Personal Branding Tips for ‘John Smith’ (…and Other People With Common Names)

It’s become a common practice to try and maintain contact with someone you met at a networking event, in a class, or at a party through one or more online social networks. From time to time, the person you meet has a very common name like, “John Smith.” You can Google their name, look them up on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter, and still not be sure if you are about to ‘friend’, ‘connect’, or ‘follow’ the right “John Smith.”

Friends with common names:

In addition to building a personal brand, people must be able to connect the dots between the brand and the name – and in your case, matching with the right instance of your name.

When you create online profiles, experts recommend you use a consistent username and a quality profile picture to make it easier for people to identify you and jump between your various social networking pages.

Services like and let you try out several usernames to see which are available on all the social networks you plan to use. If no versions of your name are available, (i.e. JohnSmith, JohnWSmith, JohnWilliamSmith, JohnSmithSeattle, etc) get creative and try drawing in elements of your personal brand to make a more unique name (i.e. JohnTheDentist, JohnSmithPaintings, GuitaristJohnSmith, TheZenGuitarist, etc).

To help increase the relevancy of results when people are trying to search for you online, include keywords or tag your content with important terms related to your personal brand. If I  search for someone I met named “John Smith,” I know it’s unlikely that the top result will show the John Smith I’m looking for.

However, if I were to search for “John Smith Seattle,” “John Smith Dentist,” or “TheZenGuitarist” the odds of me finding the right John Smith become much more favorable.


Derek is a serial entrepreneur and author of the book “Owning Y.O.U. The Personal Branding Action Guide.” About to graduate from the University of Washington, Derek majored in Entrepreneurial Ecommerce. Currently, Derek is the creative director at Wisdom N’ Treachery, a digital communication and branding consultancy. Derek resides in Seattle, Washington. To find out more, read his blog, follow him on Twitter, and connect with him on Linkedin.

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