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Billions of people around the world are using the internet every day. New sites are created, new social platforms are launched, and at every turn we are asked to enter in our usernames and passwords for a new account.
Unless you have an uncommon name, it can be very difficult to get the same username on every platform you sign up for. How many of us have tried to sign up with our usual username, and then realized that someone else already had it?
It may seem like a strange subject, but there are quite a few reasons to make sure that you have a consistent username across the many websites and platforms you connect with your audience on.
In this episode we talk about preparing, personalizing, and managing usernames online for better consistency, and what to do if it’s nearly impossible to have a consistent username.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- When it comes to username consistency, sometimes you just have to do the best you can.
- Find a name-checker website to scan potential usernames—it will save you a lot of time.
- Make your username speakable.
- You can gain a lot of traction when you have a consistent profile image.
- Have something standard for your username that is included across all of the various platforms.
- Give people patterns and consistency so they can find you.
- Whether you can buy a social media handle depends on the terms of service of every social media platform.
- When it comes to usernames, domains, or brand names, do your research upfront.
- Make it as simple as possible for people to locate you.
- Have one consistent place where people can go to branch off to your other platforms.
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- 03:40 Cory: Kyle has a lot of really great thoughts on this topic and a lot of really great things to say, so I’m going to turn it over to him and let him manage this show. Kyle brought up this topic because, a few days ago, he and I were talking, and he mentioned that he has noticed that someone might have one name on Twitter, something else on Snapchat, and something else on Instagram. There’s this fragmentation, so Kyle said, “I’d love to do a show on consistent usernames and what to do if you can’t get a consistent username, and why you should have one that fits everywhere.” What are your thoughts on all of that, Kyle?
- 04:40 Kyle: It’s very confusing, especially if you’re a brand that’s not very known yet. It’s confusing even if you are, but that’s especially true for people trying to build brand equity and get people in the door. It’s very important for your audience to start to associate you with things, to feel like there’s consistency and like you have a purpose for them. Let’s say that you are @KevinSanders on Twitter. We go over to YouTube, and you’re YouTube.com/monkeysuncle. Monkey’s Uncle is the name of your brand, and you are Kevin Sanders. There’s a disconnect there, because people don’t really know how to find you.
- 05:45 I saw an example the other day where someone had a different name on Twitter, maybe a middle name and a last name, from the name they used all the time. On top of that, when people see them in their Twitter feed, the display name that came up was their brand. Now, there’s this huge disconnect. If they know you, they’ll search for you. If they can’t find you, they’ll search for your brand, but then your username is different from either of those names. It becomes a big mess. We started talking about why you would want to have a consistent username across all of the platforms.
Username Consistency Is Hard
- 06:39 Cory: It can be really tough. One of the biggest questions related to the name of this show is, “What if you can’t get a consistent username?” Let’s say that a new social platform shows up, and you’re ten days late. You didn’t sign up for it, and someone else named Kevin Sanders grabs the name on that platform. You think, “Aw, man, I couldn’t get it.” You know what’s terrible, Kyle? People snipe usernames of larger companies. That would be like me registering itskyleadams on Peach before Kyle had a chance to get to it. Why do people do that?
- 07:25 Kyle: It’s a lot like the domain name thing.
- 07:31 Cory: Somebody asked on Twitter, Christopher, said, “What should you do if you can’t grab a consistent username? See my Twitter name for an example of how I tried to cope.” He’s @MrChrisJWilson, so there’s a lot of variables to that username. It can be tough to have a consistent name. It is tough. A lot of people say, “There are a lot of places I can’t change my username.” This happened to me recently. I had a Snapchat account, and it was an old username that I’ve been using for a really long time. I’m not going to say. When you’re a teenager, you use things like firstname.lastname@example.org, and that’s your email address, or email@example.com. You do that when you’re young, and when you get older, you start getting a little bit more serious.
- 07:37 I had this old username on Snapchat, and I didn’t have a lot of people following me, but I realized that it wasn’t matching anything else that I had. On Twitter, I had this other name. On Instagram, I had this other name. It wasn’t professional, and I wanted to switch it to be more professional. On Instagram, I believe, you can change your username. On Twitter, you can change your username. On Snapchat, you cannot. I had to think, “If I want to align everything right now, I can change them on these various platforms, but I can’t over here. What do I do?” I had to create a brand new Snapchat account and point people to that, so I took a hit.
