Gone are the days when business owners and corporations are the only entities faced with protecting their online brands. That’s a truth that can’t be disputed. Individuals now need to protect their personal brand.
Of course, it’s easy to imagine that, since you don’t own a business, there’s no brand to protect. However, instead of imagining, first try to understand what a personal brand and brand security mean. How their absences can affect his or her personal life.
Personal Online Brand
Your personal online brand is your public image online. That is, what you represent online. How people perceive you online. It’s your online visibility. Your online authenticity. Your online authority. It’s that name you use across all online channels. It’s the opinion you share on various web platforms.
Online Brand Security
Online brand security, on the other hand, is all about protecting that image. It’s all about plugging all holes via which an unauthorised person can leverage or hijack your brand (or some aspects of it) as their own. Usually, such a person would be looking to achieve a dubious goal with your brand. Perhaps, one that profits them, harms your online reputation or presence, or even hurts you as a person.
Therefore, while you may not have a corporate brand to protect, there are still your online handle and image. If you think nobody could be interested in stealing them, then think again. The threats to a brand can come in many forms:
- As a desperate corporate competitor looking for an edge over you.
- A cyber squatter.
- A scammer.
- Even as a spammer.
- It could even be someone that answers the same name as you trying to establish their own online brand. This can be especially damaging if the person posts ideas that go against your values.
- Or as your abuse of the internet. For instance, what you post on social media today can hurt you tomorrow.
There are many other possibilities. And if one doesn’t poke a hole in your online image, another might.
Why Do You Need Personal Online Brand Security?
- About 48% of recruiters check their prospective employees’ personal websites before deciding whether to hire or not.
- Even if you have no need for a personal online brand today, chances are that the need will arise in the future. For instance, an aspiring writer could become a popular professional author tomorrow. It’s only reasonable to secure your name across all channels from the onset.
- About 63% of recruiters use social media to learn more about prospective employees.
- Secure your online name against cyber squatters.
- Protect yourself from scammers.
- Protect yourself from competitors.
- About 8% of companies have laid off an employee because the employee abused social media
Hence, if your personal online brand is compromised, so might your chances at some great online and offline business or employment opportunities.
How to Protect Your Personal Brand Online
Secure Your Domain Name
Since you are looking to secure your personal brand, it’s ideal to choose a domain name that is closely related to your legal name. If possible, use your legal name. Thus, if your name is John Lock, then use JohnLock.com or something close to that.
Depending on your resources, it’s also ideal to register variations of the name or the same name under top domain extensions. Example, [dot]net, [dot]co.uk, and [dot]org. This will tightly distinguish and protect your personal brand from other people answering the same name.
You can also register free subdomains with WordPress and Blogger. It doesn’t matter that you might not use them. This will help prevent someone else from stealing your identity there.
Build a Personal Website or Blog
There are many reasons you need a personal website or blog as a way of protecting your personal brand online. Here are the major ones.
- It’s a way to build your authority online. When you run a personal blog, and share original, compelling content—your expertise and experiences—you create awareness about yourself, people get to know you, and with time you could become established as an influencer.
- You offer yourself a better chance at landing business and employment opportunities.
- You increase your visibility on search engines and put your name out there. Hence, when people, an employer or a potential business associate, google your name, you site appears. This can be especially beneficial when there are many other people online answering the same name as you.
Secure Your Social Media Handles
Be sure to register your social media accounts using your legal name or something close to that as your username. It’s recommended that you use the same username across all channels. That’s including in your domain name. If you have multiple domain names, one of them should reflect your social media username.
Social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn may allow you to answer the same profile name as another user. But then your username must be unique. And that’s what you should focus on securing. To simultaneously check for the availability of your legal or chosen name as a username on multiple social media sites, use this tool.
If there are social media platforms you don’t want to use, you can prevent someone else from registering your username. Simply create accounts on the sites for the sake of locking the username down.
A very important way to establish and protect your personal brand online is by interconnecting all your online accounts. For instance, connecting all your domains to your website and connecting your social media accounts to your website and vice versa. That way, people can find your website via your social media profiles. Or your social media pages via your website. It’s a powerful way of showing your authenticity.
Select the Domain Privacy Option
When you register a domain, your personal information (that is, your phone number, address, email address, fax…) is publicly listed on the WHOIS directory. Other info like your domain registration and expiry dates is also listed publicly. This means that anybody can easily find your personal info by running a search for your domain name on the directory.
This exposes you to many security issues:
- Scammers and spammers looking to take advantage of you and your personal brand.
- You become vulnerable to identity theft.
- Domain hijackers looking to take over your domain name.
- It becomes easy for stalkers to find your personal information.
To protect your identity, simply elect the domain privacy option. That way, your registrar will have dummy domain registration info, instead of your true personal details, published on the WHOIS directory.
Finally, never stop researching more ways to build and secure your brand online. Because as the years go by, new threats will sprout. And you want to be ready for them. Leave nothing to chance.