When we meet people in person, there are often clues as to the person's identity, and sometimes there are real life tokens of identification. But when we connect online, those clues often don't exist, leading us to wonder if the person is really who they say they are? What makes a merchant or a connection online real?

There are some basic steps, like having your Facebook or Twitter pages link back to a page on your official company site that, in turn, notes your official presence on those social sites. But for some people, that's not enough.

This is one of the problems that PeoplePond.com is trying to solve. When someone from a social network connects with you, how do you know that this particular "John Smith" is the John Smith who you met at the chamber of commerce meeting, or at college? PeoplePond http://peoplepond.com president Theron McCollough told me they have 2 products. "PeoplePond is a Brand and Identity management tool. There's lots of noise on the net, this is a place where people can have their own jump-off point. It's all the information that you want others to see, and a very robust living document for you.

Since People are acting like corporations, and corporations are trying to be like people (making one-to-one connections), CompanyPond http://www.companypond.com/ creates a profile for all company online presences, with links to all the people who are legitimately part of your company." Follow the links and you can verify that this is Theron, who works for PeoplePond, and it's confirmed on the company page.

Tools are also available to show this information on Facebook and blogging platforms. Here's an example of Roderick Peterson, who has a verified profile. And, Fort Wayne Web Design lists Chad Pollitt on it's company page as one of its' employees, via his PeoplePond profile. McCullough told me the sites help startups and small businesses because "Having all your web presences listed in one place helps you manage them more effectively and helps you market and promote more effectively. If we look at building trust online — this helps show that you are who you say you are, everywhere you are online."

If you want people to have a higher level of confidence that you are who you say you are, for a fee your information is run through a 3rd party verification process improving the odds that it's you — though this verification is not as extensive as a credit check. PeoplePond provides a badge that shows you've been verified, and you can put it on your website. In the future, McCollough said, they'll be "Pushing identity account ownership beyond the PeoplePond site."

Additionally, having this profile may help your search engine rankings as it aggregates information about you, and points to all the places you 'exist' online. This could be helpful for a new company starting out and trying to build their name and search rank, as well as for a professional trying to improve where their own name shows up on search results. What things do you do to show your customers you are really behind your own Facebook, Twitter, or Blog page? Share in the comments below.