Incognito Press

truth. knowledge. freedom. passion. courage. Promoting free-thinking, activism & rogue writing.

Posts Tagged ‘business’

How Someone Called the Police because I “Stole” her Twitter Username

Posted by E on February 22, 2016

pink typewriter

Imagine that you have an internet username that you’ve been using for a long time – say, BettyBoop1977. You have a Twitter account, maybe a Facebook profile or page in that name. You might even have started a blog or site under that handle with one of the popular free sites like Blogger, WordPress, Weebly or Tumblr. Everyone in your circle (let’s say, a few dozen people) knows you by that handle. You have your own personal brand, right?

design-branding chalkboardWrong. You couldn’t be more wrong about that. Brand ownership does not start and end with getting BettyBoop77 as your Twitter username. Sadly, too many amateurs in the social media arena don’t give a lot of thought into building a brand that they themselves own, as opposed to having a free, hosted domain with another company’s extension.

Putting aside the fact that Facebook pages and WordPress accounts are owned by another provider – who often places ads under your intellectual property, your page can disappear at any moment. Your account can be suspended or hacked. The design or template you’re using could be scrapped on a dime, and you could lose hundreds of followers at the snap of a finger.

But the issue of who hosts your blog should be your secondary concern. Your primary objective – if you are entirely confident in your brand and intend to build it to the point where it can be monetized or even resold – is to secure BettyBoop1977 as more than a twitter handle. You’ll want to buy the domain name, but even then it might not be enough.

What if, one day, you get a phone call from the police after someone feels you criminally harassed them because you “stole her highly unique brand name”?

I know it seems like an insane situation, but this is exactly what happened to me last month.

BRANDING Lesson 101: Branding, Copyright and Social Media

I’m writing this piece because I am not the only person on the internet using the handle “TheLizBuzz”. I was recently informed – by a Metro Toronto police officer, no less – that a certain individual had complained to them that I had stolen her “highly unique” brand after I registered the domain www.thelizbuzz.com.

After giving this insanity a lot of thought, I’ve decided to write about my experience as part of my Artists’ Guide to Social Media Series, and as a warning to anybody who might encounter individuals who may be delusional enough to believe that someone who has “stolen” their Twitter or Instagram username and turned it into a new website – should be arrested and prosecuted for having committed a criminal offense. It’s tantamount to a chat-room spat – say, being called a “bitch,” “asshole” or “whore” on social media and contacting police because your feelings were hurt. Can you imagine how the courts would be inundated with frivolous, idiotic prosecutions because of name-calling, or because buying someone’s online username as your domain has “hurt their brand”?

FearlessOf course her criminal complaint went nowhere because I had done nothing wrong, but that’s not the point. The experience taught me an important lesson, and one that I’d like to impart with you guys. As someone who has had the unfortunate experience to explain to a (very understanding, I should add) police officer that branding (or even domain squatting or copyright violations) are not of themselves indictable offences under the Criminal Code of Canada – I thought I should set the record straight, once and for all.

At the time I registered the www.thelizbuzz.com domain (back in late August/September 2015), a Google search revealed this Ontario-based individual (who has an almost identical first name to mine) was using the nickname “thelizbuzz” on only three sites – Twitter, WordPress and Instagram. Perhaps she might have had other accounts, but I only found those three. She was a consultant with a two-year degree in social media from George Brown College, but had never – even after getting her certificate – thought to fork over the $11 that it cost me to register the domain thelizbuzz.com. How serious could she have been about branding if she – a certified and newly-minted social media grad – couldn’t even think to buy her own domain name?

To my knowledge and limited online sleuthing, the url www.thelizbuzz.com in of itself, or its .ca extension, had never been registered. And since buying a url that might have been used as someone’s Twitter handle isn’t illegal in Canada yet (lol), I didn’t think twice about it.

My Romanian name is Eliza, and I quite liked the catchiness of TheLizBuzz as a new consulting business for myself, an offshoot of my small publishing venture, Incognito Press. Unfortunately I also happened to know Liz, the person who was using that nickname, and at one point we had been friends – but our friendship broke up last year over another serious matter.

