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Online Identity Management (A beginner’s guide)

Posted in Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on January 10, 2010

A dinner table discussion on Online identity management is what got me to write this post. Intended to be a nerd’s guide to “doing things” on the net.

Personal identities are migrating to the internet based social,crowd and professional networking platforms. Given the transformatory and disruptive effects that internet has brought on to societies, communities, businesses, information, and technology, it was about time that indentities went online as well. This post discusses Online identity management as a template.

Why do we need Online identities?
The “global village” term never seemed more true. What the internet has done is that it has multiplied reach and accessibility and democratized information. The internet is fast becoming every individual’s window to the world. What we choose to showcase through that Window is what we want to project ourselves as to the world at large. That is what i refer to as Online identity.

Online identities
The online identities may vary basis age demographics (assuming that the user is a normal internet user). So while students have a very heavy element of social networking in their online identities, executives and professionals will see a balance of social and professional networking elements. The reasons are obvious.

Thus we have established the two important platforms: Social Networking and Professional networking as the two pillars of Online Identity management. Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Orkut are the prominent social networking sites and Facebook is the biggest amongst them. While Facebook also can be used for Professsional networking, my choice of Professional networking site is Linkedin because of the many other things that it allows you to do beside meeting and knowing people in the same profession. I use Facebook for my Social Networking and Linkedin for my Professional networking requirements. Sites such as Slideshare and Box.Net are important supports to my networking needs as they can be referenced readily for relevant subjects and material.

What has emerged with Twitter is the trend of conversation. Even before Twitter, Facebook, Orkut,MySpace and other Social networking sites featured conversations but then Twitter democratized it by taking the conversation to the crowd rather than limiting it to our immediate circle of friends and relatives and collegues.

Twitter thus has become a worldwide portal to meet people, discuss ideas, microblog ones opinions, create an online presence and publicizing self. It is also incredibly useful as a forum where one can talk to the experts and gain some recognition in the crowd. I strongly suggest refraining from status updates like “Taking my dog for a walk” on Twitter. That is a waste of time and unless you are Paris Hilton, no one really bothers about you or your dog.

In the heart of Online Identity management is the “I, me, myself” thing. And nothing defines it better than an online blog, or a website for self.

The decision to blog is not about an “impulsive do” but revolves around a larger context of “How i define myself? What is my expertise? What is my chosen area of work?” and a doggedness of voicing views regularly. As with the starters, it takes patience and time for the scale and number of blogs and the traffic to build. It takes time getting hits and reviews and comments. Hence this is a slow burn activity. WordPress and Blogger are the most favoured Blog sites around that Bloggers use. One can however support his blog with publicity on Twitter, Professional and Social networking sites. Depending upon the relevance of the message and the target consumers of the information, traffic follows. A YouTube is a higher order blog where you can audio-visual your ideas and thoughts. The thing with Online content is that it needs to be relevant to the audience else you end up making monkeying yourself.

The Fourth pillar in Online identity management is not much of “identity” stuff anyway. It is more of “convenience and storage” over the internet.So there are Google Docs,Calendar; there is Microsoft Sky Drive; there is GMail for all your mails; there is Picassa/Flickr for all your photos and more. It makes sense putting the data up in the cloud so that it can be accessed readily by you instead of lugging around your laptop.One good thing is that most of these portals can be connected through with each other such that a change in one updates others as well.

So there you have it.. It isnt easy.. It is time taking and the whole idea needs to be strategically thought through in context of how you are, what you do and where you are willing to go. The decision and the thought predate everything else in building the online identity.

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