. Just by dumb luck, I’ve always used my own name or some variation, but I did wonder how hard it must be for those that don’t.
I’d be interested to hear what kind of system other folks have in place to keep track of all the profiles, links & such, in order to make the task of revising them easier and thus keeping control of your online identity.
September 4, 2008 at 8:50 am
Nice topic, I just moved in March and went through the same thing.
September 4, 2008 at 8:56 am
I ran into this problem a long time ago and now use my own email address and domain for every online profile/account out there.
It is important not to use an ISP given email address either… If you even so much as move house you can lose that. There is also the danger of the ISP going belly up. This actually happens a lot!
If you’re not an uber geek and you don’t own your own domain, get a Gmail* account that you can take with you everywhere you go. Never lose anything ever again… Well, that is of course assuming Google don’t go belly up.
*Other online mail accounts are available but I am a Google fanboy so deal with it.
September 4, 2008 at 8:57 am
Poppy — Awesome article, my dear! I ran into this a couple years ago when I moved from my old position to this one. Email address deleted…signin names all messed up…it was a fiasco. I have used generic emails (hotmail) and personal signins that are as close to identical as they can get ever since.
September 4, 2008 at 9:19 am
Cannot see through all the cockney-rhyming slang, but is this post asking for a portable identity solution? If so, that a hotly contested subject at the moment, beyond the scope of real estate technology.
The “Portable Identity” donnybrook is the need for us all to have our own established on-line identity, under our control, that is secure and can be used to sign up with on all websites and services. Open ID is a start, but its still too geeky ( even for me ) to be pervasive.
And just like VHS vs. BetaMax, Windows vs. Mac and the browser wars of the late 1990s, everyone ( Microsoft, Facebook, Myspace, Yahoo, Google, etc. ) wants to be the standard and refuse to adopt an Open Source one.
Here’s a video, but that assumes this post is asking for information about portable identities:
September 4, 2008 at 9:21 am
Great to see you on AG as I have indeed found you to be quite clever in Twitland and other venues.
I just realized that I had better start keeping track of all my web sign-ups as they do seem to multiply like bunnies. I already use my own domain e-mail, but I also use a Gmail address for things that have a high probability of attracting spam or other nefarious websters so that I can just change to a new name if I need to, and it won’t disrupt my sites.
September 4, 2008 at 9:23 am
“nigh on impossible” … “nigh” … I’m going to need a babelfish.
For as incredibly un-useful as most of the ePro course was when I took it, the message on branding came through loud and clear. And so I managed to avoid the company name pitfall. Right now I’m pretty sure that I have a RE/MAX e-mail address. Not sure what it might be, though.
September 4, 2008 at 9:42 am
I have learned to use my own name across all social networks and to take responsibility for what I write. It has the added advantage of portability–and doesn’t tax my memory.
September 4, 2008 at 10:04 am
Smashing first post….uh, first post was ace….uh, awesome job, dude?
(Sorry I ran out of English things to say.)
You definitely make a good point Poppy. As someone who’s been on the “internet” prior to their being an internet (no, I didn’t invent it, but I did have an AOL account when it was just a localized network…hell, I such a geek I even used BBS), I’ve got enough prior email addresses to fill Ft. Knox. And many of them were related to my line of work, even a lot of my logins still use some form of “bg” or “lupus” or something similar. I wonder how many people write me at dead email accounts?
I also made the mistakes of using @aol, @earthlink, @att, @twc, @comcast email addresses as my main addresses. Try explaining to British Airways that you can’t request a pin number for your air miles account because the email address is incorrect. Their solution? “We can send a postal letter with your login info.” Seems easy enough. Unfortunately, the reason I wanted a pin was so that I could go online and change my postal address, since I wasn’t getting my statements. A few weeks later, someone at British Airways finally conceded and took my info over the phone. It wasn’t easy.
(Note: British Airways was not used in Poppy’s honor, it really happened and considering I’ve flown over 250,000 miles with them, you’d think they’d be a bit nicer to me…no dice.)
