When you're building a personal brand, reserving your brand name wherever possible is something you'll want to take care of as soon as possible. "It's important because if you don't park it, it could be gone tomorrow," says Laurel Mintz, CEO of Elevate My Brand. Mintz speaks from experience: she's had that happen with clients who have a great brand name, but not parking the right real estate led to the brand having different handles on various social channels. "Even thought it's not the intent of the brand, it makes a brand look disjointed and like it didn't have the forethought to park the brand name on the appropriate social channels," Mintz explains. "In this day and age where consumers make split second decisions, having brand consistency over different social channels can mean the difference between a bounce and a conversion."
My colleague at Firebrand Group, Amelia Tran, agrees. "Make it easy for consumers to search for you instead of having to search for your company name + 'social channel' in Google'," she advises. A senior strategist tasked with building brands on an ongoing basis, she's seen firsthand how brands with consistent handles are more likely to grow.
Furthermore, parking your social media handles ahead of time prevents misidentification that can do harm to your brand, says Chris Ee, Lead Digital & Social Analyst at The Marketing Arm. Whether you're building a corporate or personal brand, you don't want anyone shady parking your name and putting up pornographic content, do you? Believe it or not, that actually happens more than you'd think.
When in doubt, park your real estate whenever possible. If your name is John Smith, for example, you'll want to grab johnsmith.tumblr.com, @johnsmith on Twitter and Snapchat, and so on. Identify the social channels you think you'll be most active on, and grab your spot. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and most other digital platforms let you create accounts for free, so there's no excuse for not planting your flag.
Of course, if you have a somewhat generic or popular name, that might make it difficult to get the same account name across multiple channels. In order to prevent this, it would be a good idea to create a standardized account name that you can use without fear of being beaten to the punch.
If you have a very common name, such as John Smith, you might try to get facebook.com/johnsmith but there's a good chance someone already has it. I happen to have a pretty common name; you'd be surprised at how many Jeremy Goldmans live in New York City alone. If someone has already laid claim to your preferred real estate, consider adding your middle initial to your digital channels consistently. So, rather than going by "John Smith" whenever possible and "John Q. Smith" when you have to, bite the bullet and go by the latter on a consistent basis. This will make it more likely that people will search for you using your middle initial, and be less likely to find that other John Smith, Guam's most famous hermit fly fisherman.
Don't overlook the growth of emerging platforms such as Hyper and Periscope that could possibly be the next big thing, as well as smaller platforms that could be useful for your specific niche. For example, 500px is perfect for photographers, while Fashion Mingle is great for those in the fashion world. While it may seem like an issue that you can easily put off for a while, reserving your brand name on emerging platforms prevents you from having to pry your brand away from someone else a few years down the line.
Small details matter. For instance, one way to improve your Facebook page is to set your URL to something much more user friendly. Facebook.com/BrandName is much more marketable than something like http://www.Facebook.com/pages/not-so-user-friendly/5758787367. The sample principle applies on some other platforms, such as YouTube.
Your username is not the only thing you need to standardize across all channels; your visuals are pretty important as well. Make sure your visual identity is consistent across all social channels that you consider to be part of your brand strategy. Bestselling author Charles Duhigg accomplishes this on his Facebook and Twitter: same color background, same header image, same shot of his new book, Smarter Faster Better. Duhigg even uses the same attractive headshot. All of these images are optimized for each platform's specifications, so nothing feels stretched or pixelated. Creating these singular and recognizable touches across all your social channels will help your brand look legitimate. If you're less of an established entrepreneur, this step is crucial to building credibility.
Want more on how to build your personal brand through digital channels? Check out Getting to Like, my latest book (with co-author Ali B. Zagat), where we cover everything from securing digital real estate to content development to picking your social media channels, and more.