How Many Online Identities Do Your Consumers Have?

I’ve accumulated perhaps dozens of identities across various social platforms over the years.

I use the same handle -- maxkalehoff -- on all of them, though the persona I present is nuanced across each platform and norm.

Here are my major ones and their purpose:

  • Twitter: I augment my professional interests with some personality, and to publicly publish information and news. I’m work-appropriate here, though I occasionally inject sarcasm and humor. I link a lot to things I’m interested in.
  • LinkedIn: I present my professional identity and connect with others interested in doing business with me. I’m pretty serious here.
  • Facebook: I connect with close and distant family, close and distant neighbors, close and distant colleagues and industry friends. I’m more personal and share semiprivate things, like select family events and photos.
  • Flickr: I archive my family photos en masse and share them only with close family and friends. I’m personal here, and share images in detail.
  • Email Groups: Yes, they’re useful, and I have a few I use personally with closely knit groups of friends, often with discussions that shouldn’t be public. One group is with a bunch of dads, where we discuss parenting issues candidly with one another.
  • Instagram: I experiment on the social network, and to keep in the loop with others. Still, though inertia, years-of-investment and terabytes of photos keep me on flickr. I don’t have too many expectations here right now.
  • Vine: I experiment on the social network, and capture funny and interesting things that work well in a loop, of course.
  • Wordpress: I have a personal blog, where I post short essays that span marketing, technology, sailing, gardening, cooking and parenting. This is probably the most public online identity that represents the different sides of me, and has a fairly small but loyal following.



There is a pattern here. Seven years ago, in this column, I coined the phrase “socialnetworkitis,” to describe the challenge of managing so many online identities.  Seven years later, my identities splinter and morph across many social platforms and norms, but now it just seems normal.

In fact, it’s normal for for everyone, especially kids and younger adults. Microsoft Labs researcher Dana Boyd underscored the same point in an interview with The Verge, from SXSWi 2014: “The idea of everybody going to one site is just weird. Give me one other part of history where everybody shows up to the same social space. Fragmentation is a more natural state of being.”

Our digital lives will evolve to reflect what they’ve always been: rich, nuanced individually and complex. Marketing people are well aware how technology and new media are enabling an unprecedented understanding of their consumers, along with abilities to reach them as audiences of one.

But the hitch is that there are many flavors of the same persona, and they alter across different platforms and norms. Sometimes people expect that you understand and reconcile them across different venues and contexts. Sometimes they prefer you don’t and, instead, treat them as an entirely different person -- or keep them anonymous.

It’s an interesting time to be a marketer!

2 comments about "How Many Online Identities Do Your Consumers Have?".
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  1. Edith Angelo from Project Nick de Angelis, March 18, 2014 at 5:50 p.m.

    I am heavy on Twitter and Facebook, (personal page and two professional pages) lighter on Instagram, Google +, Hate sites like Flicker, LOVE the presentation posting photos on National Geographic's Your Shot gives you, and find REDDIT far superior for news (they actually make you differentiate between fact based news and opinion). Once you have set up your AddThis share bar and mastered copy/paste on the Iphone it literally takes seconds to share things BUT, unfortunately I post what interests me and READING the articles takes longer than sharing. BTW, I also hate news videos. I can read a heck of a lot faster than those people talk. Since the internet is a bottomless pit of information you have to self censor or you would NEVER get away from the computer!!

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 18, 2014 at 6:13 p.m.

    How many hours per day do you devote to all "posts" you posts ? How many hours per day do you devote to reading everybody else's "posts " ? PS: Nothing is private on line. Keeping "private" makes it more unlikely it goes totally public, but totally private is not to be.

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