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How To Choose A Twitter Username When Yours Is Taken

How To Choose A Twitter Username When Yours Is Taken

Note: this post was originally published in 2014 so we’ve updated it to include even more tips to help you find a great Twitter username. We’ve also added a section on how to change your existing Twitter username.

So you’ve decided that Twitter’s the right social media network for you, and you’re ready to set up your account.

You fill out your account information only to find…

Choose Your Username

Your name is already taken!

Twitter boasts having 320 million active users, and while it’s a little more reluctant to divulge the number of inactive accounts, they number in the millions as well.

Chances are your ideal name may already be taken.

It’s frustrating when someone else has registered your name or business name, especially if you find out they’re not even using it.

Twitter does have a policy in place for trademark infringements, but if your name or business name isn’t a registered trademark you’re probably out of luck. Even celebrities have had to resort to workarounds like @TaylorSwift13 or Jennifer Love Hewitt’s @TheReal_Jlh.

But if you’re not guaranteed thousands of followers by virtue of your fame, using random numbers or obscure acronyms won’t make for a memorable twitter name.

Below are a few other tricks you can use instead.

Best practices for Twitter names

Before we get into specific methods for coming up with a new Twitter name when yours is taken, it’s important to go over some best practices for social media usernames in general.

Your social media usernames are reflective of your brand, whether that’s your personal brand, blog brand, or a business brand. Your usernames make an impression, whether good or bad.

Just like anything else having to do with branding, you want your usernames to be consistent and memorable:

1. Be consistent

As Carolyn Nicander Mohr mentions in the comments below, it’s smart to check whether your desired business or blog name is available as a domain registration and username on social media platforms. You can do this quickly with a tool like NameChk.

(Of course, this doesn’t help if you’re trying to reserve your personal name.)

Your domain may be longer that is allowed for social media usernames, but you can always use a shortened version.

But using different usernames across social media platforms is just asking for trouble. If your Facebook page is found under facebook.com/janesmith, then your audience will look for you on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest using the same username.

If you chose another username because “janesmith” was already taken by your competitor, guess who you’re now sending your audience to?

If your name is already taken on one platform, you should seriously consider changing it across all platforms in order to be consistent.

2. Be memorable

If you’re unable to use your actual brand or personal name on social media, be sure that the name you do choose is memorable. It should be closely related to your brand name, and easy for your audience to recall.

3. Be quick about it

As soon as you start thinking about a name for your business or blog, and you find that the name is available… take it! Right now!

Don’t stop and think about it, just reserve it. You can always delete the account later on if you don’t use it.

(And, while this is a bit out of scope for this topic, you should do the same with domain names. There are seedy companies out there who will purchase domains after users search for them, just to resell them to you at a higher price. If you search and it’s available, go ahead and grab it.)

What to do first if your ideal name is taken…

If you’ve already come up with the ideal username, but there’s an inactive user squatting on your name, there is one thing you can try before giving up on it.

As Chris Hodgeman, General Manager of MavSocial shared with us in the comments:

“We had a situation for @MavSocial where it was already taken but the current owner had only used it once along time ago. We therefore registered @mav_social and started using that and also applied to twitter to release the @mavsocial name since it wasn’t being used. About 6 months later twitter granted our request and gave us @mavsocial – all our followers were automatically transferred over.”

Twitter literally has millions of inactive users, so be sure to check their inactive account policy before giving up.

While their official policy does state that they can only help out those with registered trademarks, it may not hurt to ask.

5 creative ways to come up with an alternative Twitter name

1. Shorten your name

A twitter name can be 15 characters long, so if your brand name is longer than that you can experiment with different ways of shortening it. For example, for my blog Amazing Women In History, I chose the twitter name @womeninhistory.

For a personal name, try shortening your first name or adding a nickname (e.g. Chris instead of Christine or Christopher).

2. Use keywords

I’m lucky in having a unique name. I’m pretty sure I’m the only KeriLynn Engel, ever!

But you might have found that you have name doppelgangers around the world who have already monopolized your name on social media.

If that’s the case, you can use keywords to set yourself apart. This is also a great way to broadcast what you do and what sets you apart from your namesake. Blogging Wizard contributor Elna Cain does with her username, @ecainwrites.

3. Add an initial

If your name’s already short enough, try adding an initial like @SarahKSilverman, or using a first initial like writer @SHurleyHall.

4. Add a location

This is a great idea for local businesses, or businesses with multiple locations.

You can add your country (@HistEdSocUK = History of Education Society UK), your state (@ProChoiceWA = NARAL Pro-Choice Washington), or your county or city, if you can fit it!

5. Use an underscore

This tip is last because it’s not ideal. Underscores not only take up your valuable 15-character limit, but they’re also hard to remember.

