I will be really honest and tell you that I’m writing this post because I am in personal Twitter handle hell (and I have been for the last year and change). Remember how I wrote about how keeping separate identities online is ok? I stand by it, but I’m ready for a change. Managing my own two Twitter accounts in addition to client accounts is A LOT, and I want to bring myself under one, cohesive umbrella.

I’m still roving down the path of finding the perfect handle. I signed up for Twitter in 2007, when it was the Wild West, and everything was open. Present me is shooting a death glare at past me for not being wise enough to snap up some iteration of my real name, even if I didn’t intend to use it. My name is long – first and last is way too long for a handle- and not all that original, so everything related to it is taken. I will assuredly let you know when I get there, but in the meantime, here are the guidelines I’m using in my search for a new Twitter handle.

  1. No numbers: Yes, they make it easier. Yes, they also make your twitter handle look like your AOL screen name from 1995. As a digital native, when I see a handle followed by a string of numbers, it reminds me of an ex-boyfriend’s mother’s email address. It was @yahoo, and consisted of her first name followed by her area code and zip code – 8 numbers! It was nuts. Caveat: If the numbers are a part of your brand somehow (007, for example), go for it.
  2. No underscores: I’ve been really tempted to break this rule, but the fact of the matter is that people will forget the underscores and reply to/follow the wrong person sometimes. Especially if you do that clever thing where the underscore is at the end. For the easiest experience for your users, try to leave the underscores out of your twitter handle.
  3. Don’t be weird: This kind of goes without saying, no? As a friend told me yesterday, “It’s not like your handle is ‘iluvboys77’.” Let’s think back again to those AOL screen name days, and remember that those are exactly the kinds of handles you need to avoid. For a professional Twitter handle, stay away from “xo” or “ox” at the beginning or end of the word. This is not MySpace.
  4. Grab your real name: If you can, get some iteration of your real name. If it’s John Smith or Dominique Hernandez, you’re probably out of luck on this front. Try combinations such as first name with last initial, the reverse, incorporate your middle initial. Try hi or hey or the preceding the name or “says” or “talks” or “tweets” after the name.
  5. Do be clever: In the event that you can’t get your name, make people smile with something that may or may not involve it. One suggestion I liked for my handle was “Dominiche” – which, sadly, isn’t available. I have friends and associates with handles that are charming and witty. A few examples:
    • @Rhymeswithleesa: My friend Larissa has a name that everyone pronounces incorrectly, so with her twitter handle, she told them exactly how it should be done.
    • @HeyEscapist: While it might not mean anything off the bat, Kate’s popular blog is called “The Greatest Escapist,” so it’s perfect for her readers and fans.
    • @TomFromHR: This is one of the most perfect handles – Tom was lucky to have a short name to work with. His Twitter handle encompasses his professional life while delighting the reader, as “That guy from HR” is such a culturally known concept.

Don’t forget to have fun with it! Choosing a new Twitter handle or rebranding your existing handle is definitely a challenge, but I’m positive you can come up with something amazing. I recommend crowdsourcing the challenge – I had a fun 50+ comment Facebook thread with my friends yesterday and they had some amazing ideas!