Your Digital Brand - Name Changes in the Technology Age
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Nowadays, there are more implications to changing your name than ever before. Changing your online brand, correctly, with the right implications for search engines and to keep constancy across online platforms is convoluted at best. Not to mention being recognised against a previous personal brand and general attribution is more difficult and complicated than getting your name changed legally - and I know as I've done it twice!
I'm conflicted. My original thought was that more and more women* aren't taking their partners names in now days** but after doing some research, I'm finding that statistics are showing that (at least in the US) women are reverting back to taking their partners surname.
According to the Daily Beast/Facebook Study:
Teaming up with The Daily Beast, the social-media powerhouse (Facebook) zeroed in on 14 million married females, ranging in age from 20 to 79, who are currently active on Facebook and wed in the United States. From this pool, Facebook determined that 65 percent of women in their 20s and 30s changed their name in marriage. The percentage continues to rise for women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s—to 68 percent, 75 percent, and then 80 percent. While the data do not account for those who change their names legally, but not on Facebook (and vice versa), it reflects that for the married female population, keeping your maiden name is so last decade.
However, in a similar study done with Facebook in Great Britain, a third of married women in their 20s have kept their maiden name, though the percentage decreases as women get older. There is a cultural difference between marriage in the US & UK, but that's an entirely different post!
Let's skip the whole argument of should you, could you, why, why not etc. Instead, let's focus on technology and online personal brands. This needs to be broken down into two sections:
1. Technical implications - It's not just about your email address anymore.
You're a budding blogger, you're 16 and you set up all your online channels - that may or may not exist in 10 years - you choose a funky name you love or even your maiden name and miraculously you get each of them to some extent. Your blog firstname_maidenname.com becomes a long term project; you develop a satisfactory following; all your accounts are connected, you have an established presence in search engines next to your work. You get married and change your name.
What do you do with your handles, URL etc? The chances of getting the desired handle on all platforms in-line with your new name is slim and how will it attribute with any past links/mentions etc.
You can set up the correct redirect with a new URL - but do all bloggers know how to do that correctly and what it entails. The 'do I do a 301 or 302 redirect?' issue will no doubt rear its head. What about Google+ and for that matter Google in general? Google wants to make sure you are a real person and it can accurately attribute your authorship, your work, your platforms and connections to you, a real person.
And while you will have the best intentions going into marriage and embracing name change no doubt - what if it doesn't work out. There isn't a revert button. What's the protocol?
It's not a decision to be taken lightly. The effort in changing all these things in the correct way and for them to sync up without damaging your online collateral isn't a simple process.
2. Personal brands - Who?
Have you heard of Marissa Bogue or Randi Tworetzky? Of course not, because they are women in the technology spot light, they have established names, are high profile and didn't take their husbands surnames - they are of course Marissa Mayer and Randi Zuckerberg.
It would appear that in the digital age of online brands and personalities, women taking on a new surname is less common - or is it? Personally I'm interacting with and meeting women who have their maiden name as their online brand, but behind the scenes they have legally changed it to their partners'.
With an online brand the main thing would be confusion (and of course handles, URLs etc, as per above - these completely go hand in hand). You would need to make sure that there is a correct phasing approach in place should you choose to publicly change your name. People need to be able to associate Marissa Bogue and Marissa Mayer seamlessly. When you Google one, it should display result for the other, so on and so-forth.
There is no one-click button: Please replace all my previous mentions/platforms/etc with this name. It would be amazing if there was, but it's far more complicated than that. And as time goes on, digital moves forward, babies are born, URLs are acquired and people die, but their online presence lives on - will we run out of logical naming conventions? Will we have the opportunity to re-invent ourselves logically? Will more and more women begin keeping their maiden names from an online profile basis - or will it not matter, as the chances of getting those handles will be minimal?
Parents are acquiring or receiving as gifts URLs when their babies are born. A URL of the child's name and a Twitter account and/or Facebook page to boot. Without their permission, choice or understanding, children are having their online footprint established for them from birth. How would you feel right now if someone set up accounts in your name and posted on your behalf? You would probably report them and try to get the information all removed. Even if the channels fall by the wayside, there is a chance that there will be bread crumbs there for life.
Do I have a solution? No. I was lucky as I had a second URL that matched my email address and that my middle name is the same letter as my married name was, but I still didn't find it simple. How long do you redirect, when do you finally let go of that old URL... Even with new platforms, if I don't join instantly I can't get my main handle, which can cause issues. I was also lucky as I happened to have undertaken a personal brand promotion project that required me to include my maiden name - there was a series of graffiti around the area of the initials DTC. This meant that I could move people to not just knowing me as DC but DTC - so eventually when the C had to be dropped, it was easier to recognise DT and explain my new C.
Would I do it again? Change my name? Yes, I would, I'm an old romantic like that, however, I wouldn't change any of my online handles or URLs. They are here to stay and my first and middle name will never change, so I'll be sticking with Darcie or DarcieC - whichever I can obtain. But what about LinkedIn and my career, where the name is also established and attributed to my work... I'll come back to you on that one.
Have you gone through an online transformation - be it a surname change or just maturing? Letting go of that firstname.lastname@example.org profile? What was the most difficult part for you with regards to your online presence?
*I'm using the terminology of women, partners etc as it's still the most common example as opposed to women/women, men/men marriages, though the base of this applies to any name change. **In western society.