In the seven months that followed our “breakup”, I realized that she hadn’t taken any active steps toward actually buying, incorporating or monetizing the brand. It was just a matter of time before someone else would snatch up that domain, so why couldn’t that somebody be me?

Ok, perhaps it was in poor taste for me to “borrow” Liz’s Twitter username (which didn’t even have very many followers) and start branding it under my own name, but I didn’t feel too bad about it either since she hadn’t done anything to monetize it – so I spent $11 and bought the url thelizbuzz.com with the express intent of marketing it as my new brand. There is absolutely nothing illegal about that.

In September 2015 I registered www.thelizbuzz.com as my new arts and social media consulting site. I thought about registering for an Ontario Business License at the time, but I didn’t have the $60 for the registration. I then started a new blog with a social media theme, thelizbuzz.blogspot.com.

Although Liz had my telephone number and email address, not once in the following five months did she ever contact me to express that she wanted the domain for herself – or that she had any problem whatsoever with me developing that brand, even after I emailed her to inform her about it. I would gladly have sold the domain back to her for the same $11 I paid for it, but she never said a thing and so I proceeded to develop the brand and a new website.

In fact, I had absolutely no clue that she was pissed off until I heard that she had gone to the police.

It was only after the insanity of hearing from the police officer (in January 2016) that I had stolen this other Liz’s “highly unique” social media brand (i.e. Twitter username) that I decided to – once and for all – do a proper search for her alleged business proprietorship and clear up my name.

I don’t deny that we are two women who are in the same field – we are both social media strategists and content creators – and we both live in the Toronto area. I don’t deny that we share a similar and very controversial history, and that we are also competitors in our social media businesses.

However, deciding to develop “TheLizBuzz” as my new brand is not illegal either – it’s called capitalism. Perhaps Liz hadn’t heard of the concept – or didn’t care enough to develop it herself. God knows she’d had enough years to do it.

I would soon discover that the domain and handle “thelizbuzz” had NEVER been registered either as a domain OR as a business in Ontario. I went ahead and spent approx. $10 to do a business search on the government business site, and lo and behold – NOBODY had ever registered thelizbuzz as a business.

Here’s the official form from the government website which attests that as of January 15, 2016 there was “NO MATCH FOUND” in the business directory database. Virtual proof that I had NOT stolen anybody’s branding or consulting business.

thelizbuzz no match found

So for all the stress I went through and the negative things said about me behind my back, it turns out that the police complainant, Liz, had only used a Twitter username and a WordPress blog with approx. nine entries written over the span of two years – hardly enough to establish that I had stolen her “intellectual property” and copyright.

As a freelance writer and artist, I don’t have the money to sue this woman for emotional distress or what I see as an overt attempt at malicious prosecution. I can’t sue someone just for having stalked my website, blog and social media networks with a frightening consistency and sense of entitlement for the past year.

After several death threats from psycho racists in the past (my memoir Race Traitor was an exposé of the Canadian white supremacist movement), I had IP trackers installed on all my blogs and websites. This enabled me to now track Liz’s IP (and VPNs) and see it show up continuously, sometimes as much as several times a day for weeks and months on end. The obsessive nature of the continual visits started to trigger major anxiety and affect my work – until I decided that I wouldn’t allow anybody to take away my power.

Not anymore.

But what I CAN do – both for myself and my readers – is to advise that when you establish a brand, you must take great care to prove your ownership. You don’t have to fork over big bucks to establish trademarks and register copyrights over a domain name – the costs can run into the thousands and you’d have to establish copyright and trademarks in each country you plan to operate your business.

And what you CAN do is what I ended up doing – a perfectly legitimate and solid proof of business ownership:

Officially registering “TheLizBuzz” as MY business in the province of Ontario.

thelizbuzz business license

I have now taken the step of establishing a business bank account and clients can write cheques directly to my brand, the same way they already do for “Incognito Press.” I have registered thelizbuzz on every social media platform I can find – Facebook, Reddit, Pintrest, Tumblr, Flickr, Skype, and many others. But I’ve also ensured that both the .com and .ca domains and business account are linked to MY name.

That is how you do branding.

