Twitter is a wonderful social network for writers, a place to meet others who understand the obsession with words, and at the same time learn about writing, publishing and marketing.
Creating a good Twitter profile is an art and a science… and fairly nerve-wracking for many of us. You’ve got 160 characters, a couple of photos and a link in which to communicate all the wonder that is YOU! How you gonna do it??
This article is the first in a series, and we’re going to start with choosing a Twitter name (or refining the one you’ve already got), because that’s the foundation of a good Twitter profile.
The foundation: Your username
Use your author name — the one that appears on the front of your books — as your “username” AND your “real name”, if you possibly can.
This is not a Rule. I don’t believe in Rules. 😉 But the fact is, using your author name will help you communicate and connect with your followers.
- You’re going to get much better name recognition for that name on your book covers, if it’s the name by which you are known on social media.
- Google searches will find you much more accurately too.
- When both the username and real name are the same, it just makes it easier for people to remember, and to interact with you and quote you if they tweet your blog etc.
- There will be instances where it’s not possible for both to be the same, perhaps because a name isn’t available, or because of length. In that case most seem to use their author name as their “real name”, and a variation on it for the username, and that’s a good compromise.
- Registering as @MsCrankyPants might seem fun, and if you were just doing it to connect with existing friends, it wouldn’t matter. But that kind of username won’t help build your author platform.
- The thought of being anonymous might seem attractive, but it’s going to be blown out of the water once you hit the New York Times Bestseller list anyway 😉 so why not get started now? (Of course if you need to be anonymous for some reason, that is different.)
But my name is already taken!
I feel your pain. That happened to me too. I couldn’t get @belindapollard because someone else had it at the time I joined, so I put an underscore in the middle. I do occasionally miss an interaction because people omit the underscore, but that happens much less these days.
Some options if your name is taken:
- Add a number
- Add an underscore
- Add a middle initial
- Use your first initial and last name
- Use lastname, firstname
- Add a location or topic (it will have to be short!)
- Add the word “writer” or “writes” or “books” or “author”
But my name is too long!
Your username can be 15 characters (no spaces) and your real name can be 20 characters (including spaces).
- First name + last name initial
- First name initial + last name
- Initials and a word like “writer” or “writes”
- First name and a word like “writes”
- A nickname can be good IF it’s the one you will be known by on your books
A handy way to check on the length of possible names is to open a Word document and experiment with variations.
The Wordcount feature will tell you how many characters you’ve used. Select the words, go to Tools > Word Count, and check the total under “Characters with spaces”. (It’s in different places in various versions, but for me it appears under Tools > Word Count. Use Help if you can’t find it.)
Alternatively, if you have Scrivener it shows the character count at the bottom of the window. Just write your name options in a list, then select each one and the character count for each will appear down the bottom in blue.
Have some fallback names in your list, just in case the one you want to change to is taken!
Dang, I’ve made a mistake
I can hear you saying:
But I’ve been on Twitter as @12Toes for months/years, and I don’t like it but I can’t do anything about it now.
Actually, you can.
You can change it.
I used to think if you changed your user name you’d lose all your followers and mountains would fall into the sea. But it’s not true.
I quote directly from Twitter’s Changing your username help article:
NOTE: Changing your username will not affect your existing followers, direct messages, or @replies. Your followers will simply see a new username next to your profile photo when you update.
How to change your Twitter user name
Apparently this doesn’t work in the Twitter app at present, so you’ll need to do it in a web browser.
1. Deep breath. 😉
2. Go to twitter.com and sign in.
3. On the top right of the screen is a little icon that looks like a cog (or possibly like a sun with rays, depending on your viewpoint!)
4. Click on the cog, then choose “Settings”. (Note that it’s NOT under “Edit Profile”. You have to go to “Settings” further down the list.)
5. Your username is there right at the top, above your email address. Type in your new user name.
6. Click the blue “save changes” at the bottom of the screen.
Your real name, however, is under “Edit Profile” (just to make it exciting, they have names in two places!)
You’ll find it in the slot called “Name” under your header image.
Letting people know
Twitter suggests alerting your followers to the new user name.
Personally, I’d go further than just sending out a general tweet. There’s no guarantee that your followers will see that in the rush of tweets coming through.
If you do take the plunge, consider sending an @mention to each of the people you regularly converse with, and let them know. An @mention is just a type of Twitter conversation that occurs in public, but the person will be alerted to your comment in their Notifications/Interactions list.
An easy way to do an @mention is to click on the person’s name where they appear in your “Notifications” list. (They’ll be there because you’ve already been chatting.) Their Profile Summary will pop up. Click on the down arrow beside the cog on the right side of the popup and choose “Tweet to @[this person]”. (Only people who follow both of you will see such tweets.)
More insurance: in the weeks after you first change your username, it would be a good idea to do a search on Twitter for your old username. Just type your old username, complete with the @ symbol, into the little search window at the top of the Twitter screen. Then if people have addressed tweets to you, you’ll see them, and can reply to the conversation and notify those people of the change at the same time.
What’s your experience with Twitter names? What do you find useful? What makes things difficult? Have you seen any good solutions that people have come up with when their preferred Twitter name was not available? Share your ideas! 🙂
Featured image via Bigstock/Ivelin Radkov
Carol Aston says
Thanks for this great info Belinda, after years of being stuck with the same username I’ve just changed mine!
Belinda Pollard says
Well done, Carol! I’ve thought about getting rid of the underscore in mine, because @belindapollard is now available… but I keep putting it off!
Laura Zera says
Good tips, Belinda. I know that when I see a user’s name and then their Twitter name is radically different, I kind of go, “ugh,” because it’s that much harder to keep them straight and/or find them, and/or easily mention them.
Belinda Pollard says
Yes, some of them stick in your mind, but others, you’re always floundering thinking, “What was that username again?” Thanks Laura.
Norah Colvin says
This is a great post. Thank you. I was lucky to receive your advice (maybe by checking out your blog and twitter handle before I started mine) and have used my name in all online addresses. I’m grateful for your guidance. I think this makes all interactions much easier.
Belinda Pollard says
That’s a great point, Norah. It’s not only our followers that benefit when we have one name across all situations. It makes our own lives easier too! 🙂
Kadmiel mccrory says
Thanks. That was really helpful. That is an awesome tutorial for changing your username on twitter. I feel like I really took away some really valuable info with the tips and tricks you exploited.
Belinda Pollard says
Thanks Kadmiel, glad it was useful. 🙂
Jacquie Garton-Smith says
Great post Belinda – wish this had been around when I started on twitter! I totally agree with your suggestion that writers use their own name. I am glad I chanced upon a shorter version of my name for my twitter handle because although it’s clearly identifiable as me I later realised that every letter takes up precious space in replies, mentions and retweets. I didn’t know it could be changed so this is fabulous to know. Thanks as always for your ongoing support for the writing community.
Belinda Pollard says
So glad it worked out for you, Jacquie!
I’ve seen people who’ve been on Twitter for ages who have very odd usernames, nothing to do with their real name or even their blog or business name, and I bet they wish they could do something about it now.
I’ve only just learned you can change it. I’m toying with the idea of removing the underscore from my username, since @belindapollard has now become available. (Obviously that person deleted their account, or it was deleted for them because they’d been inactive too long.) And apparently if an account has been inactive for more than six months, you can apply to Twitter to have that name for yourself. I didn’t know that either!