When commenting, why do some people use a profile name and others use their real name? Does it matter which one I choose to use?

As you visit blogs and read comments, you will notice that some people appear to have an alias (e.g., chilihead) and some people appear to be using their real names (e.g., Melanie). Whichever route you choose (alias or real name or blog name), that is the name that will become associated with you. When readers see a comment from your alias or name, they will recognize you as part of a community.

There are several reasons I can think of to use an alias:

  • Privacy: Some people are not comfortable putting their real names online. They prefer to have a modicum of privacy when they comment or blog.
  • Too many people with the same name: For example, there are a lot of different bloggers with the name Melanie. It’s hard to keep them all straight without a little help.
  • Branding: Many bloggers have a brand they’ve developed based on their blog and/or their interests. Commenting under that brand helps others recognize them. The brand can be an alias or the name of your blog.
  • Nickname: Some people use their nickname because it’s easy for them to slip between online and offline.

When I started blogging four years ago, I only went by Chilihead online. I was wary of privacy issues and didn’t want anyone I know to stumble on my blog and know it was me.

As I’ve gained readership and started writing for other blogs, I realized that Chilihead as an alias wasn’t going to cut it. For one thing, many of the professional organizations I deal with prefer to have a real name for their authors and not a nickname or alias. So I shed the Chilihead persona and outed myself as Melanie. However, it became clear that Chilihead was not going to be lost completely; it is part of my mommy blog brand that I cultivated for four years.

Now I go by both names, but only comment as Chilihead. The reasons are two-fold:

  1. Chilihead is part of my brand in the mommy blog world. People know me as Chilihead. When I comment as Melanie, my blog friends don’t always realize it’s me.
  2. There are many, many bloggers named Melanie and many of them comment as Melanie. Posting comments as Chilihead allows me to separate myself from the pack and most people who know me are immediately sure it’s me posting.

Using an alias when you post, whether it’s a nickname or your blog name, allows you to be immediately recognizable when you post comments somewhere else. People begin to associate your alias with your brand. Using your real name can do the same thing as long as it is still unique.

Another thing that can help your recognition is a memorable avatar (the picture that represents you online–usually when you leave a comment at a Blogger blog). For instance, I use a picture of me with my Groucho glasses. People know it’s me when they see those.

Do you use an alias or real name? Why? Do you have a unique avatar?

17 Responses

  1. Kathy May 12, 2008 / 5:03 am

    I use my first name because it seems more personal than a blog name or a “brand,” and I’m not clever enough to think of something else.

  2. Scott Fillmer May 12, 2008 / 6:53 am

    I started using my real name after going back and forth with several “anonymous” commenters and posters.

    I have decided that “anonymous” is not actually a person, so I decided as such, I will use my name.

  3. dcrmom May 12, 2008 / 7:13 am

    I am right now trying to decide whether to keep using dcrmom or go to Jo-Lynne. My readers are beginning to know me as Jo-Lynne, but I still feel a bit sad giving up the dcrmom “brand”. 🙂

  4. Smellyann May 12, 2008 / 7:55 am

    Lots of good points!

    another “melanie” blogger! 😉

  5. DebMomOf3 May 12, 2008 / 8:44 am

    I usually sign comments as both, using ‘Deb – Mom of 3 Girls’. That way people know me as a real person since I use my first name, but also as a ‘brand’ and can differentiate between me and the other ‘Deb’ bloggers out there. 🙂

  6. Brad K. May 12, 2008 / 9:11 am

    The name you use is part of your online ‘appearance’. In real life, choosing to wear jeans, a suit, or a sweat suit tells the people you encounter how you prepared for this encounter, how you view the role you are playing, and to some extent how you view yourself.

    Online, how you sign yourself tells people something about what role you see yourself playing, like a mask. Or a sweat suit.

  7. jessica @pianomomsicle May 12, 2008 / 10:08 am

    i started writing jessica @pianomomsicle in comments so i can distinguish myself from other jessicas. It seems to work nicely. Just pianomomsicle didn’t give me a real name, either. i like the combo of the two.

  8. Dawn @ My Home Sweet Home May 12, 2008 / 2:49 pm

    When I first started blogging, I was wary of using my real name and I signed as “Mommy Dearest.” Now, I’ll admit that I’ve pretty much purged my house of wire hangers, but really this was just a joke nickname my mother and I used. I realized over time that some people took it the wrong way – differently than I’d intended – so I sucked it up and started using my real name.

    Although I don’t know many other Dawns in real life, there do seem to be some other bloggers; therefore, I leave comments as “Dawn @ My Home Sweet Home.” That way I’m using my name and distinguishing myself from the other Dawn bloggers at the same time.

    I just posted about WordPress gravatars (http://myhomesweethomeonline.net/?p=1014). That’s something that is easy to set up and displays an avatar on WP blogs with the gravatar plugin installed (I just installed that plugin on mine and two other blogs over the weekend).

    Good post! 🙂

  9. Jo May 12, 2008 / 3:27 pm

    Melanie, thanks for the post, it has answered my question.

  10. Florinda May 12, 2008 / 5:26 pm

    I use my real name when I comment, since I also blog under it. It’s an unusual one (I’m not aware of any other bloggers with it), and I like to be consistent.

  11. jennyonthespot May 13, 2008 / 3:53 pm

    I sign “jennyonthespot” – so many Jennys! I also do it for brand and since it’s the title of my blog – it just makes sense. Good post.

  12. cb May 13, 2008 / 11:26 pm

    I use an alias because I write about work and don’t think it would be looked favourably upon and as the profession is quite tightly knit, I don’t want to be identified. I wish I’d picked a better alias though but now as I post and comment with it, it’s sticking around!

  13. Bobbelur May 15, 2008 / 6:41 am

    The Bobbelur nick is a persona/character build over some years. I blog and comment and visit forums/discussion board under that nick, so to me it is almost the same as my own name. As many might have found – when meeting fellow bloggers irl, I do respond to the nick as well as my own name.

  14. Firefly sb July 19, 2010 / 12:23 pm

    Thanks for helping me settle a quandry. I’m a newbie and am very hesitant about throwing my identity out into the ethos where it might be grab for evil/bothersome purposes. Now I can think of my online identity as a unique way for others to recognize or remember me and not a way to “hide.”

  15. Marilyn August 27, 2011 / 3:29 am

    Thanks, it teach me a lot!

  16. Shawn September 16, 2013 / 8:14 pm

    I mostly use my first name when commenting. Now and then I’ll use a nickname but not a lot of the time

  17. Shemul October 22, 2013 / 12:24 pm

    Thats why Avatar exists to make sure your identity. I dont accept other than real name in my blog.

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