- 09:25 I remember people saying, “Hey, I’ve been trying to Snap you,” and I would say, “Have you been trying with my old one or the future one?” It’s all about long term mindset. Are you trying to say, “I want to make everything about one username across all the platforms, or do I just say that I’m going to do the best I can?”
When it comes to username consistency, sometimes you just have to do the best you can.
- 09:49 I see people using underscores, dashes, or numbers, and that’s just the history of the internet. You’re trying to log onto XBox Live, and all the names are taken, so you’ve got all these special characters, @ signs, lower case x and uppercase Y and the name in the middle. Sometimes you have to do the best you can, and that relies on you. If you’re just starting something, you’ve got to think way in the future. Think, “What is unique enough about my brand name or how I can create it to be more future focused?”
- 10:58 Kyle: For example, my name is Kyle Adams. That’s a fairly common name, at least in the US. Enough people have it that they’ll register it ahead of time, most of the time before I can. There have been occasions where I have been able to get Kyle Adams, specifically. I’ve gone with itskyleadams, and in a strange weird way, it’s built a thing within my audience. I’ll meet someone from my audience, and as a joke they’ll say, “It’s Kyle Adams!” It’s become fun, and people know how to find me. That’s the point, especially if you’re a brand. I’m branding my icon design work, and online I’m branding myself as that person. Whatever your goals are, this is for your brand, not necessarily your personal accounts.
- 11:31 For a brand, you want to be as consistent as you can across multiple platforms. If, tomorrow, somebody registers for Periscope, and they want to find me there, they don’t have to search through my Twitter account to find if I’ve ever referenced Periscope. They don’t notice those things. They’ll search for itskyleadams, and if that doesn’t come up, they will think, “Maybe he’s not on here, or maybe I don’t know his username.” It’s over at that point. You’ve lost that potential person in that new audience that you’re building. It’s really important to keep those things the same and have some level of consistency.
People Like Patterns
- 12:23 Cory: People love patterns. That’s just human nature. I sent out a newsletter a couple of weeks ago, and I mentioned the Rorschach Test. You get a piece of paper, drop some ink blots on there, fold the piece of paper, open it up, and it creates this mirror image. It’s abstract. Psychologists will use it to ask, “What do you see in this pattern, this image?” People will look, and their brain will create patterns based on what’s fresh in their mind or in their subconscious. They’ll say, “I see a bat,” or, “I see a devil with horns,” or, “I see a Windows logo.”
- 13:10 People create patterns. We love patterns, consistency, and rhythm. When you have a consistent username, like itskyleadams, let’s say a new platform opened up and Kyle had the ability to get Kyle Adams. Should he? Or should he maintain what he’s been building up with itskyleadams and move that forward? I think it makes a lot of sense to say, “I’ve been using itskyleadams or corydhmiller across all these things, and now here I am with a new platform where I have the opportunity to get whatever I want, but maybe I should keep that consistent.” I think you should.
- 13:58 Kyle: Occasionally, if I can, I’ll get both. If Kyle Adams is open, I’ll register it under a different email, and I’ll keep it on that platform. The first social media account I ever opened with a username was Twitter, and Kyle Adams was not available, so I had to use this other name. When I went to Instagram, I did it again. On these newer platforms that I’m catching earlier, Kyle Adams is available. I’m purchasing those. If these old platforms go away, if in five years Twitter is just gone, now I can start using my name, I’m going to start doing that.
- 14:43 I don’t know if it’s a good strategy or not. I haven’t put it into practice, but at least I own those. I could go in and flip a switch, essentially. Maybe that’s not a great idea, but it’s just a thought for people if they’re struggling with that. That is something I struggle with. My name is common enough to be taken almost immediately.
Tricks for a Consistent Username
- 15:11 Cory: If you want to try signing up for multiple accounts on different platforms but you only have one primary email, you can use Gmail and add a segment after your username. If my email is firstname.lastname@example.org, I can type in corydhmiller+, and then a keyword or a couple of letters, @gmail.com. That essentially creates what looks like another email address, but it’s maintained within your email. You can sign up email@example.com for a Medium account, and then if I want to register another one, I can go there again and type in firstname.lastname@example.org. It all goes to email@example.com, but it’s all segmented there. This is great if you want to track where emails are coming from.
