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New Online Identities: Figuring It All Out

17 Comments 07 September 2010

image courtesy of emilyluciedesigns

In the past month, my life has changed a lot. Now I need your help with transitioning my blog to reflect those changes.

The first big change was geographic: the move from Jerusalem to Boston in early August. That was easy to convey online – just change my location to “Boston” on all the social media platforms (still doing this, by the way). The second big change was professional:  I started work as the Community Marketing Manager at FirstGiving on September 1.  My other change was more of workplace identity: transitioning from consulting full-time to working within a company.

I still love to engage online and create community. That seems to be the consistent factor here.  I’m really excited about the new position: it’s a great opportunity to continue working within the nonprofit community and think about social media as a means to helping nonprofits raise more funds to do more good. The fun part of the job will be experimenting with social media, hands-on. (I plan to write about the experimenting here on the blog.) I’m also  looking forward to thinking more about event fundraising, online donations, and social network fundraising.

I don’t want to only talk about online fundraising. Or social media. That is not the whole me. (Connect with me on Twitter to talk about a wide range of topics, including social media and nonprofit technology.)

Aside from my job, I still plan to present, speak, and think about social media and nonprofits, and I’ll use the blog as the hub for these interests. I will continue to publish the same types of stories and analysis as always: the influence of technology, community, and social media on the nonprofit sector. I’m pretty excited to now have access to data from FirstGiving to analyze giving trends, donors, and event fundraising successes.

Now I need your help thinking about the identity of this blog:

I’m thinking about changing the name of the blog from the same name as my nonprofit consulting firm (Community Organizer 2.0) to a name more closely associated with my own personal name. Models for using my own name instead of Community Organizer 2.0 include Amy Sample Ward, Manny Hernandez, and John Haydon. Amber Naslund, on the other hand, has just launched a new blog, Brass Tack Thinking, and she is the Director of Community for Radian6. What do you think about changing the name (or not) of this blog? Which naming direction do you prefer, and why?

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  • Anonymous

    Hi Debra –

    Here’s why I decided that my blog and my name wouldn’t be the same.

    For me, I have visions and ideas for how Brass Tack Thinking as a platform can expand, and I also want it to have a shelf life without me. In other words, I have thoughts that there could be several authors on BTT and a platform for ideas, and if that’s the case, it has to be able to expand and survive even if I’m not involved in the day to day.

    Plus, I wanted something more broad than just social media and community, so my plans for the blog are conceived with that in mind.

    There’s no one answer that suits everyone, so I’d say consider the role that your blog plays in your professional future, and build from there.

    Whatever you decide, I wish you the very best of luck!

    Cheers,
    Amber

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hi Amber,
    Thanks so much for taking the time to bring us into your thought process around creating your new blog identity (and a peek at its future). Think that’s good advice to think about the role the blog will play in my professional future, and what I’d like it to become. Really appreciate your insights.

    [Reply]

  • I’ve been actually thinking of trying to name my blog something other than my name. I find my name really limiting and not very descriptive. I think if you’re someone like Robert Scoble it works, but I think for most it doesn’t work. Even if you have a catchy tagline (which I currently don’t), I’m not sure it’s a good idea.

    I don’t think your blog name necessarily has to be directly related to your work in the way “community organizer 2.0” is and introducing a bit of fun and catchiness into it will definitely help. It’s one of the reasons why I think SelfishGiving.com works for Joe Waters and Brass Tack Thinking works for Amber and Tamsen.

    Good luck!

    [Reply]

  • Mati

    Hi Debra,
    Even if your interests should shift or expand it’s all about the 2.0 community here that you’ve organized. It’s comfortable and familiar. But as Amber said you will have to consider what role it will play in your professional future. Regardless of what choice you make I think we will all continue to come back because of the insight and conversations you contribute and ignite.
    The best of luck in your new position
    Mati

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hi Mati- Thanks so much for your kind words. I agree that Amber had a great point about the role it could play in my professional future. The community that comments here is just as valuable and that is why I asked you all to help with this decision. The comfort here is quite nice, true – thanks for being part of it.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hi Mati- Thanks so much for your kind words. I agree that Amber had a great point about the role it could play in my professional future. The community that comments here is just as valuable and that is why I asked you all to help with this decision. The comfort here is quite nice, true – thanks for being part of it.

    [Reply]

  • Oh no, the naming question!
    🙂
    Naming anything is a strategic decision (we dedicated the first 7 months of this year engaging the world in creating our own name!). As the blog will first and foremost be a tool for engaging, I would encourage you to use the simple 3-step Community Engagement Planning Process we teach:
    1) What do you want to accomplish by engaging here? How will engaging further your goals?

    While on a personal level, engagement is an end unto itself, for a business or organization, engagement is both a way of being and a strategy.

    So, as a way of being, what do you want to accomplish by engaging here? And as a strategy to accomplish your other business goals, what are those business goals? The combination of those two things will answer Question 1.

    2) Who do you want to engage?

    This is about identifying what types of people can help you achieve your goals. “Oh, I just want to engage everyone in thoughtful conversation!” is not an answer if this is a blog with a business or organizational purpose.

    So for each of your goals, identifying both the likely and unlikely suspects for helping you accomplish that goal.

