User names & website domains to grab right now for the sake of your personal brand

Whether you’re an aspiring business owner, entrepreneur, or just someone who wants to start building your own personal brand, you really owe it to yourself and your future audience to secure a few key social media user names and domain names right now. Building a strong online brand is what has helped people like Marie Forleo, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Tim Ferriss build a huge audience.

WHY YOU SHOULD DO THIS TODAY

Now, you may be thinking, hang on Joseph! “I’m currently working full time, and I’m not even sure I want to ever start my own business.” Or maybe “I have started my business, but I have no interest in being on every social media platform out there.”

Even if you think there’s a 1% chance you want to create your own personal brand or become a thought leader in your field, you should secure your social media real estate right now.

Please do NOT delay doing this. Trust me.

I can speak from personal experience. Back in the day, when I was working full time in the corporate world, I never imagined I would ever start my own business, nor did I ever think I would want to build an online social media presence. Far from it. I actually wanted to stay as invisible as possible so my current employer couldn’t take issue with anything I was doing online. And increasingly, employers ARE using social sites to research CURRENT employees, not just prospective employees. So I get how you might want to keep a low profile.

However, you never know what the future holds, and securing your key social media assets and profile pages will not hurt you. Most are free, and only take a few minutes to set up.

Think about it like this. If someone offered you a free house you could keep forever, you would grab it before someone else does, right? I’d recommend you follow the same principle with securing your social media URLs (aka web addresses).

THE STRATEGY

The idea here is to secure your FirstnameLastname domain and username. So if you set your username on Twitter to @FirstLast, you will also get the Twitter.com/FirstLast URL. For example, if your username is @JohnSmith, your URL will be set to Twitter.com/JohnSmith. Why is having your FirstLast URL important?

  • Search engines like Google tend to favor accounts where the person’s name is in the website URL, allowing them to rank more highly in search results, thus being more visible, according to BrandYourself.
  • Having your FirstLast username often means you can also secure that /FirstLast URL.
  • FirstLast usernames & URLs just look much more professional.

You can see an up-to-date list of the most popular social media sites at Statista. I’m going to focus on the ones that are both popular and useful in building your personal brand. I’d recommend you secure the following sites right away, in order of priority, although it does depend on your industry & professional sector.

WEBSITE (.COM)

Get your FirstLast.com. This also allows you to have your own email using that domain name as the end of the email. So for me, I got josephpliu.com which allows me to use the email @josephpliu.com. (josephliu.com was taken! Learn from my mistake!). If your .com is taken, you could get a .NET, .ORG, .ME. However, the word on the street is that these aren’t treated as favourably or seriously as .COMs. These days, I’ve also see a proliferation of .CO, which isn’t too bad either. Although, at least in 2016 when I wrote this, .CO is still somewhat uncommon, and people might mistype .CO as .COM out of habit, which is a risk.

To secure your domain, you need to register it with a domain name registrar. There are literally hundreds of domain registrars out there. After doing extensive research on registrars, I now use the well-known registrar Namecheap* for my site registrations and recommend it to all my clients because they offer a user-friendly interface, solid customer support, and competitive prices.

I used to use GoDaddy*. However, their renewal fees are higher than Namecheap’s. Therefore, if you intend to own your domain for more than 1 year, you’ll spend less with Namecheap.

FACEBOOK PAGE

Secure your Facebook.com/FirstLast page if you can. A “Page” is typically publicly facing, something a business or brand might use. A “Profile” is for personal use as an individual person (you probably already have this). You can read more about the difference between Pages & Profiles on Facebook.

Here are instructions on creating a custom Facebook Page URL.

TWITTER

Grab your Twitter.com/FirstLast. This also means you’ll have the @FirstLast username. I made the mistake of not doing this even though I joined before the guy who snagged @JosephLiu (who’s not even actively using it). Now, I’m stuck with an underscore in my name (Twitter.com/JosephLiu_), which isn’t ideal.

If you’re not already on Twitter, you can sign up here. If you’re already on Twitter, and want to change your username to be FirstLast, you can follow these Twitter instructions to do so. And if you’re one of those people who does not have ANY interest in Tweeting, it’s okay. Still secure your username and make your Tweets private. At least this way, you have your username in case you ever want to use it in the future.

LINKEDIN

Grabbing your LinkedIn.com/in/FirstLast URL is more of a convenience than a necessity, but I still recommend it because it just looks more professional. Here are the instructions on how to set your personal URL on LinkedIn.

