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Picking a Username for Social Media: the good, the bad, and the ugly.


Let’s assume you have already gone through the process with us and developed an effective brand strategy. Only after you have a clear brand strategy should you begin the process of selecting a name. It is a tricky and complex process that requires the alignment of several variables, such as domains, social media usernames, trademarks, and so on. We will save this topic for an in-depth look in another blog post. However, for this blog post let us look at just the social media considerations for a name.

It is important to keep in mind that every social media platform has different aspects to consider. We will examine some of the major outlets at present, and regardless of how the landscape changes, this should paint a good picture of the key elements when picking a username for your social media channels. The following are four key aspects to always keep in mind:

1) Keep as close to your brand’s name as possible – This makes it easier for people to find you.
2) Avoid non-alpha-numeric characters whenever possible – These add complications to searching or tagging you on mobile.
3) Keep it as short as possible – Brevity is your friend, and Twitter has the most limited allowance maxing out at 15 characters.
4) Be as consistent as possible across all channels.

It is important to point out that usernames and hashtags are not the same things. We make no assumptions about your social media knowledge, so let’s briefly touch on the hashtag topic here, in case this is new to you.

A username is a unique social media identifier. Like your phone number, no two are exactly alike, at least on any given platform. It is used by a person or brand associated with an account. A hashtag, on the other hand, is a word, phrase, or abbreviation preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages, people, and find answers on particular topics. While similar, the application and usage are sometimes different. Your username is more related to controlling your reputation and making sure you are more easily found and tagged. Whereas hashtags are important for specific topics and relevance, which may or may not relate to your brand and reputation directly.

But often, you may have discovered the ideal social media username, only to find out someone is already squatting on it or using it. Be sure to look at the platform’s policies, and proactively reach out to the person first, because in many situations arrangements can be made. So be sure to search before you commit and start pushing out.

There are many tools out there that can help you determine username availability across multiple platforms efficiently. Here are a few:

https://www.namecheckr.com/
http://checkusernames.com/
http://knowem.com/

Sometimes, you just can’t find a good available username. Only after you have exhausted all reasonable options, do we suggest that you start to get creative and move beyond your brand name. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast username is @beourguest, and the TV network, CW, joined Twitter in 2013 with @cwbatb for their Beauty and the Beast TV show. If you do get creative, still be consistent, so people can learn how to find you across the board. The last thing you want is to have different social media names for Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter on your flyer. Can you imagine being interviewed for a radio show or making announcements at a live event: Your usernames are hard to say and spell, and you have three different ones! Yikes!

Let’s take a look at two major influencers in particular. If you don’t know who Ryan Reynolds is, I think it’s time you Google this A-List Celeb. He has successfully branded himself on social media as @VancityReynolds. Another celebrity, Teri Hatcher, goes by @HatchingChange, playing off her last name and reflecting her values as displayed on her bio as an “activist, sharing ideas to bring joy, good health, and laughter into the lives of others as well as my own.”

When you type RYAN REYNOLDS into the Twitter search bar, there are numerous impersonator accounts in addition to all the non-celebrities of the same common name. There are lots of Teri Hatcher impersonators too, of course. If it wasn’t for Twitter’s blue, verified checkmark badge next to their names, we would be playing Where’s Waldo. While many of the platforms show whether the profile is verified, it is not always easy to tell in searches, so your audience may have difficulty finding you. And no, you can’t buy a verified badge. The people who work over at the social media companies decide that fate. The more difficult you make it for people to find you, the lower your odds are of being found in the giant sea of social media.

Before thinking about any of this, however, be proactive. Figure out your brand strategy first, and then work on name selection. That way, you can minimize the difficulties you run into when looking for and finalizing your username choice.

Now let’s take a look at some of the major platforms and their features:

Facebook

For Facebook, you can create custom URLs. This username/URL is less essential here because your name will appear in the search results, so you can optimize your name and be found whether or not you lock down the URL. Also, hashtags are not as prevalent here as on other platforms.

Twitter

Twitter, is a bit trickier as both usernames and hashtags are used all the time. Both the sharing, association, and metrics tie heavily into their use, and thus Twitter can be very difficult unless you get lucky and find a name you can readily control and optimize for. And with the 140-character limit per tweet, it makes brevity even more important.

Instagram

Instagram is much like Twitter, but with fewer limitations. However, you can add up to only 30 hashtags to each post. Yes. Thirty. If you’re one of those people who try to squeeze in as many hashtags as possible, at times I’ve seen as many as 50, it’s time for you to change that strategy. Relevant hashtags are more important than the number of hashtags. So, ideally, both your Twitter and Instagram should be consistent and on point!

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a beast unto itself! Fortunately, usernames are less important for search results here than on other platforms. Your job title and content matter more than usernames and hashtags. With Microsoft’s acquisition, LinkedIn’s entire interface has been revamped, and we would not be surprised if this changes again in the near future, affecting username strategies.

We wish we could simplify it more, but as you can tell there is a massive amount of time, research, and attention to detail that need be performed before you can develop effective social media strategies – Even just to lock down usernames. So take the time to do it right the first time, so that you won’t be stuck with a weird or hard to username/hashtag.

We hope this helps you out, but if you still have any questions or need some help, we love helping brands succeed online. Click here to contact us now!

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