Google and YouTube have been pushing their users harder for full identity disclosure, but do you really know what you stand to gain, and lose? Before you commit to giving out your real identity and name across your YouTube and Google+ accounts, weigh the pros versus the cons with this list I’ve put together, and then decide for yourself if it’s really in your best interest, not just Google’s.
Why is GooTube Pushing for Identity Disclosure?
Although YouTube is the 2nd largest social network, it has a big problem with quality control. In its Community Guidelines, YouTube explicitly encourages users to leave comments and rate videos that affect them. However, there are some users who feel the need to make overly hostile and personal attacks, and hide behind anonymity. Scroll through any popular video you can find hate filled comments almost every time.
“One argument is that if users’ accounts include their full names, people will feel more accountability as a result produce civil commentary.” says Ashlei Williams, a reporter with Young Moguls Nation.
“Having personal names would certainly be a good thing for future comments, as the current anonymous system makes it far easier to write negative comments without worrying about the consequences.” he says.
The Pros & The Cons of YouTube Identity Disclosure
Of course, every YouTube user needs to consider if having their real identity fully disclosed is best for their own interests, be they for their online business, or just their professional or personal reputation.
Let’s start with some of the advantages to disclosing your full identity on YouTube:
THE ADVANTAGES of Disclosing Your Full Identity in YouTube
Trustworthiness: People are more likely to trust information from familiar sources; and disclosure is what builds transparency and trust. A 2012 Nielsen Survey and the 2102 Edelman Trust Barometer Report both showed that people trust information from others they feel they know, than information provided from search engine results.
Improved Author rank: Google’s authorship program allows their search results to point back to the person’s Google+ profile page; so linking your Google+ property with your YouTube account could later help the ability of that content to rank, if you are looking to be seen as a strong influencer in a particular field.
Extra social features: “The ability to merge your Google+ profile with YouTube gives you the opportunity to use Hangouts on Air and take advantage of some social features.” says our own Chris Atkinson. (Note, merging your Google+ page with your YouTube channel is supposed to give the same kind of social features, only without your exact page name being used.)
Selectivity: You have the option of keeping particular videos private, or even all of your videos private.
Convenience: Google+ page users will soon not have log out of email anytime they switch between multiple YouTube channels. You'll be able to keep your password confidential for multiple-administrative settings.
“Right now, allowing collaborators access to YouTube means giving them your password credentials which is clearly not ideal.” said Chris Atkinson.
It’s reversible: You can always go back to your original YouTube username through your Account Settings.
But like everything good thing that seems to come with YouTube, there always seems to be a caveat. Here are some of the disadvantages to disclosing your real identity on YouTube:
THE DISADVANTAGES of YouTube Identity Disclosure
You can’t individually select what you want to disclose under your real identity: Adding a real name now also adds it to your old comments, so if you've ever said anything nasty in the past, people will see your real name.
“Blizzard.net tried the same thing with their forums where they tried to change user names to real names and there was uproar for this very reason.” says Essex. “People didn't suddenly want all their "anonymous" comments to be tied to their real name and Blizzard quickly abandoned the change.”
A Google rep confirmed to me that while you can delete select comments on YouTube, you can’t keep some comments anonymous. So remember, everything you do decide to keep up will be traced back to your full name.
Problematic for online video platform providers with merging multiple-admin accounts from the YouTube API: I’ve dealt with one online video platform who’s having to fix serious issues with merging the YouTube accounts of their clients where multiple admins exist. It’s a strange situation, because you could be just one person with multiple email accounts tied into your YouTube channel or channels, and those all count as multiple admins – treated the same way as different people. For OVPs who have been used to merging one YouTube channel to one client, this can require a workaround solution.
Tips – What to Consider before Disclosing
You should consider disclosing your real identity on YouTube if…
- You want to build your brand as an individual.
- You want to take advantage of Google’s additional social sharing features
- You want to get extra visibility in Google search results (including with the Author Profile feature)
You may not want to disclose your real identity on YouTube if…
- You don’t want to build your brand as an individual. While using a full name from a Google+ profile might work well for a creator who wants to build their brand as an individual, this simply doesn’t work if you don’t want a full name on your channel.
- You have certain videos, comments, and other activity on YouTube you want to keep posted, but wish those to remain anonymous.
But Before you make a decision…
Review ALL your inventory
Review your existing videos, your posted comments, and any other recorded activity you’ve done on YouTube. See if there is anything you wouldn’t want to have linked to your public profile. After all, it’s very easy to forget a comment you may have posted anonymously, and not want to have surface. Remember, everything you decide to keep up will be traced back to your full name.
Talk with any OVPs you work with that are integrating YouTube’s API to manage multiple accounts.
Have them test out a YouTube account set up with multiple admins and see if they need to make any tweaks.
Decide if it’s time to create a second YouTube channel
This might be a better place to have full identity disclosure and what’s associated to your Google+ property. Otherwise, you may want to consider deleting the questionable videos and comments on your existing YouTube channel (the one you set up for full identity disclosure), and repost those on a new undisclosed YouTube channel (that isn’t linked to your first YouTube channel). Plan to spend some time for the manual work required, but it’s the best way to protect your reputation on YouTube, while still keeping some things anonymous.
Hey Google, You really want Disclosure? Incentivize us better!
If Google is serious about wanting to encourage users to encourage transparency, they should the associated website annotations feature for every Google+ property holder who signs up and has their YouTube account in good standing, and not just existing YouTube partners. After all, if YouTube is already requesting to associate a website with our YouTube channel, they should be also willing to let us include annotations in our YouTube videos that link back to that same website – isn’t that fair?
- “Multi-Admin User Capabilities Finally Coming to YouTube with Google+ Page Integration?” – ReelSEO, Chris Atkinson, November 2012.
- “YouTube Suggests Users Disclose Identity” – Young Moguls Nation, Ashlei Williams, October 8, 2012
- “Coming soon: Link your channel with a Google+ page (and keep your channel name)” – YouTube Creator Blog, November 19, 2012.
- “Google Authorship: An Interview with Google’s Sagar Kamdar” – Search Engine Journal, by Grant Crowell, July 17, 2012
- “Consumer Trust in Online, Social, and Mobile Advertising Grows” – April 10, Nielsen Wire, 2012
- “Global Advertising: Consumers Trust Real Friends and Virtual Strangers The Most” – Neilsen Wire, July 7, 2009.