Have you ever struggled to choose a Twitter handle? Your handle can make a world of difference in your social media strategy. When I first ventured onto Twitter to experiment with the then-emerging platform, “BeingLizzie” seemed like a fun way to share my adventures. As I transitioned into a freelance career, I began to connect with other writers, follow brands I loved and share my work. My followers climbed, and I even received a verified account.
But I quickly realized that people searching for my name and brand details wouldn’t necessarily find me. In some cases, such a casual name could even be viewed negatively. A verified account can’t be changed without losing its status, so I’ve had to fully embrace my BeingLizzie identity. Along the way, however, I’ve learned a lot about what makes a great Twitter handle and how to avoid social media gaffes.
What Makes a Great Twitter Handle?
When you’re choosing your social media handles, remember that these handles are an extension of your brand. If you’re sharing client work on Twitter, they’re going to pay attention to your name. When you’re under consideration for a new project, your whole freelance brand is under scrutiny — including your social media handles. So when you’re choosing social media handles, here are some questions and best practices to keep in mind:
- Does the handle include your name? If your name isn’t available, does the handle align with your brand? For example, @bobsmith is probably taken, but @bobtechwriter may be available. Need some more inspiration? Handles like @MicrosoftHelps, @problogger and @suitcasepreneur show off the user’s brand and platform without including their name. Just remember that you want to keep your handle on the shorter side — especially when every character counts in your tweets.
- Use keywords and branding such as “writer,” “designer” or “consultant” to customize your handles.
- Consider prefacing your handle with “the” or even “the real,” if that fits your brand vision.
What Makes a Bad Twitter Handle?
There are a number of reasons why your Twitter and social media handles may likewise be harming your brand. These include:
- Your Twitter handle isn’t discoverable and someone isn’t likely to find your account when searching for you.
- Your Twitter handle infringes on the registered trademark of a company or person.
- It’s unclear who you are and what you do.
- You can be confused for someone else already in the market.
- Your handle reflects negatively on your brand, such as including profanity or inappropriate references. Unfortunately, this is something I’ve come across in the freelance world.
- Your handles aren’t consistent across social media, making you harder to track from one network to the next.
What if the Handle I Want Is Already Taken?
If you’ve decided to take the plunge into choosing a Twitter handle and the one you have in mind is already taken, you can still come up with something that works for your brand. Some possibilities include:
- Expanding your brand name or personal name by adding relevant keywords or terms that relate to what you do and what people will search for.
- Abbreviating your name or shortening it in an interesting way.
- Including a location.
- Adding a first or middle initial.
The Good News
If “Ilovemychihuahua1999_2007” is no longer doing the job for your freelance brand, there’s good news. Twitter makes it easy to change your handle without affecting your followers, direct messages and other factors.
Log into the site and go under accounts. From there, you can change your username an unlimited amount of times. However, there are two things to consider:
- Do you have verified status? If you change your handle, you’ll lose that status, but you can reapply for it or wait for Twitter to re-grant it organically.
- Do you link to your Twitter handle from different places online? Would changing your handle and URL require going back and changing some links?
If the name you want is taken by an inactive account, it’s possible to request that Twitter release it. See the company’s inactive account policy for more information on whether the username you want potentially fits the criteria outlined.
Freelance writers need every advantage they can get when building a brand, so make sure you choose a Twitter handle that’s right for you. Remember: The best Twitter handles are discoverable, reflect your brand and avoid generic or confusing names. By getting creative, you’ll be on your way to a Twitter account that’s easy to find, memorable and engages your audience.