- 16:17 If you sign up for a newsletter, you can say, firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you start getting newsletters, you can look and see who it was sent to. You say, “Oh, I remember that I signed up at that one spot with that email address.” That’s a tip for signing up for multiple accounts and using the same email address, specifically for Gmail. When Kyle said that he was registering for multiple accounts, a lot of people might think, “Now I need a whole new email account.” You don’t actually need that.
- 17:01 Another thing to keep in mind when you’re deciding on a username or thinking that you want consistency for your long term goals, is to go onto Google and type in “Check social media usernames.” The top three are Namechk, namechecker, and KnowEm.com. You can go to those websites and type in your name. I would type in “Cory D. H. Miller.” You say, “Check it,” and it’s going to look through all of the most popular social networks and let me know if it’s available or if it’s not. For instance, that’s my Twitter handle. It’s taken there. It’s taken on Instagram, because that’s my Instagram account. You can look and say, “Okay, interesting, I know that this will be most effective across the board.”
Before you create a new social media account for your brand, find a name-checker website to scan potential usernames for you—it will save you a lot of time.
- 18:12 Kyle: I’m sure there’s someone skeptical listening to this and saying, “Why are we talking about usernames?” Usernames aren’t as important as a brand name, but they’re almost equal in today’s online culture. That’s what people respond to. I used this example when Cory and I talked, because I think it’s a really good one. Sean McCabe, owner of seanwes, is seanwes on all of the platforms. That’s his username, his handle. His display name comes up in the feed as Sean McCabe.
- 18:54 Most people know seanwes, the brand. If I’m going to mention a sub-brand of his, Learn Lettering, I would say, “This is made by @seanwes.” I wouldn’t type in @seanmccabe. If I’m on a different platform, I’m going to start typing the same thing. If it doesn’t come up, I’ll just say the name and not mention the person, so that person doesn’t get that traffic to their profile. Other people can’t click on that and see who that person is, follow them, and get interested in the other things they’re sharing. They lose that traffic to their end result, which is their platform.
- 20:00 Cory: There are some cases where you literally can’t get the names you want. Someone comes in and snipes it from you. Let’s say you get on Twitter and you can’t get the same one. A good rule of thumb is to have something very standard that is included across all of the various platforms. We have a friend in the Community, Daniela Ann, and let’s say that she has itsdanielaann on Instagram, but on Twitter, someone else has already taken that. In that case, you could obviously do danielaann, but if that was taken, you might do something like danielaanntw, “tw” for Twitter. This is just an example.
- 20:48 Let’s say the same thing happens on Peach. You need a username there, but danielaann and itsdanielaann are taken. You could use itsdanielaannpeach. You’re creating a consistent beginning, so people can start to type it in. Most platforms will pop up a suggestion box, and you’ll say, “Oh, I know that’s that person.” That’s the first tip. The second tip is to make your username speakable. A lot of people have dashes or underscores or numbers, and that can get confusing.
- 21:32 I had a brand called Three Words Apparel, and a lot of people asked, “Do you type out three or is it the number 3?” I used up all of this time trying to explain to somebody what it actually is, and that’s wasted time. In that particular case, I ended up registering both 3WordsApparel with the number and ThreeWordsApparel with the name. Try and make it speakable. Imagine saying it out loud to somebody. Is it going to make sense?
If you can’t get a consistent username across platforms, have the first part be consistent and make sure it’s pronounceable.
- 22:17 When you’re actually talking with people or typing it out, that makes it a little bit easier to talk about.
A Consistent Profile Picture
- 22:28 Kyle: Cory mentioned a good point that drives home the reason for having consistent images as well as usernames. Like with itsdanielaann, if she doesn’t have the same profile image for everything she’s doing, if someone types that in and gets that suggestion box, they may not recognize her. It’s a different username and a different photo. They’ll say, “I guess that’s not the same person.” Even though that’s so small, especially if you’re doing it on an iPhone or something, you still have this association with that person.
- 23:13 I want to change my image soon, because the current profile image is from a different time of my life. It’s become known, so I try not to change it very often. People are scrolling through and see that image, so they know it’s from me. Maybe they’re searching somewhere and they see the profile image, so they know it’s me.
