Selecting the right Twitter™ username or “handle” can do wonders for increasing your visibility and helping consumers find your business. A thoughtful Twitter handle improves the type and quality of followers you attract. This can help you build a larger following much faster, which can prove to be a huge advantage in marketing your business. Handle basics. Twitter usernames typically appear with the “@” before the name (e.g. @realDonaldTrump). Twitter only allows you to choose letters, numbers 0 through 9 and the underscore “_” symbol to create your handle. While your handle can be anything you like, there are a number of things that successful Twitter usernames have in common. Here are some things to consider when selecting your business’s Twitter name:
- Keep it short. Try to keep your Twitter handle as short as possible. Remember, a Twitter username can only be 15 characters long and there is a 140 character limit on your tweets. A longer name eats up valuable character space for your tweeted message and doesn’t encourage the re-tweeting (reposting) of your tweets by others. Plus shorter usernames are typically more memorable and easier for people to spell correctly.
- Use your business’s name. If a consumer is going to search for you, chances are they’re going to try your business’s name first. Make it easy for them to find you by selecting a handle with your brand name in it. If your business name is too long, consider abbreviating it or removing all the unnecessary vowels from your name. Better yet, if your name has already been taken, consider using your tagline such as “@GotMilk.” Or if your CEO is a well-known face of the company such as “@BillGates” or a company mascot such as “@Morris_TheCat.” Try to choose a handle that you’ve already established on other websites or is consistent with other marketing tools such as your email address. If your business name is trademarked and someone has already taken it or is impersonating you, Twitter does have a policy against name squatting. You can learn more about reclaiming your name by visiting http://support.twitter.com/groups/33-report-a-violation/topics/148-policy-information/articles/18370-name-squatting-policy.
- Consider using keywords. Some business’s might prefer using a keyword or adjective to describe their company such as “@denverplumbers” so other users know what they do. It can also help with search engine optimization and get you appearing near the top of search page results.
- Consider using your real name. If you’re a realtor, a lawyer or someone who might want to promote themselves and brand their name to the local community, using your real name can be a smart option. Plus, many people that use social networks are more interested in making connections with real people than with companies. Some businesses may even want to have multiple handles using one from the CEO and one from the company itself.
- Distinguish yourself. Just like a brand, you need to set your business apart from other users and businesses with similar names and industries. Avoid generic or gibberish names such as “@JohnSmith” or “@NY_lzm72tlc.” Make your handle creative, memorable and meaningful.
- Avoid numbers, underscores & too many CAPS. Unless a number is relevant to your business name, avoid using them in your handle such as “@NYpizza345.” Also, avoid using the numbers “0” and “1” because they can be confused with the letters “o” and “l.” In addition, using the underscore “_” and too many capital letters can be difficult to type for mobile phone users—a popular method for tweeting. Try to keep your name user-friendly for the mobile tweeting on-the-go crowd.
How to check name availability. To see if the Twitter handle you want is available, visit www.twitter.com/ and type the name you want after the “/” into your browser (i.e. www.twitter.com/theusernameyouwant). If a profile appears, that means someone else is already using that name. If the screen says, “Sorry, that page does not exist,” then your chosen name is available.
Changing your name. If you have a username you don’t like or decide later you’d like to change it, Twitter is one of the few social media sites that allows you to do so. But be sure to send out a message to all your followers that you’ve changed your handle to eliminate any confusion.
Choose wisely. With Twitter breaking the 500 million user mark in early 2012, many marketers are using it as an important tool in their marketing plans.1 It’s a great way to get closer to your customers, engage with them one-on-one, and provide them with timely updates. Spending a few minutes selecting a thoughtful username will ultimately provide better results in the long run.
1 – eMarketer: Facebook’s US User Growth Slows but Twitter Sees Double-Digit Gains, March 5, 2012