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Updated 5 Dec 2019

Get the “Handle” on Changing Your Twitter Username

If you are relatively new to the social media giant Twitter, you may feel a bit like a fish out of water watching everyone around you tweet, @mention, @conversate, tweet again, retweet, dm, and, and, and …

There is so much Twitter related jargon floating around in the Twitter-verse, so let’s take a minute to go over the basics of a key component of your Twitter account - your username or 'handle'.

This article will walk you through what a handle is, exactly, how to edit your Twitter profile, what the limitations are associated with a handle, and how you can change your handle.

Twitter has made our lives easier offering Android, Apple, and web versions of its platform, so knowing how to make changes to your settings on all 3 versions will also be covered.

Let’s dive right in shall we?

What is a Twitter handle?

The first thing you need to know about using your Twitter account is how to identify yourself on this social media platform.

Just like your name defines who you are to the world at birth when your profile is born on Twitter, you receive a unique identifier. It comes at the end of your Twitter URL, visible in a visitor’s browser bar.

This is called your handle and appears after the @ sign in your profile URL.

The handle is unique to your account, so no one else can use it once it’s taken. Fortunately, you get to pick your handle when you sign up for a Twitter account and create your profile. So, choose wisely.

With millions of active Twitter users on the social media platform, it may take you several tries before you land your ideal handle.

A Twitter name is helpful for people searching for you or your business on Twitter and does not have to be unique. It is the name of your account. But a handle is essential as your identity on Twitter, so if you are going to send out tweets, you want a handle that identifies you or your brand.

In a perfect world, your username/handle and your Twitter name would match perfectly. However, this world is far from perfect, and often you will find your exact username is taken - imagine how the John Smith’s of Twitter feel about this.

While there are no set in stone rules about choosing a Twitter username, there is an etiquette ... or Tweetiquette:

  • Try to use your Twitter name - if it’s taken and you are creating a business profile, try adding “Inc.”, “Ltd.” or “HQ”
  • Keep it simple by avoiding numbers, symbols, and underscores
  • Be consistent across all your social media platforms
  • Keep keywords out of your handle
  • Make your handle short and high-impact

Following these simple ground rules for establishing your username will not only help your users find you more easily, but it will ensure that the tweets you are taking the time to craft are not being missed by your target audience.

Having an accurate Twitter handle shared across other social media platforms will also help you achieve increased audience engagement by making your presence more legitimate. Twitter is all about networking, so if more people follow you, you will get noticed and be remembered. Shakespeare had it right when he penned “what’s in a name” - turns out a name is virtually everything!

How to edit your Twitter profile

If you want to edit your profile, because you chose poorly when you first created your Twitter account and no longer want to be known as @captainunderpants, and we can’t say we blame you, here are the important things you need to know:

There are five main elements of a Twitter profile:

  1. your handle
  2. your profile picture
  3. your biography
  4. your header image (or banner)
  5. any pinned tweets you want to appear at the top of your timeline

You should update your Twitter profile regularly: your Twitter profile shows the Twitter-verse who you are and what you’re all about. Each element of your profile should be carefully crafted so it accurately showcases your best content and the message you wish to broadcast. By posting often, using hashtags effectively, and participating in the activities discussed here, you will establish a presence and make a great first impression.

Limitations on Twitter handles

There are some important limitations on Twitter handles that you need to be aware of before you go off on a tweet spree.

As mentioned before, your Twitter handle says just as much about you and how you want to be known on the Internet as your tweets do.

Since Twitter networking is all about getting followers, you need to know what is and is not allowed when choosing your username.

First of all, make sure your username is less than 15 characters long. Your username can also only contain alphanumeric characters (A to Z, 0-9) and no symbols with the exception of the underscore (the _).

So, if you come up with what you think is the greatest username ever that meets all the criteria explained above and then it happens. The worst-case scenario -- your chosen handle is already taken!

Relax, don’t sweat it. Adding an underscore (@amazingkate - taken - becomes @amazing_kate) can help you get close to the username of your dreams, and you can always list your actual name in the profile section of your account. Plus, your users will know to follow you by your sweet profile picture.

There are a bunch of new features that are likely to debut on Twitter in 2020, and many of them involve greater control over @mentions and what you see and do on the site. One of the possible new features involves not allowing people to @mention you without permission or removing an @mention from a conversation.

It is possible that in the next year you will be able to better curate your tweets towards a target audience allowing you or your business to tweet without spamming your timeline.

How to Change Your Twitter Handle

Changing your Twitter username is really quite simple. All you have to do is log in to your account, go to your Settings tab or click the Settings button to access the drop-down menu, enter your new desired name (bye-bye @captainunderpants), and click the Save button. Voila!

The change will happen in real-time and without hiccups, and the best part - it will not impact anything associated with your Twitter account. You will not lose any of the activity that you logged under your old username - not your tweets, your followers, or anything else!

And, you can change your Twitter handle as many times as you want since there is no limit. But be warned - changing your handle is like changing your given name and should never be done more than once.

Changing your name too often will only confuse your followers and detract from your brand. If you do decide to change your handle - perhaps it’s too long, too fake or spammy, or it just doesn’t do your brand any justice - be sure to get it right this second time around.

Also, as a courtesy to your followers, you should consider sending an announcement about any changes to your social media handles, including Twitter, so they can stop tagging you with your old username. You should also note that if you need help updating your account at all, you can access a handy new user guide here.

Whether you’re an Apple, Android, or web Twitter user, there are help forums for your chosen platform. In fact, Twitter has recently completed a website redesign to match the experience you have using the Twitter mobile app on your iPhone or Android mobile device. The new layout feels less cluttered and the most popular features now mirror the mobile app version allowing you to find content faster.

Changing your Twitter username is a simple undertaking but not one that should be done lightly. You should think long and hard when choosing a handle in the first place but if you do require a change, to better reflect your personality or your brand, only make the change once and notify your followers of the change so that you can carry on as usual, without losing your credibility.

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