So, you've decided to "go online," with your project, company, or cause. Congrats! Now what?
The first thing you are going to need to do is develop your online profile. This is your name and image online. This may not be as easy as it sounds. Unless you have a very, very unusual name in real life, it is more than likely that there are already people with the same name online who have begun to develop online profiles. How will you distinguish yourself from the others?
For that matter, do you want to use your legal name online? If you are already in business using your legal name, you'll probably want to continue that online. If so, choose a version of your name (e.g. - nickname/lastname, OR firstname/mi/lastname OR firstname/lastname, etc.), and stick with it.
You may, however, want to think about using a pen-name or pseudonym online, if you are starting afresh and do not already have a business established in your legal name. Some people choose to do this for privacy and security reasons, and some do this to differentiate between parts of their career that they do not want intertwined (e.g. professional life vs. political blogging life, or fiction writer vs. journalist, etc.). Please note that the pseudonym is not a "safe" way to do things that are unethical or illegal - there are still PLENTY of ways to trace your pseudonym back to you, so be sure to use the pseudonym as responsibly as you do your legal name.
Once you have a name chosen, you'll want to choose a recognizable avatar for use on the social networking sites. If you are using your own photo, you will be able to change the photo from time to time, but be sure all of the photos look like they are of the same person (i.e., Ladies, this isn't the time to show how versatile you can look as a brunette, blonde, and redhead). If you are using a graphic, make sure it is one you plan to stick with for a long time. This is how members of your networks will easily recognize you.
Now that you've selected your online name, we will discuss in future posts how to begin to establish an online presence.
Jennifer Pointer (e-mail) is a trainer and tech writer in Tulsa, OK. She promotes a simple, a low-tech approach to effective online profile management, search engine optimization and social networking. Her weakness is the mocha frappuccino.