“Please do not vote for Obama.” That was the post that went up supposedly from Gaston Memorial Hospital in Gaston County, North Carolina. It wasn’t their post, and in fact, Gaston Memorial Hospital didn’t have a Facebook account of their own. Therein lies the problem: If we don’t claim our own identity, someone will happily claim it for us and use it for their own purposes.
It surprises us how many people haven’t at least claimed their own name or company on the various social media sites. As Alistair Croll of Solve for Interesting recently put it, “Facebook and LinkedIn are the new DMV. Everyone has to go there.” It becomes even more important when you consider that Facebook, Twitter and others are commonly used to verify identities on media sites. Someone faking your account can easily leverage that identity theft to broadcast unflattering messages or outright lies.
A personal example
Just yesterday, we realized a we were blocked from a LinkedIn group named…let’s call it ‘Company X Global’ after posting product marketing information. Strange when you consider that we work with Company X. As it turns out, Company X Global isn’t run by the company and while you might think you’re part of a group managed by a company or at least acting in their interest, you’re not. These are the times we live in.
Facebook acknowledges the same problem and claims to be taking steps to minimize occurrences, but when it only takes an email to set up an account, they’re seriously challenged to stop this behavior. In the dropdown next to every Like button there’s a link for, “Is this your intellectual property?” But these are one-by-one solutions that make it up to the public to notify when there’s a problem. When accounts can be set up through automation, one-by-one will never keep up.
Be socially proactive
And there are positive reasons to invest the small time it takes to claim your own identity. Social Media Today says:
I know this goes against the less-is-more doctrine many social networking experts preach. Instead of creating social profiles on only the sites you plan to visit frequently and become an active part of, I advocate creating profiles on as many social media sites as you can. By creating profiles with your name and image, you give anyone interested in nefariously using your name fewer potential points of contact with your network of friends. Fewer points of contact mean more work for them and can be all it takes to send them looking elsewhere.
This approach can also help your personal branding efforts down the road. If you build social profiles now on sites you are only marginally interested in, you ensure your name is not taken if and when you do become interested or these sites become hot. This is especially important when it comes to profiles that offer personalized URLs. By claiming your personalized URL before anyone else with the same name, you give yourself the best chance of ranking well in Google should you ever decide your cybersquatted profiles need to be part of your online personal branding platform.
It takes years to create an excellent brand and it takes minutes to protect that brand by claiming your identity. Be proactive…be ‘you’ before someone else is.