Should You Disclose Your Real Identity on YouTube? Pros, Cons, and Tips

Should You Disclose Your Real Identity on YouTube? Pros, Cons, and Tips

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.

Mike Essex, an Online Marketing Manager at Koozai.com, believes that this push by Google for identity disclosure is much needed if they want to be taken seriously as a professional social network.

“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.

Should You Disclose Your Real Identity on YouTube? Pros, Cons, and Tips

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.

Should You Disclose Your Real Identity on YouTube? Pros, Cons, and Tips

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.

Should You Disclose Your Real Identity on YouTube? Pros, Cons, and Tips

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.

Should You Disclose Your Real Identity on YouTube? Pros, Cons, and Tips

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.

Should You Disclose Your Real Identity on YouTube? Pros, Cons, and Tips

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?

Should You Disclose Your Real Identity on YouTube? Pros, Cons, and Tips

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About the Author -
Grant Crowell View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • Josef Holm

    Great article! I think it will be a good thing for the Youtube community if people become more accountable by posting under their real name. Like you said, it's mostly the haters who hide behind anonymity.

    • http://www.reelseo.com/author/grantastic/ Grant Crowell

      Thanks for the compliment and your feedback, Josef! I will say that there are valid and noble reasons why some choose to be anonymous. For example, the Syrian rebels were using YouTube anonymous to train their fellow fighters -- for example, how to clean their weapons. Another good reason is if you're being a whistleblower on illegal or unethical activity at a company you work at. That's not something you would want to have traced to your Google profile!

      • Josef Holm

        Good point, but it for the most part I would assume people use fake accounts for such activities anyway, not their real day to day Google accounts.

  • http://www.VideoLeadsOnline.com/ Ronnie Bincer

    There are LOADS of Google Goodies you get when you play their game (if you want to connect YT with G+, which is a good thing for most of us that care about search).

    I constantly watch our for what I call GooTubePlus integration.

    With the new promise of being able to connect a Branded YT Channel with a Branded G+ Page, there may still be reason for some not to change over to using a G+ Profile name on YT... BUT the G+ Page still stinks in comparison with the G+ Profile when it comes to capability to interact and grow & rank.

    Not wanting to steal the post here, suffice it to say that I think (and have experienced) that the amount of Google Goodies you get when you use your Profile name in both places far outweighs the disadvantages (for most people & businesses), because interaction/engagement is truly the name of the game now-a-days and the Profile rules in that regard (Pages drool). And you've still got to remember that 'people buy from people' - especially people in the Social world.

  • Dan Safkow

    One of the reasons Facebook is so successful is that everyone is accountable, as themselves, and it reduces the amount of negative energy spewed about. One could ague that it's a bit Pollyanna, but people need/crave places to go online where they feel somewhat "safe". Putting videos online can be a very vulnerable experience, and if everyone showed up as themselves, the community as a whole would benefit.

    As for whistleblowers, that's a non-issue. There will still be 1001 ways to post video on the web anonymously. YouTube is but one platform, it's not THE platform.

    • rusureuwant2know

      No, the reason facebook is successful is because of the security settings. it's a social site with the ability to set limits to even what your friends see. YouTube, on the other hand, is wide open to the world. I know people who have used their real names have received very real death threats after someone found out where they lived. It's just not safe.