You can gain a lot of traction when you have a consistent profile image.
- 23:49 Cory: If, at the very end of the day, you can’t get anything the same, what you can make the same is your avatar, your profile picture. Make that the same. I’m going to get some new headshots taken soon. Over the last couple of years, I’ve had the exact same one, where I’m standing in the forest and my head is tilted a little bit. I’m wearing this black shirt. It looks good, and you recognize that when you’re scrolling through. You think, “I know that that’s the picture.” Constantly changing your profile picture used to be the big thing on Facebook—that was funny, but it was a terrible idea, because then people don’t recognize it. Give people patterns and consistency so they can find you. That’s the point of social media, to connect with your audience so they can find you, have a conversation, and build a relationship.
- 25:01 Kyle: It depends on your goals and if you’ve set up this brand user account, but for the most part, I see a lot of people in the design industry especially using illustrated pictures of themselves. They use some logo that nobody recognizes because they don’t have the brand equity there. It’s so much better to use your face, because when it does come time to change that, if it’s illustrated, you’ll do something different that may not even look like you anymore. With a photo, you look close enough to the same person that people are going to recognize you. If you were 12 last time and now you’re 20, there will be a change.
- 25:50 Cory: I hope you look a little different. People like consistency.
Buying Social Media Handles
- 26:01 Robert asked, “Can you buy a social media handle from someone like you can purchase a domain that’s already taken?” Whether you can buy a social media handle depends on the terms of service of every social media platform. In most cases, it’s frowned upon, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. Let’s say we trademarked Kevin Sanders International and that was the name of our brand. We were going to make a huge corporation. We trademarked that, went through a whole process, paid out all the money, and someone went and registered Kevin Sanders International. Most social media platforms will allow you to contact them and say, “This person is infringing on trademark.”
- 26:50 You can do it that way if you have an actual trademark. If not, it’s up to the terms of service as to whether you can purchase that. I know it’s been done, but it’s sketchy. There isn’t a transfer system. They say, “Pay me in PayPal and maybe I’ll change the password and let you know.” Use at your own risk, but also check the terms of service, because you wouldn’t want to get blacklisted for something like that.
- 27:23 Kyle: Usernames are free. Every social media account wants you to have an account there for all different reasons. It’s tough to get a different username, because unless that person decides that they don’t want an account or you happen to know the person, it’s really hard to get that to change.
Do Your Research
- 28:00 Cory: When it comes to usernames, domains, or brand names, do your research upfront. If you’re into it and you can’t go back into the past, obviously that won’t work, but do your research. Check domains. Check trademarks, always. Check usernames. Do all of that research upfront so it won’t burn you in the long run.
- 28:26 Kyle: We haven’t really touched on what your username should be, and that’s because it doesn’t matter what the name is. As long as it remains consistent, that’s the key. Let’s say that Cory started sharing everything on Twitter, and his username was BobtheBlob. People will eventually associate BobtheBlob as Cory Miller. On other platforms, they’ll look for that username. It’s memorable. They’ll look for him by that name, even if it’s not his name or his company’s name. Be intentional about the username you’re using and try to have it be similar to what you’re doing, but the point is to be consistent. You’re missing so much traffic if people are asking, “Who is this person? What are they doing? How do I find them?” It’s a mess.
With everything you do, make it as simple as possible for people to locate you.
- 29:48 Cory: Sometimes, you’ve got to work with what you’ve got. Everyone’s got a name for their company and their thing, and that can be tough. You’ve got to make it simple for simple people to find who you are. Make sure your audience can find you. In your case, if it’s not working and there’s no consistency, you need to have one consistent place where people can go to branch off to your other things. Make sure your domain has access and links to all of those places, so if people get lost and they can’t find you, they know that they can at least go back to BobtheBlob.com and find your usernames.
- 30:36 Kyle: Most people will not notice an announcement. If you say, “I’ve joined Snapchat and now I’m CorytheCoolGuy on Snapchat,” most people won’t notice that, no matter how much you push it. They’re not looking for you on Snapchat when they’re on Twitter. They’re looking for you on Snapchat when they’re on Snapchat. They’re going to search, and if they can’t find you, tough luck. I guess you’re not on Snapchat.