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Does anonymous posting still have a place in today’s social media universe?

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

This week, we asked: Do you post to any social networks using an identity other than your legal name or your company’s brand?

  • Never 63.92%
  • Sometimes 11.39%
  • Often 10.76%
  • Rarely 7.59%
  • Always 6.33%

More than a third of SmartBrief on Social Media readers aren’t always who they say they are. While about 64% of readers say they always post as themselves or as their brand, the remainder admit to either posting anonymously or using some other kind of identity. And you know what? That’s totally OK.

Every so often, I’ll read about a new social tool such as Duvamis that aims to add a layer of anonymity over the social experience, even as Facebook, Twitter and the other major networks collect more and more data. But this is not a new scenario. Brands have always harvested data online and some consumers have always availed themselves of the option to post under something other than their own name. There have always been room on the Web for both kinds of engagement — and there always will be.

Networks like Reddit thrive in part because they let people speak freely without being caught up in their day-to-day identities. Meanwhile, LinkedIn would be worthless if people weren’t using their real names on the network. One kind of experience doesn’t threaten the other — in fact, they may even be complementary. Both approaches have benefits, drawbacks and both are needed for the Web to be the wonderful tool that it is.

Are you using social tools anonymously or under a pseudonym? What has that experience been like for you? How do you decide when to post as yourself and when to withhold your identity?