The personal and professional, the online and offline have melded into one. Life is a whole and must be treated as such. Here the basics of forming an online brand are discussed in a four-part series starting with securing a domain name and email address – writes Scott Guthrie
I’ve recently returned to London after living in Sydney for two years. I’m a fleeting novelty so it’s been a good excuse to catch up with friends. Doing the coffee rounds, the ‘quick beer after work’, attending a wedding, that sort of thing. As I’ve chatted I’ve been amazed at how few of my friends have much online presence.
One friend owns a brewery. His Kentish beer regularly wins CAMRA awards but whilst his company has a website it’s little more than a holding page. He however is not on Linkedin. Not on Facebook. Not on Twitter. In this ‘always on’ world. He’s … simply not on.
Another friend is a law firm partner. Part of his role is to bring in new business. Yes, he’s on Linkedin – but he uses the professional social network as a static resume. It serves as an online CV. A list of facts and dates visible to those doing five minutes digital due diligence ahead of meeting him. He’s not on Twitter, or Facebook. From what I can tell he doesn’t contribute to furthering his field of law by writing, or commenting articles by his peers and other industry leaders.
A third is head of media services at a television production house. I struggled to find his name anywhere online.
Many of my friends think a personal online presence is unnecessary to their professional lives. They even think they’re being clever by ‘flying under the radar’ and having little digital footprint. But it’s limiting their success in business because they’re failing to nurture the reputation of their employers – and perhaps more crucially – that of their own.
If this wasn’t significant enough they’re also running the risk of failing to keep up with the global conversation about their industries. Learning from peers around the world online. A prerequisite in today’s hyper-competitive work environment.
In this first in a series of four posts I’ll suggest ideas for securing domain names and setting up email addresses. I’ll explain what I’ve done and my rationale for doing it that way.
Prevailing wisdom recommends you buy your name dot com. Instead, I bought sabguthrie – my initials and last name. I did so for a couple of reasons. In 1999 I bought the domain scottguthrie.com but never used it and, after a few years, let it go.
Today, if you Google “Scott Guthrie” you’ll get 267k results. But the first two-and-a-half pages of results will be for the ‘wrong guy’. Front page and page two are devoted to Microsoft’s Executive Vice President of the Cloud and Enterprise group.
Google “sabguthrie”, however, and all of the references are about me right from Google’s page one.
A quick Google search for “domain registrar” throws up stacks of options. I’ve tried out a few in the past including GoDaddy the world’s largest internet domain registrar and webhoster with more than 55 million domain names under management. I’ve also used Crazydomains.
The process is designed to be intuitive, easy and fast. From a search box key in the domain name you’re interested in. The system will tell you if the domain is available and its cost.
Consider buying a variety of top level domains, too. Top level domains (TLDs) are the end bit of the domain name, the .com, and .co.uk, and .com.au and .info etc bit of the url.
Think of it like putting your towel on the sunlounger around the pool before you go to breakfast at the hotel. You’re protecting your little corner of ‘internet turf’.
If you’re an entrepreneur starting out, the decision on what to call your company might even be formed by what domain names are available – and at what price. Once secured you might consider buying similar sounding domain names. For example whether you search for Quantas or Qantas you’ll be pulled to the flag carrier airline of Australia.
I secured around 30 domain names and TLDs for one group of companies I worked for. They all pointed to one main site but caught misspellings, similar sounding names and phrases and a range of .co.uks, .coms and .eus to ring fence domains for future international expansion aspirations.
Verisign owns .com, .net, .jobs and .gov. It’s a lucrative business. But that doesn’t mean it’s expensive. Expect to pay £10-20 a year per domain name.
As a rule of thumb buy your first name, last name dot com. Unless there’s already someone more famous than you with the same name. Apart from the Microsoft guy I’ve also got to contend with a Scott Guthrie who’s big at Sodastream. If so, consider adding an initial to your name for your online profile.
Now you’ve secured your url, at the very least your next step should be adding an email address to it. email@example.com served me well back in the day. It doesn’t resonate decorum or instill a sense of professionalism.
Use your domain name for your email address. The domain registrars will offer you their own email system for a small monthly add on. I’ve plumped to have two main email accounts. One with Microsoft’s Outlook exchange service. The other with Google’s Gmail. Both have their merits. I’m increasingly using the Gmail account; I love Google Drive. I write all of my blog posts in Google documents and it’s easy to collaborate with peers on documents.
Next time I’ll discuss what your online home might look like. Whether you need a fully-fledged website, a landing page or something in between. I’ll also cover the options for what website platform to use and whether to blog or not to blog. Plus I’ll ask whether there any alternatives to blogging?
If you liked this post, subscribe here and get regular access to much more content about business communications, change and creativity.
Scott Guthrie works with companies to drive business growth in the social age through strategic insight and technical know-how. Read my full bio here.