Like them or hate them, personal brands exist. Especially in the world of politics. It came up in conversation yet again during a coffee meeting yesterday with Canadian Press journalist Stephanie Levitz. I made a note to write something this week. Norman Spector’s Is Harper preparing his exit? piece in today’s Globe and Mail served as a reminder.

Why care about social media profile names?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has incorporated his title in his Twitter profile name, @pmharper. Which is great while he’s still PM.  Whether by choice or election, he’ll eventually be a former PM. Even the CP Style Guide has a convention for that… “Lowercase titles preceded by former” as in former prime minister Stephen Harper. A quick search reveals @fpmharper is not taken. Yet.

So, what does someone like Stephen Harper do with 72,338 followers of a Twitter account which has an implied obsolescence?

I’m not sure this Prime Minister is the Tweeting type. In the two years and two months of his Twitter account, he’s only published 286 Tweets (as of the time of writing this post) and chances are they’ve been prepared and posted by his staff. It’s also possible, or even likely, many of the people who follow him now will no longer be interested in following his prime ministerial afterlife.

Nevertheless, a strong online community can be an important asset for someone who’s work depends heavily on activating constituencies of support. Even if only for selling books and promoting speaking engagements. For those people, I suggest thinking strategically when establishing an online identity. Plan to build lasting communities that grow and get stronger rather than reacting to discreet opportunities which lack portability.