If you find the LinkedIn URL syntax to be a bit clunky (don’t know why they don’t just drop the “/in”), you can use a URL shortening service like lnked.in, to create a custom lnked.in/FirstLast URL. For example, I set up lnked.in/JosephLiu to redirect to my LinkedIn profile instead of using linkedin.com/in/josephpliu.

You may also want to set up a LinkedIn.com/Company/FirstLast company page just in case you ever decide to use it in the future. Here are instructions to create a Company page or change your company page URL if you’ve already set up a company.

INSTAGRAM

If you’re in a business that’s quite visual or creative, you’ll want to be on Instagram. Claim your Instagram.com/FirstLast by either signing up for an account and selecting that username or changing your username following these instructions (currently must be done from mobile app).

YOUTUBE

If you plan on creating & sharing videos, be sure to grab your YouTube.com/FirstLast URL. This one’s a bit trickier, and Google seems to to continually change the steps needed to set a custom URL, making the process as convoluted as it gets. Here are the latest YouTube instructions on how to set a custom URL.

PINTEREST

Pinterest is the virtual pinboard of the internet. Again, if you consider yourself part of a creative or visual industry, be sure to grab your Pinterest.com/FirstLast URL. You can either create a personal board or business page, which provides more analytics.

MEDIUM

If you intend to publish articles or long-form posts, consider creating an account on Medium, securing your Medium.com/@FirstLast URL. You may not have heard of this Medium, which is an online blogging platform owned by Twitter. As of Oct’16, Medium has 25+ million unique monthly visitors and over 75K posts/week according to the Medium Support team (I asked them personally). In fact, the White House has an account along with all major newspapers. You can create your account at Medium and select your username (which becomes your URL) when you join.

WHEW, THOSE PLATFORMS ARE THE IMPORTANT ONES!

You may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all these social platforms, but I strongly recommend you secure each of your personal URLs right now. This way, you have them in case you ever want to use them in the future. It means people Googling your name will more easily find you. By grabbing your desired URL, it also means someone else with your name CAN’T grab it.

WHAT IF SOMEONE HAS THE USERNAME I WANT?

If your desired username is taken, alternatives can include (depending on the platform):

  • Adding a special character like an underscore “_” or hyphen “-“
  • Add a number (I know this isn’t ideal)
  • Add a middle initial
  • Add a short modifier (e.g., coach, comms, tech)
  • Add a relevant abbreviation (Co, Inc, Biz)

Avoid using numbers or weird spellings. Ideally, you should still have your FirstLast in there somewhere.

TOOLS

Here are a couple handy tools to make things a bit easier for you as you build your online personal brand.

  • See which usernames are available: NameChk scans across all major social media platforms so you don’t have to check each one individually.
  • Find out which domain variations are free: use NameCheap’s Bulk Domain Search (click on bulk options) to see if your desired URL is available across various TLDs (Top-Level Domains like .net, .com, .org, etc.)
  • Find out owner of taken domain: NameCheap WHOIS Lookup shows you the owner, address, and expiration date of taken domains (if info is public)
  • Attempt to purchase taken domain: Here, I actually do recommend GoDaddy’s Domain Broker, which charges a small fee and commission to attempt to negotiate the purchase of a taken domain. I’ve successfully secured taken domains using this service, although it’s not always successful. Never hurts to try though! I’ve found GoDaddy to be more effective and personal than sedo.com, another popular buying service.

If you found this helpful, please let me know in the comments below. I’d welcome your thoughts on other platforms you’re on or tips that helped you stake out your social media assets online. Good luck staking out your personal brand online.

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Joseph Liu is a Career & Personal Branding Strategist and host of the Career Relaunch Podcast based in London with a passion for helping people gain the clarity, confidence, and courage to pursue truly meaningful careers. Having gone through three major career changes himself, he now shares insights from building & relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals and business owners to build & relaunch their personal brands at josephpliu.com. His unique approach is informed by 10 years of blue-chip marketing experience in the US & UK managing brands including Glad, Liquid-Plumr, Gü Desserts, and Häagen-Dazs combined with 500+ hours of professional career consulting. Check out Joseph’s TEDx Talk on Reshaping the Story of Your Career.

Stay in touch with Joseph on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, & Google+, Periscope, and of course, Medium.

This post was originally published on my Blog.