When it comes to forums, blog comments, or message boards, using a nickname or “handle” is an accepted practice. Many times these nicknames 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 ten years old) so people know who is typing and who they are communicating with, and that you are legit.
Branding, Branding, Branding
When used for business purposes, forums or blogs are not the places to use a nickname, handle, or department name to hide your true identity.
Just using your first name is okay. But include your last name in the profile options of the sites you communicate on if someone looks you up. Last name inclusion is even more critical 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. 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. Never type anything that reflects on your business without typing in proper case. In most circumstances, the name fields should reflect your full name in the proper case.
What are you hiding from?
Do you use a pseudonym, nickname, handle, or department name in business forums or business blog comments along with a blank profile? Hmmm… Why you do want to be incognito? What is it exactly that you are trying to hide?
If you do use a handle, make sure that your profile is complete with all your information — first name, last name, website, and more. The more, the better to show that you are for real. This is the only approach that will reflect that you are credible, identifiable, and are not hiding by using a nickname.
Hiding behind a handle is also a sign of not wanting to take accountability for the words you type and your actions. Unfortunately, this also takes away the personal touch that is often missing from electronic communications and is critical to trust and relationship building.
That personal touch 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 using a nickname was if someone didn’t like what they said, that would reflect on their business. Even claiming someone commented “… and to think I was thinking of doing business with you” due to the choice of words used.
I get that. Then set up another account with your nickname to hide your commentary and the possible repercussions.
You deserve the grief if you use language that isn’t typically used in business. Or if you noted a political or touchy opinion that, again, should be left out of business discussions.
So now you hide your identity so that people don’t know who you are? Are you anonymous on your website too? I don’t think so.
When Misteps are Made
If you make a mistake, learn from that, take your comeuppance, and don’t do it again. 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 altogether.
I’ve yet to receive a valid excuse as to why one should not use their proper name in comments and forums by, at the very least, completing the profile options. Avatars and handles do not enforce your branding.
That is if you want to take advantage of personalization and customer relationship-building potential. Technology is nothing if not an open door to gain leads and grow your business.
Not providing full identity disclosure in business forums or on business blog comments is perceived as not credible. As a result, you just will not be taken as seriously. And that’s not good for business.