Moral of the story: save yourself the trouble and heartache of building a brand and potentially losing it – make sure you always buy a domain first (before you even establish your Twitter and Facebook handles), and register yourself as a business in the province or state where your business will operate.

So in the unlikely event that someone comes around accusing you of stealing “their” brand, you are completely covered and have established your ownership of what is now YOUR brand.

Remember, kids, that branding is more than just a name – it’s an identity. So claim it, own it, and live it to its fullest potential.

End of story.

branding police comic

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The Importance of Blogging – 10 Top Reasons

Posted by E on September 1, 2015

Girl on tablet with social media icon chalkboard

Every day, about 175,000 blogs are created. There is a blog born every half-second. So why should YOU start one, you might ask? The real question you should ask yourself is, why haven’t you started one yet? There might be millions of blogs out there, but they are not all created equal. In the blogosphere, Longevity, Frequency and Quality are king.

shakespeare blogSome are simply online journals that capture an individual’s daily routines. Some are heavy-duty corporate articles that attract thousands of readers, or motivational pieces that are retweeted and reblogged hundreds of times. Each blog is different and some serve multiple purposes. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, based on how search engines rank their pages, a blog that updates more frequently will rise up in the search results and achieve greater exposure than a static site.

FIVE BUSINESS REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD BLOG:

Of course static websites like a .com have not outrun their purpose – but the most successful sites will have incorporated blogging as part of their brand-building strategy. You can also buy a .com domain and point it to a blog, which is what I’ve done in several cases where I didn’t want to pay for hosting a static website. Nowadays you can integrate a classic website with a blog architecture, as is the case of WordPress.org – where you can own your domain but still use the powerful blogging tools that WordPress offers.

people in the information space

  1. The cardinal rules of blogging are 1) Post frequently, and 2) don’t post articles that are too long. I’m guilty of violating the second rule rather frequently since many of my pieces run well in excess of 1000 to 2000 words. I believe in creating comprehensive and well-researched articles and often there is much more to be said about a subject than can be encapsulated in 500 words. But whenever I can, I make sure to break up the large chunk of text with appropriate images or fun facts, so it gets easier on the eyes.

Here are some reasons you need to incorporate blogging into your business:

1. Drive Traffic to your Website via built-in Links

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Each article posted on your personal or company blog has the power to drive traffic to your domain and sell your brand and/or products, along with potentially cross-networking with other powerful sites. The more interesting the material you post, the more likelihood there is for catching people’s attention and gathering awareness for your main product site.

blogging importance2. Increase your SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Eighty percent of people who search for information online never get past the first page of results. It is therefore crucial that your business and brand identity appears in the top ten search results. Blogging frequently attracts higher traffic to your site and will result in your website being indexed higher in Google and other internet browsers, which in turn will lead to further expansion of your name and brand.

Companies that blog have 434% more indexed pages. And 9.81% of businesses consider their blogs to be an important asset to their businesses. Blogging is a sure-fire way to increase your SEO and do it fast. According to Social Media B2B, companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those that don’t.

Fresh content is key to beating out your competitors in search engine results and boosting your offline business. According to a 2010 study by the Kelsey Group, 97% of all consumers use online media to shop locally. Another study conducted by Intelius shows that 78% of consumers consider it important to look up information about businesses online before deciding to interact with them.

3. Establish your Brand as an Expert in your Particular Field

For years now I’ve written blogs for several corporations and non-profit organizations, mostly as a ghostwriter – meaning I was hired to write articles for the particular company to publish at their own discretion. I’ve also built several websites for clients and created their web content. I cannot stress how invaluable it is to keep constant, new information coming. Writing one entry every couple months or so will never build enough interest to bring people back to your site. And it’s not just a matter of creating content, but actually making it interesting and relevant for your audience.

