When it comes to forums, blog comments or message boards, using a nick-name or “handle” is an accepted practice. Many times these nick-names reflect your industry, hobby or interests. In these venues that is just fine for personal discussions — but not for business activities. You always want to use your name and a recent photo (not one 10 years old!) so people know who is typing and who they are communicating with.
Branding, Branding, Branding
Forums or Blogs, when used for business reasons, are not the place to use a nick-name, handle or department name to hide your true identity.
Just using your first name, is okay — if the site’s profile options are complete to show your last name if someone looks you up. Last name inclusion is even more important if there are others at your business with the same first name. In the case of John, those you communicate with have to determine “which” John you may be. In my case since it is just me, myself and I, I am the only Judith so just using my first name sets a more informal tone that matches my personality.
j doe, john doe or j a doe — all small caps; not acceptable either (unless you are a gradeschooler). In most cases the name fields should reflect your full name in proper case.
What are you hiding from?
Using a pseudonym, nick-name, handle or department name in business forums or business blog comments without complete profile completion makes one wonder why you don’t want to be identified. What is it exactly that you are trying to hide?
If you do use a handle make darned well sure that your profile is completed with all your information — First name, last name, website and more! This is the only approach that will reflect that you are credible, identifiable and are not hiding being a nickname.
Hiding behind a handle is a sign of not wanting to take accountability for the words you type and the actions you take — or don’t take. This also takes away the personal touch that is so many times missing from electronic communications and is critical to trust and relationship building.
That personal touch is what can lead to someone choosing to do business with you over a perceived competitor!
Not to mention that you could very easily be mistaken as a spammer and not taken seriously.
But wait, I was told otherwise just the other day…
The excuse that was recently provided for this practice was that using their real name and website was because their site had been hacked and “caused me much grief as site was infecting visitors.” What?
You deserved the grief if you were not properly protecting your website and and your site visitors by using proper security technology. So now you hide your identity so that when you make mistakes people don’t know who you are? That doesn’t jive — are you anonymous on your website too? If so, don’t plan on any quantifiable success. Credible businesses do not run on that premise.
If you make a mistake be “man enough” to take your comeuppance. Most folks are forgiving and will be more apt to understand rather than hiding behind a fake name or handle — or worse ignoring the situation all together.
I’ve yet to receive an valid excuse as to why one should not want to use their proper name in comments and forums by at the very lest completing the profile options with all the info your avatar or handle do not provide. That is if you want to take advantage of pesonalization and customer relationship building potential.
Not providing full identity disclosure in business forums or on business blog comments is perceived that you are not credible. That is unless you do have something to hide — and that’s exactly what everyone will presume!