In the Web 1.0 world, privacy concerns loomed large and most people hid behind pseudonyms. With the advent of Web 2.0, for many people, that seems to have been turned on its head. If you are selling something, anything, you want to be visible on the interwebs.

And if the thing you are selling is you – your personal brand – then you really want to be visible on the web. If you are job-hunting, or building a network, or building a reputation in your field; then you need to have a consistent, controlled, and highly visible, online presence.

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece on this yesterday and the always excellent Lifehacker have some useful suggestions to kick things off. Bit of a bummer if your parents are called Smith and your dad was a John Lennon fan …

My initial thoughts for anyone who is looking to build, and control, an online personal brand:

  • Blog. Buy your domain name and stick up some posts. Comment on other people’s stuff or serve as a link blog, but get yourself up on the blogosphere. Make it a once-a-week blog if that’s all you feel up to, but do it and stick at it. If your real motive is to make yourself visible, comment more than you write.
  • Join Linkedin as early in your life as possible. Get your family and your college cronies on there with you, find your primary and secondary school friends, your old neighbours and childhood friends. Then, when you hit the professional world, you can quickly start adding people from your sector. [Other people like other networking sites and Facebook in particular seems to be upsurging at the moment. My feeling is that it doesn’t really matter which one you join as long as you find a goodly number of the kind of people you want to connect to on that service. They’ll probably all start swallowing one another in the inevitable M&A feeding frenzy anyway]
  • Use Naymz.com to ensure that anyone googling you can quickly find you.
  • If you have a common, or widely hit name (you’re John Wayne, Seth Godin, or Norah Jones – but not the famous one?), consider introducing a middle initial, a ‘version’ of your first name or go whole hog and change the spelling outright. “Hi, I’m Bobby Scoble.”
  • Once you have discovered the version of your name that works online, quickly grab that moniker on all the usual suspects – Gmail, Yahoo, YouTube, Flickr, Technorati, Feedburner, ZoomInfo, Del.icio.us, Linkedin, Facebook, MySpace. You don’t have to keep all of these up to the minute, the point is that you own them.

[So … Okay … I googled myself just to check. Straight hits – about 30,000 and a huge number of them, including everything on the first 10 pages, are lil-ol’ me. When I stick my name in quotes, I get 5,500+ results and they’re all me. My name may be a pain in the ass for people to remember, and I’ve spent my life spelling it out over the phone, but it sure ain’t common. Thanks Mum.]

PS: The best mistake I ever got on my name was “Roland Manhattan” on a milk bill some years back. I still use that in presentations when I’m talking about branding, identity, or listening skills.