If you spend any time doing business on the internet — “Branding Yourself” — is an important part of the process even if it seems shameful and unseemly and selfish: Enjoy it! It’s what you’ve become by being here!
I’ve made a lot of mistakes doing branding on the internet — and I’ll focus only on myself and my name, in particular, to help you avoid making the same errors I made starting out 20 years or so ago.
There is wonder in the generic and money in the specific.
Born “David Isherwood” — and then having a stepfather named “Boles” for 14 months — I, for some reason, not only became a “Boles” at age 8 or 9, but a “David Boles” as well, in the process of living, and working, and performing in Lincoln, Nebraska. Small Pond. Smaller fish.
When I was 15, I had my name legally changed to “Boles” from “Isherwood” because I’d locally branded that name, and it was time to start legally documenting who I was with tax payments and a driver license. It was just easier — from a Midwestern fitting-in at that time in the early 1970s — to be who I’d become and not who I was born to be.
My point of telling you my naming saga is that I’ve always seen “David Boles” as a brand, and not as a person, and I see myself merely as “me” and never “David Isherwood,” either.
My first domain name was “Boles.com” and it was suggested to me by the good folks at Earthlink way back in 1996 — the Ack Back Days! — because, Earthlink argued, by having that short domain name, my email address username would be my first name, and then the domain name would complete it. It was neat. It worked. It works. Genius!
From that first Boles.com base, I expanded over the years to dboles.com and dbgang.com and davidboles.com and davidwboles.com and many more — and they all redirect to boles.com — and the reason I have all those domain names is not to hoard them, but rather to expand the reach of my brand.
Now, my first branding was just “Boles” — and I worked to get that username on all social media and everywhere else.
Then, after years of doing that job, I thought “Boles” was too generic and, I decided –especially for my published books and articles — to be “David W. Boles” since there were a lot of “David Boles” folk out there. It worked. I owned the “David W. Boles” hook and meme even though there were other David Boles people who also shared the same middle initial!
After more contemplation and reflection, I realized “David W. Boles” was clunky and hard to type, and that name was almost too specific; and so I decided to ever-so-slowly transition my web presence and general branding to just be regular “David Boles” because it was specific enough.
The @Boles Twitter handle was dead, but taken, and the @DavidBoles Twitter name had always belonged to me so the ensuing transition wasn’t completely painful for social media.
So, instead of being a generic “Boles” with a million different first-named meanings — going with @DavidBoles on social media as necessary, and by choice on my own branding, I created a whole, new, carved space that belonged to me without that niggly “W.” in the middle of everything that was both clunky and pretentious!
When I “Won the Internet” on March 5, 2016 — I rejoiced — because my brand remake had worked and I’d become the one and only “David Boles” on the internet… if for only a single day… if only for a single page… if only on The Google… now and forever!
There is great specificity in the generic!
If you’re thinking of branding yourself on the internet — or starting over and rebranding yourself in your virtual life — remember that it is cleaner and easier to own the specific, and then work backwards from that to control the generic, because you want all nits and nooks and niches to eventually point back to you from all directions, no matter what, and when you start with maintaining the common ground, then the rest of the parcels will slowly bind to you and become a whole acreage that you can make into a beautiful mosaic.