Real Name Vs Username – Which One Should You Go For Online?

hideThis article is a follow up to a post I wrote a few months ago about why you should use your real name on Twitter. Blog reader Eric emailed me and explained he’s worried giving his real name online might get him into trouble. The following is Eric’s question and my answer to him.

I wanted to start a personal blog like you have done about business, life, health, politics, history.  Here’s the issue.  If I use my real name, and then connect it with my username and then link it to a blog with that same username, my real name would be exposed.  Do you think it’s a liability for an entrepreneur to have his personal and political views so openly espoused?  I have a business partner, employers, vendors, sales prospects that assuredly do Google searches on me before doing business with me…Do I run the risk of jeopardizing business because of my personal views?  And at what point does transparency become too much?  I figure that I can write in a sterile business like fashion, but that’s not me.  I’d love your insight.

You Are What You Say Online

Whatever you say or write online is a liability. There are many reasons why you wouldn’t want people to find out about your true identity. Eric’s problem is that he doesn’t want to associate his name with his political views, etc…

If you work for an employer and if you’re going to blog about hot topics (politics, religion, sex, etc…), make sure you don’t mind losing this job because it might get back at you faster than you think.

As Eric mentioned, people search more and more for names on Google. I do! When I meet someone I will potentially work or deal with, I Google them. That’s my way to do a quick informal background check.

This being said, if you work for the man and want to start your own blog about a hot topic, I suggest using a strong username.

A Username Can Be A Brand

A username for an online service or for a blog domain name doesn’t have to be something meaningless like “Eric1983”. If you want to hide your online identity behind a username, I suggest you choose one that may translate into a brand.

There are many examples of strong and smart usernames/URL that become their own brands: CopyBlogger, ProBlogger, TechCrunch, etc…

These guys chose to reveal their real identity but they didn’t have to. They could have chose to hide behind their usernames.

The Problem With Hiding Your Identity

There is a downside to hiding your identity and not being willing to reveal it. When I created my first website, I didn’t want my boss to find out what I was doing. The website, a franchise directory, was directly competing with the company who was employing me.

The problem is that the site started gaining popularity in the industry and people soon started offering me money to advertise on the site. I hadn’t created a legal entity and was just charging people with PayPal, which made it mandatory to reveal my identity, at least to the people who were paying me.

It became a little awkward when I once had to call a person on behalf of my employer and the guy on the other end of the line thought I was calling on behalf of my website.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s really hard to hide behind a username and things may really well catch up with you one day or the other.

Real Name Vs Username

In the end, it all depends on your needs and goals. In the case of Eric, I’d recommend using a username. That will prevent people from linking him to content he wouldn’t want to be associated with.

If you’re going to write a blog about the iPhone for example, then it’s no use hiding your identity. In this case, using your real name is the way to go as it will most likely help you build your personal brand.

Do you use your real name or a username online? Why? I am curious to read what you think about this.