What’s in a name? Choosing your online name

There has been some online discussion over the past few months on the names people choose for social media accounts, and it got me thinking. A while ago there was confusion over who owned a Twitter name if the person using it moved organisations – do the followers stay with the organisation, or does the tweeter rename the account to reflect their new employer, and take the followers with them?

For most people this is a relatively small issue, as few of us have tens of thousands of followers, but it is worth thinking about – a disgruntled ex employee with even a few hundred followers could easily change their name to @’yourorganisation’sucks or similar, or misrepresent themselves as still working for you – appropriate policies  and clear guidelines on social media account ownership are worth thinking about up front.

Of course you don’t have to change your name when moving on, although for some people in the public eye this may cause consternation.

It is worth giving some serious thought to your user name in advance of registering it – unlike Netflix who created a new service called Qwikster, apparently unaware that the Twitter user of the same name was already active. Even worse that user described themselves as “a student who has among his interests’ women and recreational drug usage”.

Organisations may want to consider some form of naming policy- several of the police forces I have worked with have some form of standardised naming conventions such as NPTtownsville.  Others allow people to choose their own names, but again a little thought up front will save confusion and grief later on.

Services such as  namechk and knowem can help you check to see if your chosen name is available across a huge range of online sites. If you are stuck for ideas then Socialpuma has a range of sites that suggest names – some weirder than others.

Whatever name you do go for it should conform to a few basic rules:

  • keep it short – the 140 character limit on Twitter means that people find it hard to retweet (share) your thoughts and posts if your name is over about 15 characters.
  • keep it simple – an ideal name should describe you – either by name or function. If simple is not available, then go for memorable.
  •  try and keep consistent over all the social networks you use for the same purpose. People like to know that you are the same jsmith on Facebook as they have been following on Twitter.
  • Upper/lower case is irrelevant to Twitter, but JohnSmith is easier to read than johnsmith – even if they are both the same account.

One final note. My Twitter name is @jiiii. I  describe that as a ‘J’ and five ‘I’ s when telling people my name. Should I have gone for something a bit simpler (JPartridge for example)? Absolutely – but most obvious variations on my name have already gone. I leave you with one last thought – register your preferred names now whilst they are still available, and register them across any social media sites you are likely to use in the future. Most sites are free to register on, so go and do it now.



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4 Responses to What’s in a name? Choosing your online name

  1. Sam says:

    Another really useful article from you. It always amazes me that people can have various names across all their profiles rather than being consistent. I guess it was only a matter of time before somebody came up with the easy way to solve that. Just checked out namechk and I really like how easy that is to use and see the results. Thanks for the tip.

  2. Sid says:

    broken link socialpuma

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