Changing Your Name in Google+: What You Need to Know

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Google continues to stir up drama and controversy with its policy on using "real names" for the Google+ social network. It has evolved from a draconian system where users are kicked off with no notice, to a more reasonable system where users are warned first and given a grace period to address the situation. One way to resolve the problem is to change your name in Google+.

The Real Names Debate

First, let me catch you up if you haven't been following the whole Google+ real names controversy. While many people use pseudonyms of some sort online to protect their identity and remain anonymous, Google has an issue with that.

Google explains the Google+ naming policy in the support forums: "Google+ makes connecting with people on the web more like connecting with people in the real world. Because of this, it's important to use your common name so that the people you want to connect with can find you. Your common name is the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you."

You can change your name in Google+, but only once every 30 days.
Define "Real" Names

Obviously, if you enter something silly for your name like "Bubbly Wintersnow" or "Violet Blue", Google will instantly realize that your name is not legitimate and shut the account down. One problem with this concept, though--Violet Blue is a real person, and that is her legal name.

Therein lies the problem. What Google really means is "real sounding" names. I can create a profile using a pseudonym like "Tim Nicholls" or "Lisa Stewart" and Google will never know. It seems "real" enough. It is probably a real name for somebody--it's just not my real name.

As I pointed out in a recent post from the 30 Days With Google+ series, Ashton Kutcher's name is actually Christopher. To clarify, though, the policy says to use the common name friends and co-workers commonly call you, so "Ashton Kutcher" certainly qualifies. However, a name like "Lady Gaga" that doesn't use a "real" name for the first or last name would seem to present a quandary for the policy.

Change Your Name

If you created a Google+ Profile using a pseudonym, and you are worried about getting your account shut down, or if you have received a warning notice from Google letting you know your account may be shut down due to the names policy, you can change the name on your account.

From your Google+ Profile page click the "Edit Profile" button at the top right, then click on your name displayed at the top of the profile page. Type a new (legitimate) first name and last name in the appropriate boxes, and click "Save".

Once a Month

The Google naming policy says that you can only do a name change once every 30 days. It seems a little silly when coupled with the fact that Google expects you to use your real name in the first place. It's not like your name changes once a month.

In my experience, I was actually able to change the name repeatedly (four times in a row to be exact) without any issue. But, when I came back to try again 20 minutes later I received a notice letting me know that the policy limits how often I can change my name. Apparently it takes a few minutes for it to register in the system.

What About Businesses?

Technically, a business can't have a Google+ Profile at least not yet. The naming policy is clear that the name on the Google+ Profile must represent an actual human being, and that it can not represent more than a single individual. So, names like "Bradley Family", or "Einstein Bagels" clearly break the rules.

If you are hoping to establish a presence on Google+ now, and migrate your Google+ Profile over to a Google+ Business Profile when Google finally makes them available, don't hold your breath. Google isn't planning to create any tools to easily switch from one to the other.

The best advice for a business right now is to just dive into Google+ from a personal perspective. Familiarize yourself with the features and conventions of the social network, learn how it works and why. Then, when Google launches the Google+ Business Profiles you will be ahead of the game and ready to hit the ground running.

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