If your desired username @examplename is taken, it may not be a good idea to use @example_name instead. You take the risk of your followers (or potential followers) accidentally linking to @examplename instead.

Whichever twitter name you use, make sure it’s meaningful, memorable, and unique!

How to change your Twitter username

Maybe in reading this, you’ve realized you’d like to change your Twitter username to be more consistent across social media platforms, or to create a more memorable brand by getting rid of an underscore or other nonstandard spellings.

Or maybe your desired username has finally become available!

Whatever the reason, there’s no need to create a whole new account and lose all your followers and account history. Changing your Twitter username is pretty simple – here’s how.

Log into your Twitter account.

Click on your profile picture in the top right corner, and click on settings.

Twitter Settings

At the top of the Settings page, your current username will be displayed:

Current Username

Type your new desired username in the field, and make sure it says “Available!” above the field:

Username Available

(If it’s not available, you’ll get the message “Username has already been taken”.)

Username Taken

When you’re ready, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the Save Changes button:

Your Twitter Archive

That’s it!

Your username will be updated, but you’ll be able to keep all your followers and old tweets.

Make sure to:

  • Notify your followers of your new username so they’ll know when trying to @ mention you.
  • Consider pinning your new username notification tweet for a while, so everyone who looks at your account will see it at the top.
  • Update your social media links on your website, other social media profiles, author bios, email newsletter, and anywhere else it’s mentioned!

Over to you

Do you have any suggestions to add to the list? We would love to hear about them in the comments below.

Related: How To Get More Twitter Followers The Right Way

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About KeriLynn Engel

KeriLynn Engel is a copywriter & content marketing strategist. She loves working with B2B & B2C businesses to plan and create high-quality content that attracts and converts their target audience. When not writing, you can find her reading speculative fiction, watching Star Trek, or playing Telemann flute fantasias at a local open mic.

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  • Sergio

    At last!! The opportunity to amend all my problems! How many times have I been in this trouble? I can’t keep the count! Thanks, really, THANKS. The last time that the username I wanted was already taken my house and the rest of my neighborhood exploded because I didn’t know what to do!

    • WOW, sorry to hear about your neighborhood, Sergio ;D

      Some of us are lucky to have unusual names ;), but I’ve heard a lot of fellow writers ponder how to set themselves apart when their domain name, twitter handle, etc., are already taken by someone else. I think it’s important to keep your branding consistent so you can be easily found.

  • hodgemch

    We had a situation for @MavSocial where it was already taken but the current owner had only used it once along time ago. We therefore registered @mav_social and started using that and also applied to twitter to release the @mavsocial name since it wasn’t being used. About 6 months later twitter granted our request and gave us @mavsocial – all our followers were automatically transferred over.

    • That’s awesome to hear Chris. I heard about the transfer thing but certainly not about the transfer of followers.

      Thanks for sharing this!

    • Nice! Contacting Twitter is another great option if your desired name is inactive. And there are TONS of inactive accounts on Twitter!

  • KenCarpenter

    Twitter should sell premium user names of 16 characters or more. @AmazingWomenInHistory is 21 characters — how much of an annual fee would you pay for your exact name? … They could scale pricing per extra letter. … They should also allow periods, so we could use URLs. … I was lucky enough to get @KenCarpenter, and I would consider paying for @KenCarpenter.com —which is 16 characters; maybe $16 a year?

  • KenCarpenter

    One option that I often recommend to students and clients — change your name! Find a name that’s available as a URL, Twitter handle, Facebook page, etc., etc., and use it! … If your name is John Smith or Jane Doe, go through the legal process and the social-media registration process and become Amazing Smith, or Incredible Doe!

    • Well, that’s one way of doing this, Ken!

      Have any of your students or clients tried this?

      I’ve always had issues with securing my complete name on social networks. Google+ was the first social network I was able to secure my own name.

      • KenCarpenter

        It’s obviously easier to do with a business than a person. … I was very lucky, locking down my name on most major social-media platforms, except for Skype and Google+. I had to buy KenCarpenter.com, but for only $300. … A friend/client runs a coffee concession business in the concert hall and arena in Orlando, and called it Java Express. There are at least 3 million other places called Java Express! … My students brain stormed and researched names — starting with Twitter’s 15-character limit — and came up with “Showtime Treats” (@ShowtimeTreats). Maybe not great, but functional. … Turns out my friend isn’t really using the accounts, but at least people can occaionally check in from her stand.

        • Very lucky indeed, Ken! Also $300 to secure your domain is a very good price considering.

          I like the functional name your students chose; ShowtimeTreats.

      • KenCarpenter

        I’m very nervous about losing my name on Ello. … I have requests in from three different email addresses.

        • I think a lot of others are in a similar position.

