The power of unique names in the age of Google

The Wall Street Journal has published an article recently titled “You’re a Nobody Unless Your Name Googles Well” that’s been making the rounds on various popular blogs. Reminds me of what I found when I Googled myself a short while ago. I took a screen shot of it and put it on my Flickr.

In the age of Google, being special increasingly requires standing out from the crowd online. Many people aspire for themselves — or their offspring — to command prominent placement in the top few links on search engines or social networking sites’ member lookup functions.

So, instead of doing it the hard way by starting a blog and building up enough inbound links to climb to the top on merit, people are resorting to assigning their kids very unique names in what is clearly black hat search engine optimization!

As for making sure people know Neil McIntyre means me, I’ve done the proactive thing and set up my identity at ClaimID and Wink. My ClaimID page also lists links to other Neil McIntyres, under the heading “Not Me”. Everyone should be setting up their own ClaimID and claiming things online that they’ve done or are about them.

ClaimID’s blog even has an entry related to the above article.

The approach that seems to be popular in identity search is a hybrid of search + claiming. Knowing that models will never fully disambiguate or find any one individual, the search engines allow individuals to claim related results, creating a dossier of sorts. Of course, this is the approach we’ve always taken in ClaimID – you know yourself, and we’re not going to try to design an algorithm that knows you better than you do.

Making a name for yourself has never been easier. At the same time, it is only going to get more difficult maintaining your name as the Web continues to grow.

Indeed, it’s such a challenge that there are blogs dedicated to the idea and art of personal branding, such as QuickSprout, which written by a fellow Neil. He blogs about branding through social networks like Facebook, provides some quick and dirty ways to brand yourself, and explains a key reason for taking control of your personal brand.

What are you doing to set yourself apart from the crowd? Will you do anything to ensure your kids are Google-able?

Facebook vs. LinkedIn for accounting professionals

Which nascent social network does it better for work-related connections?

Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them.

LinkedIn is an online network of experienced professionals from around the world, representing 130 industries.

By their own definitions, these two utilities target slightly different types of users. Facebook of course began at Harvard and then expanded to other universities and colleges, and then opened itself up to everyone else. LinkedIn is open to everyone, but is tightly focused on where you work or have worked, not where you live or went to school.

Because of LinkedIn’s focus, it’s easy to connect with current and former colleagues. You fill in your details and LinkedIn does the rest, providing a list of people registered on the site who have the same employer(s) listed.

On Facebook, where you live, where you went to school, and where you work are called “networks”. I’m in the Toronto and Brock University networks. But the problem with Facebook is that it is limited in terms of workplace networks.

Right now, my firm isn’t on Facebook, so I can’t join that particular network since it doesn’t exist. Facebook does provide a way to suggest new networks, but so far the suggestion I’ve made to add my firm has gone ignored.

The problem for me (and no doubt others) with LinkedIn is that there just isn’t as many people I know on it as Facebook. I have over a hundred friends on Facebook, and I have 3 “connections” on LinkedIn. Clearly for me Facebook is the better tool.

And there are ways to network using Facebook even if your employer isn’t available. Anyone can start a group on Facebook for any reason (no matter how spurious), and there are many related to jobs. For instance:

As well, there are groups aimed at the profession:

I think what’s interesting about these groups is they’re started and populated by the young people in those firms. As they progress within their firms and take on more responsibility for things like hiring, Facebook may become even more important for job seekers.

Both networks provide value to their users, that much is clear. I wish I had more contacts on LinkedIn, so that the value of the site to me was higher, but that will just take time. As more of my colleagues learn about LinkedIn, it will grow.

As far as features go, LinkedIn trumps Facebook. But for pure numbers and flexibility, Facebook wins out.

What do you think?

Using blogs as marketing tools

A while back, about a day or two after passing the UFE, I was approached to write a short editorial for The Bottom Line, a finance and accounting monthly, about how and why accountants and accounting firms should blog.

I sat down soon thereafter and punched out a short, authoritative screed extolling the virtues of embracing blogging. It was pretty cool to see my writing in print:

Blogging about accounting will allow you to keep up on the hot topics in the industry in a more meaningful way. In 2006, options backdating in the US and income trusts in Canada have been on the front burners of accountant blogs. Being able to weigh in on those topics with some credibility allows a blogger to have a level of influence that otherwise would go untapped.

So, how successful has my article been at spurring a Canadian accountant blogging renaissance? Probably not so much, since I haven’t heard of any new ones! Maybe they’re just waiting for busy season to be over before getting started. Yeah, that’s probably it.

Anyway, the full article is available.