I received a handful of emails from readers regarding my last column, and, specifically the podcast with Ricë Freeman-Zachary on social media marketing. Many of you are wondering why I was so adamant that you buy the .com of your name if it’s still available to you.
I think we need to delve into this topic a little deeper. It’s going to get a little technical, however, I promise to bring in a real life example of why I’m such a stickler on this subject.
When Ricë and I spoke about the basics of social media, I veered off-topic and mentioned how I wanted every person who wishes to pursue their art as a career to buy the .com of their name from an Internet domain registry site, of which there are dozens to choose from. My personal preference is Go Daddy because you can buy your .com domain as long as it’s available for a low $11.99 a year. (Be wary of sites that offer a $1 or $5 “introductory” rate with automatic renewal required because many of these will jump to a $30-$50 annual fee after the first year. Please read the fine print.)
A domain name is the Internet’s way of identifying ownership or control of a website. Domain names (for example, www.CreateMixedMedia.com) are simply referred to as domains and the domain registrants are referred to as the domain owners. While this seems like a “duh!” point, it’s a very important one. Just because someone owns a domain, it does not necessarily mean they have any legal ownership of that name. They’ve just purchased exclusive rights to use it because domains are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Stay with me for a moment, as I give a real-life example of why this is so important.
A dear friend of mine has been a top artist in her field for more than 20 years. She began her art career when the Internet was still in its infancy, used mostly by academics and engineers. More than a decade ago, she taught at the very first national mixed-media art retreat to hit the scene. Shortly after teaching that event, someone who was very computer savvy must have seen her potential to go big one day and bought the .com of her name.
This person sat on my friend’s name for 10 years. As .com became the standard in people’s minds to immediately look up information, and as my friend’s reputation as an artist grew, this person made money selling questionable advertising on his “squatter” site. Every time someone went to .com of my friend’s website, rather than the .info she was forced to buy because her name was already taken, this unscrupulous person collected unique page view numbers to sell to his advertisers.
It can be very difficult to track down people who participate in what I call the “shadow side of the Internet.” My friend had to hire a computer brainaic to track down the owner of the domain, and then hire an attorney to write cease and desist letters. In the end, she had to pay a fee to get her .com in addition to the other expenses.
Please understand my friend is a brilliant artist and businesswoman. Like burglary or identity theft, just about anyone can become a victim when targeted.
This is why I feel so strongly that if you are working toward being a professional artist one day, you go to a legitimate domain registry site like Go Daddy right now and check to see if your name.com is available for purchase. If it is already taken, then find a way to secure a version if your name with the word “art” or “artist” in it.
The next question you probably have is should you also buy the .info or .net of your name? This is a tricky one, but my recommendation is no. The generic top-level domain .com (for commercial) is what immediately comes to people’s minds. You may think you are protecting yourselves from squatters by buying everything associated with your name, but it’s my personal opinion that you’re wasting your money. There’s a fine line between protection and paranoia.
Next month, we’ll talk about creating a name for your business and how you might wish to use it in adjacency with your given name for PR and marketing.
Jen Cushman is a natural storyteller who found mixed media art a decade ago and never looked back. She is drawn to the imperfect, the funky, the quirky, the artsy and the authentic: be it people or objects or art. To learn more, visit her website www.jencushman.com.
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