The Case for Using an Online Persona

Many people have the dream of making money from blogging. Many people have the dream to become full-time bloggers, finally quitting their day jobs to live the dot com lifestyle. Maybe that’s why you’re here reading John Chow dot Com. And while both John and I are pretty public about who we are and what we do, there are many successful bloggers who aren’t exactly who they say they are.

Just as there are authors who use pseudonyms or “pen names” for some of their work, the same can be said about earning a living on the Internet. It just might be in your best interest to create a fictional persona for your online exploits.

Anonymity and Privacy

We’ve all heard about how the Internet can be an inherently scary place and identity theft is something that happens all the time. When you use your real name and put your life out there in the open, you are exposing yourself to potential threats and dangers.

By using an online persona, you can protect yourself (and your family) from this kind of harm. You can still provide tremendous value to your readers, sharing the same tips, advice, and valuable content as you would under your own name, but you’re simply sharing it under a made-up name instead.

It’s up to you if you want the fictional persona to have a real-sounding name (e.g., Mark McGavin) or if you want it to sound like a character (e.g., The Money Magician). In either case, your anonymity is preserved and you can maintain this online persona throughout social media and other online channels.


Fit the Target Audience

When you portray yourself honestly on the Internet, you are limited to who you are. If you’re a 45-year-old guy from Brussels, that’s who you are. When you create an online persona, you can pretend to be anyone you want to be. Doing this for fun is one thing; doing this for business is another thing altogether.

And in the context of professional blogging, your choices for your online persona need to be strategic. For example, there was a very successful freelance writer who happened to be female, but she felt like she was being discriminated against because she was a woman. So, she made up a male pen name, providing the same skills and talents as she always had. Suddenly, she was many times more successful.

You can leverage a similar strategy with your online business and public persona. If you are that 45-year-old single guy from Brussels, but you want to target young moms in America (baby products can be hugely profitable), you may not do so well. If you “play the role” of a 25-year-old mom from Idaho, you may enjoy much greater success.

The Built-In Exit Strategy

Way back in 2007, John said that if he were to do it all over again, he would have never chosen to use as the domain for this blog. The two main reasons are that it is harder to brand your own name and that it is nearly impossible to sell the domain.

When you use a fictional persona (and the corresponding domain name), it can be a lot easier to brand (especially if you use something like “The Money Magician” or “Cash Guru”) and it is far easier to sell the site when you’re done with it. The person who buys your blog can continue to run it and it will appear as business as usual to most of your readers.

But Should You Fake It?

These are just a few of the reasons why you might choose to create a “character” to use for your professional blogging and other Internet marketing activities. It can be compelling, but is it necessarily the wisest decision? Stay tuned for the counter-point to this post soon!

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