This is the first in what will be an on-going series of posts about my experiences of rebranding WinExtra and my online identity into something more, and hopefully better, than what is was. You can read about the reasoning behind this decision here rather than me recapping it every post.
In this post I’m going to talk about the whole name thing when it comes to your blog and what will become your online identity’s face to the world. The majority of the time when it comes to picking a name for our blogs we go with a spur of the moment idea and grab the domain name to match it. If the domain name isn’t available the idea is tossed into the recycle bin.
The problem here is that the spur of the moment name choice is just that – spur of the moment. Heck we probably spend more time picking out names for our gadgets or our private body parts than we do for our online identity. We do it without thinking about the future and how we, and our identity, might grow and change over the years. This to a certain extent was what happened when I picked WinExtra.
At the time I needed to come up with something very quickly. So I looked around at what my current interests were, as well as taking into account the concept behind the web forums that I was maintaining. At that point I was a developer for the Windows platform, I am a diehard Windows/Microsoft fan and the forums were all about help people with their computer problems. Given those parameters the name seemed like the most appropriate.
But roadmaps change over time and while you can’t predict those changes the idea of locking yourself into a name that confines you – and peoples perception of you – into a narrow confine isn’t a good idea. A good example of this is the naming mania around Twitter. Everywhere you turn there is a piece of software or a site that has incorporated Twitter – or some derivative of it – into their name.
What happens though if Google or some other big brand buys Twitter up?
Google already has a very bad history of bought products disappearing into its bowels either to never re-emerge or be reborn with a new name. In the interim we have all these Twitterized names floating out there with no purpose of being. This same thing can happen to a degree if we become to associated with a particular name, or brand, and then find we need to grow or change our focus.
The right name allows you to make this change or to grow into new fields without having to combat people’s impressions of what you are about because of your name. After all the majority of time your home on the web is usually found these days by people searching for stuff – usually pretty specific things. While your name may suggest that you are what they are looking for when they get there they find out that you aren’t actually what they wanted and so they leave.
Rather than having your writing pull them in they are peeved at what they perceive as being misdirected. In my case people see the name WinExtra and they assume that I am all about Windows, and by extension – Microsoft, when in fact what they are finding is a bunch of talk about Social Media and other web related stuff.
So as part of this reworking of my online identity I felt that it was time to come up with a new name that was more inline with what I am writing about as well as giving me leeway for the future (and no I’m not telling you what the name is yet). Now given that part of my online persona is that of being a cranky old fart, and not one I want to let go of, I figured that incorporating that idea into the name would be a good plan. For me part of being a cranky old fart is being cynical so I figured that something like Social Media Cynic might just work (yes I own the domain).
This is where it starts getting tricky though because as I have said – just because the name might seem right on the money it doesn’t mean that it is. This point was driven home to me by Alexander van Elsas as we talked about this rebranding of WinExtra. while he agreed that the name was not bad there was a glaring problem with it as he saw it – it had a negative connotation to it.
Where I saw cynic as being a positive Alexander pointed out that for most people it was more negative than anything else. His point was that when people are looking for information about something they will go to a more positive sounding site than they will to a negative sounding. Alexander used the idea of Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s book Naked Conversations to illustrate his point.
To him the idea of naked meant open, positive and at the same time a willingness to look at all sides. I liked that idea and after a few minutes and some quick thinking I registered nakedsocialmedia.com. Now you’ll notice I said quick thinking. Once more where I thought something was perfect turns out to have been a result of not looking to the future.
That came though in a great email exchange with Chris Brogan, who I am indebted to for his help, who made one very simple statement (hopefully he won’t mind me posting part of the email exchange but I think we can all learn from it)
I think “social media” anything as a term goes the way of CDROM pretty quickly.
He followed that up with this gem
The question is this: can you rebrand with something that sums up your passions without tying itself to a “dated” term set?
That caused me to sit back and for the first time seriously consider what I was doing right now, the state of the buzzwords we are all playing with and where I might be even a year from now. In either of my choices above I was connecting myself too closely once again with a concept, or topic of conversation, that could very well disappear in the next year or two. I was in effect playing the same old rush to pick a name game that I had played when I picked WinExtra.
In the end, with Chris’ help came up with what I think is actually the perfect name as it is one that will allow be room to grow and change over the years. The other side effect it had was that it helped me define in my own head just what my niche was and it also allowed me to keep the one thing I have become know as – the cranky old fart.
This picking of the right name can in some ways be one of the hardest parts of the whole rebranding, or re-aligning. The rest of it really is verging more on the technical aspects of changing. Your name – the right name – on the other hand is more about the soul of what you want to do on the web. It isn’t a decision to be made in the heat of the moment or just because it sounds cool. Your identity deserves better than that.
Please feel free to comment on this – in fact I hope you do – positive or otherwise because part of the whole reason for this series of post is to be able to have a record that others thinking of the same things can learn from.
Related Rebranding posts:
Where it started: Doing what social media gurus would say you’re crazy to do
The importance of a tagline: [WinExtra Rebranding] The power of the tagline
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