What’s in a name? Changing your online identity after marriage

by @JessMSamuels (formerly @JessFaulk)

 “What’s in a name? That which we call Jess Faulk by any other name would be as sweet.”  Changing your online identity after marriage.

I have a confession to make.  I have been married for over 3 months and I have yet to complete my online identity transition.  I’ll be completely honest, the whole idea intimidates me.  Not the name change itself.  I changed to Jess Samuels without much concern. Even though I consider myself a feminist, and can appreciate anyone who chooses to keep their own name, I liked the idea of having a family name, being a recognizable unit, and Faulk hyphenated with anything is just too much of a mouthful.  I can also appreciate my friends who change their name because it is more unique, and more brandable. For example, how easy would it be for me to show up in Google if my last name happened to be Simpson?  Meranda Adams in her article “The Age of SEO, How Do You Change Your Name After Marriage?” laments that her name change meant she was much less recognizable. Meranda says, “If only I’d fallen for a guy with a more original last name.”  After having made the choice to take my husband’s last name, Samuels, I could relate.

The name change in my offline world was relatively easy. I moved through everything from social security to credit cards within weeks of getting married.  Checking those things off of my to do list felt manageable, however, changing my online identity felt insurmountable.  When I Google “Jess Faulk” in a incognito search, 8 out of the first 11 results in Google are me.  My twitter, my institution’s staff listing, my website, my picture, my pins.  When I search “Jess Samuels” however, only 1 out of the first 11 results in Google are me.  To start all over from scratch, building an online presence is intimidating, but not impossible.


Where to start

Before I even officially became Mrs. Samuels, I started with knowem.com.  This site allowed me to quickly determine which sites have the username I desired available.  I had to decide whether having Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, and YouTube (or dozens of other sites) all with the same username was important to me.  Because I knew branding myself online after already starting with another username on so many other platforms was going to be a challenge, I decided that having one consistent name was important, and thus selected JessMSamuels for all of my userprofiles.

Holding Period (i.e. Engagement)

While you are waiting for everything to become official, you can start collecting some of your new profiles.  Grab your .com and your Gmail to start.  Gmail won’t let you transfer the name of your account from one name to another, BUT it will let you forward from one account to another, and import all of your messages, so there is no reason to delay in grabbing the account you will eventually use.  Choosing your Twitter should technically also save you the concern of someone else grabbing it while you are engaged, however, a word of warning – you do need to release the new name before you can change your old account, so it may be a little trickier than changing your name on Pinterest or Facebook.

Making the Change – What’s easy, and what’s not, AND how to do it.

Next Steps

SEO Chicks provide the valuable advice to be careful when changing your accounts.  Many online accounts will be attached to other accounts (such as Facebook and Twitter), and you have to make sure all of the links still work after changing usernames and emails for those accounts.  They also wisely suggest keeping your avatar while you are doing your initial name change.  There will be enough confusion when you change your name, so keeping the consistency of your old image will help people know it’s you.

This blog post may have been more therapy for me than anything else.  While intimidating, it shows me that moving through my social media profiles are just as doable as moving through the cards in my wallet.  Of course, I know that there will always be unforeseen challenges – such as changing the name on all of my Student Affairs themed infographics (esp. after I lost my hard drive with all of the original work), but I will get through that as well.  That is what Photoshop is for!

Anyone have any other name change tips?  Post them in the comments, I would love to hear your approach to this branding challenge.