As I prepare to click the “submit” button, the cruel irony of what I’m about to do hits me…my email address above? @exitnsa.com Yep, my current broker. Oh well, here goes nothing.
September 4, 2008 at 10:05 am
One more reason to not let myself “die on my own vine”. Now that’s pressure.
September 4, 2008 at 11:28 am
I was so impressed by your ability to call yourself “exceptionally clever” and a “superstar” in the first sentence and a half that I quit reading, forever.
September 4, 2008 at 11:36 am
This is why I’ve never used the Century 21 address I guess I was given years ago – mobility. It’s not just my email address, it’s my phone number and my personal brand, too. All that can go with me and my clients wouldn’t know the difference.
September 4, 2008 at 11:37 am
Jack – Thanks sir! I think two years ago I was studying Russian economic history, but if I’d bumped into you I would have tried to help you out 🙂
Nick – Thanks for the welcome! I’ll win you over in time mwahaha
Lisa – Thanks girl. I had to use a ridiculous system to track all my profiles…Googling myself. That worked for me because of my stupid name, you probably wouldn’t be so lucky 🙁
Ted – Thanks! Moving is super, but hassle too.
Pilchard – Have no fear I’m a Google fangirl 🙂 If they go belly up, well I don’t know what would happen…what the hell would happen?!?!
Clint – Thanks 🙂 I won’t be using anything other than my gmail in the future!
September 4, 2008 at 11:46 am
Todd – I’m still unsure about portable identity solutions…think what risk you are at if that’s hacked! And as you say there are so many different ones competing at the mo, I guess it’s worth sitting back and waiting to see who wins! I have all my passwords saved on my password manager, if I lost this particular Mac, I’d be very screwed indeed.
Elaine – You’ve obviously got the right idea, and you’re so right about them multiplying like bunnies….I was shocked at how many profiles I had to fiddle with!
Jonathan – Well done you 🙂 I don’t think I’ll do it again either!
Roberta – Yep, when we forget our own names we probably shouldn’t be doing online networking any more 😉
Matt – We don’t say dude here, k dude? Companies can be royal asses when it comes to changing contact details. In general I hate BA, they can be exceptionally useless.
Jim – But a nice pressure, non?
September 4, 2008 at 11:48 am
Tony – Wow, you quit reading *forever*? Good luck with that.
Jim – Email addresses have certainly become our identity, one of mine had it’s 10th birthday in July 😀
September 4, 2008 at 12:05 pm
Poppy – Believe me, I’m well aware of the lack of the word “dude” in the Queen’s English, my wife and friends remind me almost daily. It just slips out sometimes, blame my American, early 80s upbringing for that. Some day I’ll rid myself of the word, I really will. Until then, feel free to tell me to “shut it” whenever I happen to slip up.
September 4, 2008 at 12:49 pm
I have used my name in everything but one thought that occurs to me is that the prospect of selling your website when you are ready to retire might work better if you had an independent brand which you own outright and isn’t connected with any personal name or company. Just a thought. Too late for me 🙂
September 4, 2008 at 9:29 pm
Poppy – this goes beyond the web and social identities – it’s all about branding. Brokerage companies here in the US usually give agents an e-mail, website and phone number. I think that anyone using those is looking out on a HUGE opportunity. Buy your domain, get your e-mail address and change companies a million time and your clients will always be able to find you……and also your on-line friends.
Totally off subject here but I have an English cousin living in NY right now and I always read her e-mails with an English accent (although I confess it doesn’t sound great with my Spanish one) 😉
September 5, 2008 at 5:57 pm
Wake up and smell the English tea, agents! Ugh. I can’t believe that any agent is still branding anything to his or her broker. You’re in business for yourself, guys.
And you don’t have to be an uber-geek to register one domain name with GoDaddy for your master email account. Use the domain for nothing but email, or point it to your website. Your web host will help you. GoDaddy will help you. I’ll help you. It’s easy and you will always control the account.
Do NOT do this with your current web host. Those relationships don’t always last, either. And don’t use gmail or aol, for crying out loud. Get your own domain, branded to your personal name or some variation of your personal name. This is about branding and control of your own identity.