As somebody who regularly has to deal with a multitude of Twitter accounts, both personal and client-based, I often come across confusion when it comes to the thorny issue of naming your @account.

Aside from the obvious branding issues, one of the biggest stumbling blocks can be the issue of trademark, copyrights and the often-complicated problem of who has a "right" to use any particular name.

Here are two quick examples with different challenges:

We're currently building the pre-campaign for a major car manufacturer, promoting one of their newest models. When setting up a Twitter account, we were presented with the problem of all the obvious iterations having been taken.

Some were taken by other territories (none of whom had any less right to it than us), some were taken by spammers. When it came to resolving the issue, we simply used Twitter's Trademark-claim process and grabbed one of the uncontentious usernames, and everything was fine. Simple.

Another client we work with has the unfortunate luck of having a real person's name (and a common one at that) as their brand name. For them, claiming the most obvious account name is a more complicated process - negotiating with the current owner, arguing over rights, and ultimately (most likely) having to cough-up some cold cash to make things happen. Not quite so simple.

But once you've requisitioned the name you want, what else do you need to bear in mind? Here are some tips that people often forget:

Tell People!

This is the most common one I see - change your username and then don't tell anybody that you've done it. I guess it comes about from an (incorrect) assumption that everybody is using a Twitter platform like you do, and that they'll just be replying to something you've tweeted.

But if they, like me, sometimes use (for instance) text messages to tweet, or simply feel like reaching out to you unprompted, not knowing that you've changed your @username will most likely result in red faces all round.

Save everyone the embarassment, by telling people. And not just once either, remind them for a few days. The average tweet has a lifespan of 15 minutes, don't be arrogant enough to assume your followers hang on your every word...

Keep your old username

I lose track of how many times I've seen (famous people in particular) a new username get adopted only to have a spammer or fake account opportunist grab the old one.

If you've managed to get your sparkly new username, set up a spare account and grab your old username. Then you can put up a tweet saying you've moved, maybe even set up an auto-tweet to let people who tweet you know that you have a new home. Simple and pain-free, and saves so much embarrassment if you forget.

Track mentions of the old name

Hopefully you'll already have saved-searches or more sophisticated tools in use which keep track of mentions of your brand or name. If so, add your now-defunct username to these tools too, so you can make sure you're not missing out on any messages that might be important.

Get it right the first time

Twitter support are a lovely bunch, but getting changes made can be a tricky process at times. Try to avoid annoying them by making sure you get things right the first time.

Having to contact them to admit that you forgot to grab the relinquished name, and now somebody else has taken it, will probably result in a very stern response from their team...

So there you go, four easy tips, some probably fairly obvious, but all should help you make this process as pain-free as possible - not just for you, but for the people following you too!

Henry Elliss

Published 11 April, 2011 by Henry Elliss

Henry Elliss is a senior strategist at Good Relations and contributor at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or via his own parenting blog.

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Comments (5)


Mark Wilson

Isn't hanging on to the old name (name squatting) forbidden by Twitter?

I recently went through the trademark dispute process for my employer and, ideally, we would have hung on to both versions of the name but didn't want to violate Twitter's rules.

Also, do you have any advice for continued access to linked tweets (e.g. From others' blogs - we can't set up an HTTP 301 redirect from the old account to the new!

over 7 years ago


Dorthy Laws, Consultant at Law Firm

i wish twitter allows hyphens and undersores

over 7 years ago

Henry Elliss

Henry Elliss, Digital Marketing Director at Tamar

Hey Mark - I don't believe it's currently possible to 301 anything onsite, though if you change your username successfully I'm *pretty* sure all hard-coded links to tweets will still work...? I've not tried that to be honest, so I'll do some digging!

over 7 years ago


prince obasi uko ogbuagu

im just wabt say that my web site thart is carrying the name of amarachi makosi kalr ufere i say i dont want want it agine on my web page i bage to linkindin becouse she is no more ant thing to me

over 7 years ago

Henry Elliss

Henry Elliss, Digital Marketing Director at Tamar

Thanks, prince obasi uko ogbuagu - insightful stuff.

over 7 years ago

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