Many people, among them my dear friend Roger Hjulstrom (@booksbelow and if you’re not following him, you should be) advocate that there are and should be no Twitter ‘rules’ and no right or wrong way to do things. Roger wrote a terrific blog post on this very topic and here’s a link if you’d like to take a gander. While I agree with Roger that there are often no absolute right or wrongs when it comes to social media, in equally as many instances, I fervently believe that there IS an appropriate way to engage in social mediums when you are a business and looking to use the mediums to enhance your brand awareness and to grow your business.
In the world of Twitter, your ‘handle’ is the name you select when you open your account. Don’t worry, if you mess up, it’s not too late to change it. Just do it before you get too entrenched and have too many followers, otherwise, it’s confusing. And, once again, if you’re here for fun and friendship, you can use any darn handle you please. But if you’re here to establish your brand or to establish a presence and, thus, build a brand, use your noggin when it comes to your handle.
Here are my suggestions:
- Use your name. Remember that whole ‘social media is about the social’ part? What’s more social than your doggone name?
- Remember that people often have to be able to REMEMBER your handle. So making it too long or too convoluted only lessens the chance that they’ll remember you – who wants that? People remember names. I remember when my friend @marksherrick first started out on Twitter, he used the handle @heythatguymark. He thought it was catchy and I never loved it. To me, it made him sound anonymous, forgettable and not at all professional. So, being the mouthy Twitmigo that I am, I suggested that he consider changing it. Ultimately, he did. And now he has a great handle. Easy to remember, his own personal “brand” and way more impressive sounding than his original handle. Don’t you agree?
- People don’t just reply to things you post with @messages. Sometimes they actually want to communicate with you and, in order to do so, they have to first remember and then type your handle. Don’t make it tricky to type, or you’ll risk losing them. Someone I know has a really cool handle but I can never, ever spell it – it’s something like @r3s3rv0ird0g and I am so exhausted each time I have to (a) remember it and (b) type it that, truly, I don’t communicate with them as much as I’d like.
- Don’t use all your letters! This is a big mistake and people often make it. And then it is often too late – or at least they perceive it so. If your business is called Kramer Marketing & Consulting, don’t try to cram as much of that into your Twitter handle as possible. The thing that newbies don’t often realize is that the more letters you use up in your handle, the LESS of those 140 characters you’ll have to say what you want to say. Ouch. Don’t you think there’s a reason that the Twitter founders @ev and @biz have short handles? Heck yeah, they want to have more characters to use rather than less. Short is good. Short is very, very good. And, coincidentally, easy to remember and easy to spell. Hmmmm.
- If you have the cojones to brand yourself creatively like my friend Owen JJ Stone, a/k/a @ohdoctah, that’s fantastic. But Owen didn’t just pick a cute name, he branded himself as @ohdoctah, his website reinforces his brand, his blogging reinforces his brand and it all makes sense. That’s the thing about handles – they are an exercise in branding, so if you’re in this social media gig to help build your brand and your business …. well, as the inimitable Aretha says, “You gotta think, think about it.”
- If you want to represent your company with a logo as an avatar, that’s fine, but always remember that people are most interested in communicating with the PERSON behind the brand. When the person hides behind the brand (which is what I think is the case when someone uses a logo as their avatar), they risk lessening the potential impact of and connection with their audience. Social media is about one on one communication, and no one really wants to talk to a logo — do they? I sure don’t. A great read on the corporate avatar subject is a post written by Olivier Blanchard called The Art of the Corporate Avatar.
At the end of the day, when your ultimate goal is to use Twitter or any other social medium to build brand awareness, increase interest in you and whatever it is you do, sell, provide for your customers, be professional. You wouldn’t walk into your local chamber meeting with a bag on your head that had your logo spray mounted to it — would you? And when someone stuck out their hand and introduced themselves to you at that same Chamber meeting, would you say “Hi, I’m Shelly Kramer” or would you say “Hi, I’m V3 Integrated Marketing.” We are who we are – that’s our unique ‘handle’ – what we do for a living is not the sum total of what we’re all about. So, doesn’t it only make sense that your avatar should speak to you, and who YOU are? It does to me.
So, here’s the Cliff Notes version:
- Use your name, whenever possible, or some sensible version thereof.
- Make sure it is easy to remember.
- Make sure it is easy to type.
- Short is key.
- Brand is good, if it works for you. Don’t force it.
- If you want to use your logo, do it intelligently and don’t detract from your own ‘personal’ brand.