    3) How will you engage them?

    For a blog, this is about everything from frequency to topics to design to everything else that goes into making a blog work. For the 6 or 20 or 100 different target groups you have identified, what kinds of questions / aspirations does this blog need to address for them if the blog is going to achieve your goals?

    Now that you can clearly articulate what the blog is going to accomplish and how it will accomplish that, name the blog for that.

    Lastly, if one of your goals is to brand your name, then use your name. But note that the reason is strategy, not whether or not people know your name. The whole point of branding is that they get to know your name. And if that’s important as a strategic goal, it will come up in the planning process.

    Sorry so long – no time to make it shorter (aren’t you sorry you asked for my thoughts?)
    🙂

    Hildy

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    This long comment is perfect! I certainly remember the conversation on your blog about naming Creating The Future and you led it like a pro. Thanks for offering a fantastic three-step consideration process. Your suggested first step, “what do you want to accomplish by engaging here?” is such a great way of encompassing the question about how the blog relates to my professional future, the conversation, the relationships with the people who read and contribute to the blog. I also really value your last comment about branding and why/why not to use my own name for the blog.

    When you were renaming your organization and blog, was there one thing that kept coming up as the WRONG direction or the wrong way to go about renaming? Think that might be valuable to think about also.

    I can’t add anything else other than to say Thank You – I really appreciate your thoughts.

    [Reply]

  • Debra,

    Great post. I actually think there there is some equity–and impact–in your blog’s current name. And even as you switch jobs, you will likely remain interested in how to organize communities online. Because many know you here, I’d suggest leaving it as is.

    Like everything else, your online identity is what you make it. There are many who likely know you as askdebra (a la Twitter) and others who know you as community organizer 2.0. I think it is okay to have slightly different ‘names’ but connect them all through great, related content.

    Looking forward to seeing how you evolve this for yourself.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Farra, firstly, thank you so much for talking with me “behind the screen” about this through Twitter. I know the professional/personal online divide is of interest to you as well, and this post was also trying to address some part of that issue. I often wonder if the askdebra/community organizer 2.0 divide is confusing, and you proactively answered that question. The key is, of course, great related content combined with thinking about the audience, which is what I do try to do on both. Thanks so much for your support!

    [Reply]

  • Debra – I went through this over a year ago. My blog originally was called “CorporateDollar.Org” and then expanding way beyond the topic of cultivating corporate donors. After a while, the name didn’t make sense so I went through a very long process of renaming it. I came up for “Effect The Cause”, “Rock Your Web”, and “Cause Impact” – all awesome names. But deep inside, I knew that as I changed personally over the years, I would eventually need to change the blog name again. So I ended up going with “John Haydon” – something I’ll always be as long as I can have the wherewithal to blog.

    And like Amber, I also have other ideas for expanding platforms in particular directions. Inbound Zombie is where my consulting business lives. And I have ideas for “Cause Impact” that will be implemented down the road.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    John, thanks for weighing in. Can’t wait to know more about “Cause Impact” and what that will become. I remember when you were CorporateDollar.org (I was a feed subscriber) and I am a huge fan of the change. It’s one of the reasons I mentioned your blog in my post.

    [Reply]

  • Debra,

    I have been mulling over and dealing with this same question for the last year. The challenge of professional versus personal branding, where it is most appropriate and what challenges arise as we come upon changes in our professional lives.

    As for this blog I agree with John. Using your name for a blog seems like a good idea as it is with you and not a company that folks are building relationships with. As for your focus and what your are all about that will become prevalent. The sharing aspect of our communication these days drives folks to connect because others link, comment or recommend information they find valuable.

    What ever direction you go I look forward to following along and wish you luck with the new adventures.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Ash-
    I’ll be curious to hear what you eventually decide to do as well. Whatever YOU do, I’ll be more than excited to read and follow it. I think you hit the nail on the head with the line about how personal vs. professional branding arises when we change our professional lives. I was at a conference today introducing myself by saying “I was Community Organizer 2.0, and you may know me as @askdebra, and now I’m at FirstGiving…but I’m still blogging at Community Organizer 2.0.” THAT is one confusing message to give! From this angle, just using my name would eliminate a lot of the brand confusion.

    Lots to think about. I feel so honored that my online community has really taken the time to weigh in on this – thanks, Ash.

    [Reply]

  • Debra,

    I started my company before had a lot of marketing experience. A decade and a half later I would do a lot of things differently. But it is harder to change a corporate legal entity than a blog. You are lucky to have a digital entity which is easy to transition.

    Use your name

    Even if you go back to consulting or go off in a different direction, you are an incredible asset and you should brand yourself as such.

    You will never be dated (I confess I never liked the 2.0 in the blogs name since I was already looking into Web 3.0).

    You will always be you!

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Charlie – great advice, as I knew I would get from you! I also confess that I’ve never been a huge fan of the 2.0 in my blog’s name, and it’s a welcome opportunity to revisit this branding question. Thanks for weighing in – and offering the weight of your experience, too!

    [Reply]

  • zionaetzion

    When one talks about branding…it makes sense to also have people aware of the person behind the insights. It is your Social Identity as a business person as a speaker.

    [Reply]

About

Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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