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Online Reputation and Brand Management Starts with Identity

As I’ve written over the years, in the era of the Social Web, we are all brand managers. While I spend a significant portion of my time sharing the importance of listening and observing to noteworthy conversations and the enveloping cultures that define relevant online communities. When it comes to participation and engagement however, identity is often an afterthought by most companies.

Knowem is a new service that help businesses take a proactive step to securing their brand and product identities across the Conversation Prism a.k.a. the social Web to expedite their foray into Social Media or to retain the domains as assets for future Social Media programs. Think GoDaddy for Social Networks IDs.

Knowem serves two functions. First, it provides you with the ability to quickly search over 120 popular social networks for the availability of any username. The results and status are immediately displayed next to each network. Second, Knowem helps brand managers secure the available identities through a time-saving service that acquires all available domains for a one time fee of $64.95. For an additional $9.95 per month, they will also continue to monitor new websites and register your username on them as soon as they launch.

I am a big believer in creating and participating in the communities where discussions are relevant to your brand and marketplace. Conversations occurring today in one ore more networks will eventually augment or shift altogether as new networks are introduced or existing sites gain favor. Having a service that automatically acquires important usernames as they emerge seems trivial at $9.95 when compared to the investment required to promote a new identity because it wasn’t available.

According to the founders, some of the biggest brands in the world have yet to obtain their identities in multiple networks. For example, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Pepsi (NYSE:PEP), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Exxon (NYSE:XOM) and Citigroup (NYSE:C) still show that dozens, and in some cases over 80%, of popular social media websites still list their brand names as available.

Knowem also ran searches for popular celebrities and learned that many have not yet secured their online identity either. Ashton Kutcher and Oprah Winfrey’s recent exposure in the media for their use of Twitter has spotlighted and sparked celebrity enthusiasm for using social media as a channel for publicity, communication, and TMI. But as of today, their Twitter screen names, @aplusk and @oprah, are still both available on almost 90% of other sites that may prove important in future social media programs.

Brand and reputation management is now a systematic process in our daily routine of listening, learning, and participating. We ARE responsible for our personal brand as well as the corporate brand we represent. Securing that online brand and investing in and cultivating an impeccable and influential reputation is critical to establishing and maintaining a consistent, strategic, and complementary presence from network to network. It’s not just about what’s popular today, but ultimately engaging where your communities are congregating. Maintaining a portfolio of consistent usernames provides a seamless ability to effectively navigate the Social Web as one cohesive brand, where and when opportunities emerge.

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8 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Online Reputation and Brand Management Starts with Identity”

  1. christian borges says:

    Great post Brian, and absolutely concur that for any brand manager, securing the username of your brand is the minimum barrier of entry in protecting your brand. It comes as no surprise that most brand names are still available, as many of them are STILL sitting on the sidelines watching. Great tool; thanks for sharing!

  2. Mike says:

    With online reputation tools like Rapleaf, RepVine, FriendFeed you can give your online identity a boost. With a consistent brand image across the web and a little upfront effort, the task of maintaining multiple profiles can be less tedious. Another option is to get your credentials verified online using free Crederity account

  3. Mayank Dhingra says:

    The option of registering accounts is cool.

    BTW the site doesn’t seem to be working.

  4. Chad says:

    As a Community Manager for a company, this service leaves me conflicted. On the one hand, I totally agree with you Brian; I feel like I should only participate in the communities where discussions are relevant to our brand and marketplace. That said, why would I secure a username on Etsy if my conversations are not taking place there? I understand the necessity of securing your company’s username so you are not “brand hi-jacked” as we have all read about (Exxon), but securing the name just to have it might not only get your company into spaces where they do not need to be, but it will create profiles that are un-managed and silent. It’s a tough line to walk, for I do not want to start a profile in a community that I do not intended to fully engage with.

  5. Simon Mainwaring says:

    Thought this might be of use in the discussion:


    I was thinking about what we do as people, about the images we present of ourselves to others – consciously or not – to manage how we are perceived. Often, as I have done myself, we present an image that is so foreign to who we are it’s like someone you don’t even know. Aging, among other things, is our journey towards congruence or authenticity, on which others get to know us in direct proportion to how comfortable we are with being ourselves.