4. Develop New and Improved Relationships with Clients, Fans and Customers

A key to being an effective blogger is the opportunity to engage with new people who search for keywords and stumble onto your blog. After several years, I have close to six thousand regular subscribers to my Incognito Press blog. I probably could have built more connections if I had been more persistent in updating my content. There were months when I was working on other projects and neglected my own website. However, despite the occasional breaks over the years, I’m at the point where my blog averages approx. a hundred new hits a day – and on days when I publish a new piece, my traffic spikes to several hundred.

why blog blogging 5. Increase Sales of your Product or Services, which will Monetize your Brand

Many of the people who purchase my books discovered me and my story through the articles I posted on my blog. Aside from being able to sell books through a blogging platform, you can also be paid to write articles on various products. Leading bloggers in their field are often given free products and/or monetary compensation for reviewing anything from fashion products to consumer goods. The more traffic you generate to your site, the more your brand value increases and you become a commodity. Eventually you have the option of selling your blog and associated domain at a premium, or publishing its contents as a book – the sky’s the limit!

FIVE PERSONAL REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD BLOG:

Should you blog, even if you have nothing to sell? Of course you should, and here are some reasons why:

how_to_blog1. Blogging Improves your Writing

I started blogging sometime in 2007, I think. Over the years I’ve noticed that, just like in journalism, blogging has helped me immensely in writing clearer and faster. Why is it like journalism? In a press office, journalists are expected to produce certain word counts on a deadline – after a while, the thought of writing 1000 words per day becomes routine. Practice makes perfect!

No more Writer’s Block

If you blog for as long as I have, you begin to realize that there’s really no such thing as writer’s block. Just like going for a walk, writing involves the process of putting one step in front of another until you get to the end of your goal – word after word after word, and then it’s done. It’s giving up the excuse of lack of concentration, and realizing that – just like in working out – blogging daily or weekly develops your writing muscle.

2. Blogging gives you a Voice

blogging voiceFew things are better than getting something off your chest. Art – writing, painting, dancing – are incredibly powerful and therapeutic methods to make yourself be heard in a world where it’s so easy for people to fall through the cracks. It’s a means to record your experiences through your own unique filter. It will capture a lasting chronicle of your days, months and years, as well as leave something behind for your loved ones when you are gone. Just like anything you create, it’s a legacy of your essence in this world and an important part of our collective history.

blogging-community3. A Supportive Community

Blogging can get you to come out of your shell. You can network with new people and be introduced to an audience and community of supporters who understand you and encourage your dreams. I’ve met some really amazing people through my blog or by reading their blogs, and I’ve been enriched by their presence in my life.

4. You are a Journalist

sky horizonHow many times have you watched your local television news and saw them quoting Twitter users or YouTube posters? In the age of social media, online news providers – yes, this means your blog also! – are at the forefront of NEW MEDIA. In fact, they are replacing traditional media at an astounding rate. Independent news networks and blogger sites are the main reason newspapers are shutting down all over the country and paid jobs in journalism are increasingly scarce. This isn’t a bad thing, people – the increased diversity of voices brings fresh and original perspectives to the human experience. It opens the door to niches and new ideas. It sparks a new hunger that ignites the imagination and originality.

bloggervsjournalistAs a blogger who often writes commentaries on politics and the arts, I can tell you that my blogs have attracted the attention of mainstream press and have reached many thousands of individuals. I’ve come to the conclusion that bloggers (especially those who cover hard-hitting issues) aren’t just doing a hobby but an actual job. Their pieces can be sold to newspapers and magazines and, in fact, they can be considered freelance journalists.

5. It can Lead to Speaking Engagements, Publishing Deals & Jobs

In the publishing world, there’s almost nothing better than having a platform of thousands of readers. There are authors who were rejected hundreds of times and subsequently developed such a strong following that agents and publishers came crawling after them. Many of them don’t even want a traditional deal anymore. Based on the contents of my blog, I’ve been asked to be a speaker at various conferences and have hand-sold more books than the average first print-run Canadian author typically gets.

Your new resume and calling card

Most companies’ HR departments are now regularly googling prospective new employers. People want to know you and what you’re all about, and this is your chance to establish yourself as someone who knows your field well.

Finally, the more you write and the more attention you get from your pieces, the more likelihood that you might be offered a freelance or ghostwriting gig. And there’s no better feeling than getting paid for what you were already doing for free.

On that note – if anyone reading this wants to hire me to write your blogs for you or your company, drop me a line! 😉

Blogging Brand Voice1

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