          I’m mainly looking forward to an ad free social network more than anything.

    • Haha, that’s definitely an option, too! I would definitely consider this if I had a very common name. I legally changed my name years ago (though for different reasons ;)) and the process was pretty easy, actually.

  • you are describing some good tips for choosing twitter usename.I also use _ for my account.but its better if i find mine without any specification.thanks for sharing the nice article.

  • Hi KeriLynn, Great ideas for choosing a Twitter ID. Now we really should check to be sure a URL and Twitter ID are available before choosing a name for our business, blog, etc. Otherwise we’re bound to end up with frustration and confusion.

    I received excellent advice from a reader in the first month after I started The Wonder of Tech to grab the Twitter ID and name on other social media right away. I wasn’t sure whether my blog would be a long-term project so I wasn’t thinking that far ahead. I’m very glad I followed that advice and secured the name around social media.

    The good news is that you can change your Twitter ID if you find that you don’t want to stick with the one you got initially. I signed up for Twitter two years before I started my blog and didn’t want to lose my followers so I was able to change my Twitter ID to @wonderoftech without starting a brand new account. Changing my name helped me add followers more quickly because the account became recognizable as the one from my blog.

    Like you, I am not a fan of using underscores in Twitter ID’s. Many people view Twitter on small mobile screens using apps that might obscure the underscore. Your creative ideas are very helpful on how to create a Twitter ID without the need for resorting to an underscore.

    • Thanks, Carolyn! I’ve definitely learned a lot of this through trial-and-error– luckily, as you pointed out, Twitter does make changing your user name super easy!

  • Good and solid advice KeriLynn. Perhaps, someone would have consider also a name including a mix of special keywords,signs and memorable text characters (as a takis@:) or [takis@learning] etc.) Excellent suggestions KerilLynn,

    • Thanks Takis. Some good additional thoughts. I like to avoid special characters when possible but sometimes it’s not so it’s worth considering!

    • Thank you, Takis! I agree with Adam – I think it’s best to try to avoid special characters. One big reason is because when your audience tries to remember or guess at your username, they’re more likely to default to no special characters.

      However, if you do decide to go with a name with special characters, just make sure you’re able to be consistent across platforms. Some platforms handle special characters differently, so you may not be able to use the same username!

  • Great post and advice! Thank you for sharing these tips!

  • Good advice KeriLyyn.

    The twitter username I wanted was taken, so I took a leaf out of Carol Tice’s book and stuck “writes” on the end of my name. Seems to have worked quite well so far. I agree that special symbols are not a good idea.

    • Hi Clement,

      Thanks for checking out Keri’s post. I really like Carol Tice’s idea of adding “writes” to the end of your name.

      It’s got to be one of my favorite now. Looks like it could work super well for domain names too.

      Reminds me of how some startups will use words like “get” or “try” before their brand name.

      – Adam

  • Hi there @KeriLynnEngel:disqus!

    I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen this topic covered before on other blogs I visit… bonus points for creativity!

    I ran into a little problem with my username. I wanted it to be the same everywhere, but as it turns out, brentjonesonline is 16 characters, and Twitter only allows for 15.

    So I became brentjonesonline on some platforms, and brentjonline on others.

    Le sigh…

    Anyway, I guess it’s not the end of the world. And now I have too many links pointing to my current social profiles to even think of changing my handles / usernames.

    But you’ve outlined some great ideas here for someone just starting out online… even things like using an underscore, which I’ve had to do for other social accounts I have set up for clients.

    Have an awesome day!

    Brent

    • Thanks, Brent! Yeah, that 15 character limit was a hassle for me, too :/

      I wouldn’t worry too much about your case – matching across platforms is ideal, but is really a minor issue and can be compensated for with strong branding.

      Thanks for your kind comments! I’m glad you found the post helpful 🙂

  • RenaToGo

    Hi Kerilynn!

    Thanks for sharing your article.
    May ask how you put out your initial request to Twitter for the desired account? I’m trying to arrange this for the company I’m working for right now because the desired account hasn’t been used since 2012 and I must be missing the secret method of opening a line of communication with Twitter.

    Please please and thanks! It would be very appreciated.

    Irina

    • Hi Irena,

      Good question – and a tricky one! According to official info from Twitter, they actually don’t release unused usernames UNLESS there is a clear trademark violation. However, I’ve heard anecdotal stories of abandoned usernames being released even when there’s no trademark involved.

      If it’s a trademarked name, Twitter says that you can report possible violations to Twitter’s Policy Team through our support forms here: https://support.twitter.com/forms/trademark

      If it’s not a trademark issue, there’s no official way to go about it, though you can try contacting Twitter support here: https://support.twitter.com/forms

      Good luck!

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