The Newcomers Guide To Twitter is a ten-part series of introductory lessons, tips and suggestions for people using Twitter for the first time. Please share these articles with your friends, family, colleagues and anyone you know who is struggling to “get Twitter”.
Before you sign up for a new account on Twitter, you need to give some thought to your username.
Your username, or handle, is your identity on Twitter, and is preceded by the at (@) symbol. Ideally, as an individual, your username should be your real name. For example, if your name was John Smith, your Twitter username should be, in an ideal world, @JohnSmith.
Unfortunately, the world is far from ideal, and chances are that the username you want is already taken. So what in blue blazes do you do now?
Here are 5 tips to help you choose the right username on Twitter.
1. The Maximum Length Of A Twitter Username = 15 Characters
Note that the @ is not part of that limit, but still, not much to work with, right? Which means you have to get really creative, especially if the username that you originally wanted is not available (and with more than half a billion registrations on Twitter, that’s extremely likely). The goal is to register a username that is as close as possible to your actual name – or, at least, how you want to be known throughout Twitter. People don’t pay as much attention to the real name part of your profile, but your @username goes everywhere.
If you’re a brand this is, of course, particularly important. Vital, in many cases. So if somebody is squatting on your name and you have legal rights, give Twitter a call.
2. The Shorter The Username, The Better
15 characters isn’t much, but if at all possible you don’t want to use all of those characters. Why? The shorter your username, the easier it is for people to work with it on Twitter. For example, when they want to tag or retweet you. If you have a short username, it’s easier for them to include you in their tweets without sacrificing too many of those precious characters.
3. Consider How It Would Look On A Business Card
Okay, so you might have just joined Twitter, and you’re only doing so for fun… now. But what if it really goes well for you? What if you pick up thousands of followers and find a way to make Twitter work for your business? Do you really want @numbnuts69 as a point of contact on your business card? Or in the footer of your emails that go out to your clients? What would grandma think? Consider all of this (and more), when making your final choice.
4. You Can Change Your Twitter Username At Any Time
Even if you’ve already set your username and then decide that it’s completely wrong, the good news is that you can change it to anything you like at any time. Simply log into your profile on Twitter.com, go to your Account Settings, enter your desired username, and click save. If it’s available, the change will be immediate and seamless, and will not in any way affect your current followers, the people you are following, tweets, @replies or direct messages.
Tip: If you decide to change your username, let your followers know with one or more announcements. Otherwise, they’ll likely continue to (manually) tag you under your old handle, and you’ll never see those replies, nor will they know, as there’s no bounce-back on Twitter. They’ll just think you rude, and nobody wants that.
5. Twitter Usernames To Avoid
While finding a good Twitter username is increasingly difficult, there are some types of username that you absolutely want to avoid. When you first register, Twitter will make some recommendations if your original choice of username is already taken – avoid these, as they’re almost always lousy. Try to avoid usernames with numbers at the end – at the very least, they make you look like the n version of that person (i.e., JohnSmith4230), indicating you came to this party very late. Don’t use anything that seems spammy. Don’t squat on brand or product names just because they’re available. And try to avoid having a username that’s too close to somebody that’s well-established on Twitter.
All of which, of course, doesn’t give you many options. Good usernames are still available on Twitter, but they’re going fast, and much better to put the time and effort now into finding something perfect (and that’s perfect for you) than having a “oh, that’ll do” attitude now that you come to regret six months or a year from now when the userbase has doubled and there’s almost literally nothing worth using.
This post is part of The Newcomers Guide To Twitter, a ten-part series of introductory lessons, tips and suggestions for people using Twitter for the first time or thinking about signing up for a profile. Click here to see the other posts in this series (and if you’re just getting started, here’s part one), and please hit the comments to share your own Twitter tips.