    I was thinking about this because when a creative assignment slides across your desk you’re forced to reconcile the same duplicity. For me, the important distinction is between a ‘brand personality’ and ‘brand character’.

    As in life, you can have a friend with a great personality but who is rotten to the core (something you usually find out after its too late). You can also have a friend who is solid as a rock but who bores you to tears. And then there’s that special place in hell for those that are both boring and corrupt.

    Thankfully there’s also that friend that displays congruence between how they behave and what they believe. In fact, when you encounter a brand like that their beliefs become springboards to creative freedom because as long as they behave consistent with their values, they can do whatever they want and people will still know who they are.

    Too often the creative process in advertising spends all its time managing personality with little regard for character. (After all, if you don’t get people’s attention first, how are you going to get them to do anything, right?) The problem is, with the access to information and transparency afforded by the internet to watchdogs and regular people alike, personality without character is a dangerous place to be. You will get called out and rebuilding trust takes soooooo much longer than earning it in the first place.

    It seems neccessary to start at the other end. You know, at that often overlooked, put in anything you want, part of a brief called, ‘Core Values’. As marketing managers rotate out and sales projections for the next quarter continue to drive our business, those core values are pretty much the only constants that constitute character. The same way values, embodied in the Constitution, fortunately endure several White House administrations.

    If a brand can hold on to its clearly defined values while everything else goes through its natural flux, it will – over time – build character. In the face of a media savvy audience, such values are pretty much the only timeless tools of persuasion. Long gone are the days when a doctor could tell you that cigarette smoking is good for you and people believe you. Today brands must behave in a way that makes people want to be a part of them. Green, CSR and sustainability initiatives are all tools to this end, but even those are prone to manipulation as we see with greenwashing. Yet even there, transparency wins out again.

    In my mind it’s authentic, clearly defined and consistently expressed core values that are the key to a brand’s success today, whatever the medium, and those values must be the filter placed over every communication we create. Many of the most successful and enduring companies are a function of a single, visionary leader. Whether its Steve Jobs, Richard Branson or Phil Knight, their business acumen is informed by a set of values as unique and constant as they are. That is no accident and speaks to the singularity of purpose required of any brand that wants to grow over the long term.

    As we wade through a marketing world swimming in information, niche audiences and social media, my hope to encounter more character and less baseless personality. After all, do you really want a friend like that?


    PS: Thanks for all the great insights and thinking.

  6. Matt Churchill says:

    I monitor different networks reguylarly for clients to see if their name is being used by other users, and, most of the time, they are for one reason or another.

    I think it’s important for brands to realise that they can not saturate social networks or microblogging platforms by signing up with their name if they do not have a presence or intend to build one.

    If their name is being used for malign purposes, this is a different story and there several things that need to be done to ensure that the brand is not affected in any way.

    Inadvertnently, what this can force a brand to do is actually put a person in front of the consumer ie ‘Richard from Dell’, instead of just ‘Dell’ which makes the whole experience more personal for both customer and company, whether it is intended or not.

  7. Marissa says:

    It is intimidating these days to think that everything a person/company does or doesn’t do on the Internet is being tracked. But I do think that it is important for all Internet activity done by an individual or company to be done under the same brand name. I don’t understand why some companies do not make the effort to claim their names, and I believe that they are making a mistake by not acting. Think about Web site squatters. Opponents of a company or an individual could potentially seize a company’s name on a social networking site, and produce content that damages the company’s reputation

    Plus, I think that not delving into every medium on the Internet is detrimental because a company could exclude many different target markets. Everyone turns to the Internet when they want information and if people are interested in something enough, they are probably willing to dig deeper out of curiosity. What if they can’t find the company they are looking for among the outlets they are on?

  8. ManngePR says:

    Hi Brian,

    Checkout very similar site as that of knowem launched on 24th April 2009 named ManagePROnline (

    ManagePROnline is currently in stealth mode and coming up with online PR management tools. As you have explained in the article, we believe any PR starts with brand name and securing it not only on social sites but on email sites, photo/video sharing sites is absolutely required.

    Being an Indian company, we focus on some of the sites which are popular in India.

    We have only 50 sites which are popular, we can add hundreds more but does it make any sense?

    Anyway thanks for great article and perspective and do visit our site and evaluate it


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