Building a “personal brand” is all the rage right now at my univerisity. To help students get a job straight out of college, we are being told to have a positive social media presence, a strong résumé, professional behaviour in class, and even a personal logo. However, I there is one big part of the branding process that has been overlooked, probably because it so basic: naming.
My name is Alec, which is short for Alexander. Professionally I have always gone by my full name, “Alexander Vincent Molloy”, because I liked how posh it made me sound. But in the last month I have started to change my name on all my social media accounts, usernames, résumés and email addresses. I even petitioned IT change my official name at work, which was surprisingly difficult to do (as Alec is not my legal name).
This process was prompted after receiving one too many emails from coworkers addressed to “Alex”. But in the last month I have come to realise that this name change has done a lot more for me than reduce the constant corrections that I’ve had to grown used to—it has changed the way people find me on the web.
I currently take up the 1st, 6th, and 10th Google results for “Alexander Molloy”. I share the results with Alex Molloy, a female marketer from the Bay Area, and Alexander Molloy a “Service Desk Analyst” from the UK:
But search for “Alec Molloy” and I get the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 8th, 9th, and 10th results. There is just one other Alec Molloy, and he lives in Singapore.
Consider the statistics. According to The Internet, 185,000 Americans go by “Alex”, as opposed to the 10,000 Alecs out there. Even better, there are only 8,500 people with my last name.
While going socially as Alec and professionally as Alexander may have been alright in the analogue world, it might have made it harder for people to find me online. It may sound more professional to use my full name, but by dumping “Alexander” completely I am going to have a better chance at being the ”Alec Molloy” of the Internet than I would have at splitting traffic between my two names.
Choosing a less-popular nickname to go by might be great for people who have one, but for others who don’t have a shortened name there always is the option of going by a different or hyphenated last name, or by adding in a middle initial. (It’s a trick that normal folk have done for years after their name has been stolen by a celebrity. I grew up in a town with a Randy T. Johnson, no relation to the baseball pitcher.)
My friend Stella Tran had a bit of a crisis last year when she discovered that stellatran.com was already occupied by an older and slightly more successful hipster. She has done an excellent job of differentiating herself by adding in her middle initial, and she can now be reached at stellaktran.com. It might not be as short and sweet as she likes it, but it works.
Does anyone else have suggestions for how to build their personal brand with a stand-out name?