On Twitter, you can be anybody you want to be from @angrymime to @trumpshair but Facebook and Google+ only allow you to be who you really are. Where’s the fun in that?
Now, due to high demand, Google+ has decided to loosen the rules (they claim it was always part of the plan) and allow nicknames and pseudonyms — sort of.
The change will not allow you to remove your real name, but there will be an option to add an additional name. But don’t think Google will allow you to go hogwild and call yourself King of All You See without proving it.
The new rules say that Google has a right to demand proof of a legitimate claim on the alternate name or they’ll shut you down.
The simplest instance is a legal name change due to marriage. Google says this new policy will also benefit people who have real names that might have been previously flagged such as Madonna or Blue Ivy.
For marketers, the most likely scenario is a an online identity crisis. This is for all of those internet bloggers and entrepreneurs whose fame is attached to a user name.
A close cousin to the pen name, user names were the most common form of ID in the early days of the internet. We started using them in CompuServe chat rooms, then solidified them when AOL was the main gateway to the World Wide Web. Even now, with forums and Twitter and creative email handles, many people are still better known by their online alias than their real name.
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I myself eked out a nice little living as a writer based on an online handle I created in honor of my favorite TV show. To date, there’s still a large base of readers who only know me by that name.
In order to claim a name like this, Google+ might ask to see proof of a “meaningful following,” but that shouldn’t be too hard to produce.
Don’t confuse this “alternate name” option with a “doing business as.” If you’re running a business, then you should have a business page listed under your profile. Google says they’re still clearing out personal accounts that should have been business pages from the start.
Where it gets tricky is when you are your business. For example, writers, musicians, artists. Should they have both a profile and a business page? Is that even possible? At least now, those authors can include their pen names on their profile so people will understand the connection. That is, if they really want the world knowing that they are one in the same.
Will you benefit from the alternate name option? If you made your name on the internet as anything other than your legal nom de guerre, then this is your chance to gain back some of the audience you may have lost.