How to Choose Good Twitter Names

February 22, 2009

Twitter names are like name tag

How do people choose good Twitter names? Here are some practical tips: where to start, when to start… even which characters to use!

Get a Twitter name, even if you’re undecided about Twitter

If you read my Why Twitter? series, you may be somewhat curious to find out what Twitter is like. Ultimately, there is no way to know without trying it. Twitter isn’t for everybody, any more than blogging or Facebook or what-have-you, and there’s no shame in that. But if you are still reading, that alone qualifies you as a possible fit — so go for it! Hey, it’s free.

If you’re still undecided, let me give you the nudge I wish someone had given me: There is a window of opportunity to grab the Twitter names of your choice, and that window is closing. Why did I choose “jonmreid” with the M, instead of “jonreid”? Because I was too late — “jonreid” was already taken because I dilly-dallied. It’s kind of like the early days of the Internet, when there was a rush on domain names, except this time it’s for good Twitter names. Sign up, especially if your name is a kind of brand.

Did I mention that Twitter is free?

Good Twitter names: things to keep in mind

  • Use your real name: Unless you want to be anonymous, use your real name or your online brand name. People will find you and identify you more easily. They will also identify with you more if you have an intelligible name, rather than a bunch of garble. If you have a nickname or “handle,” use that since these tend to stand out.
  • Case doesn’t matter, but the case you set is what people will see. For example, if your name is George Bush (and the name is available), consider using “GeorgeBush” rather than “georgebush”. Don’t worry about making it hard for people to type — because case doesn’t matter, people can enter “georgebush” and it will still mean you. Lowercase may make your name cooler and more “Internet”, or it may make it hard to decipher. Experiment and see which way is better. In my case, I decided lowercase “jonmreid” was easier to read than “JonMReid”.
  • Avoid underscores. Twitter names can consist of letters, numbers, and underscores. Avoid underscores! Even as I wrote this, I considered moving to a “Jon_Reid” account. But I pondered this question on Twitter and received a helpful reply which made things clear: For people who Twitter by phone (even iPhone), underscore is hard to get to. You want a name that is easy to enter on such devices. (It’s also hard to say out loud: “jay oh en UNDERSCORE ar ee eye dee.”)

Unlike the bad old days of the Internet, you don’t need to fill out the entire form and submit it to see if a particular username is available; just type something and it’ll tell you right away. What are you waiting for? Go sign up!

Before You Sign Up for Twitter series:

  1. How to Choose Good Twitter Names
  2. Your Twitter Profile and First Impressions
  3. Twitter Background: Don’t Do It!
  4. Tweet Before You Follow

More Twitter resources:

Jon Reid

Posts Twitter Google+

As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

25 responses to How to Choose Good Twitter Names

  1. Good point about not using underscores. Another reason for this: The more characters you use, the less people will be able to retweet what you write in your own tweets.

    • Twelper, thank you, that’s a good point I did not know in my early days of Twitter use!
      Hmm, how to explain to newbies. If people like something you post, they will repeat it (“retweet” it), giving you credit by including your user name. The longer the name, the harder it is to quote you but still stay within Twitter’s 140 character limit.

  2. I like twitter names that tell me something about the person and are not a blatant advertisement. When advising a business client, I would not necessarily have them use their business name. It would depend on the business. @NJInsuranceGirl is a client. She only serves New Jersey so I wanted people from NJ to spot her. I wanted people to know she is a female entrepreneur and of course that Insurance is her business. I’d be much more inclined to follow this person than @StateFarm

    • Deborah, thank you for jumping in!
      Folks, Deborah helps small businesses learn how to use out social media. My tips focus mainly on helping individual newbies, so I asked Deborah if she might offer tips from a business perspective. And there you go!

  3. How about multiple user names. Can these be under the same name/email? Thanks.

    • Josh, a number of people have multiple Twitter names (for example, different content focus, or business vs. personal). But you can’t sign up for a second name with the same email address, so you’ll have to come up with multiple email addresses.

  4. Great advice here!
    Since the “good” twitter names are being used up, people should really give careful consideration to what they want – their options may not be open for long.

  5. Hi Jon, I found your blog when searching for some general concensus on choosing Twitter names. I just wanted to say that I really appreciated the article above, and then I went to your about page and read about why you started blogging. Very cool.
    Best of luck to you. If you don’t mind the shameless plugs – I own and operate this blog:
    My wife is also in the web development field and has her personal blog here:
    Thanks for the info – again, I wish you the best of luck in all you do.

    • Thank you, Jason. I appreciate the openness of your plug, if that makes sense. But boy, both you and your wife are out to make me look bad! 🙂 Maybe someday I’ll redesign this blog…

  6. Hi Jon
    I just found your site when looking for info about changing my Twitter name. I have a pseudo-name at present, which I set up in the beginning because my own name is too long and my first name was already taken. I want to switch my name so that people recognise me better now, but face the same problems. Any ideas?!!

    • Christine,
      You probably need to resort to cleverly placed underscores. @ADifferentKindOfWork is available, but chews up a large number of the 140 characters in a tweet. How about @christine_liv?

      • Jon, thanks for coming back to me, but isn’t there a limit on the no of characters I can use in my Twitter name – otherwise I could use my full name, I think??

        • Christine, you’re right: I didn’t realize that Twitter names can be at most 15 characters. There’s a good reason for this: Whenever anyone refers to you with @ and your Twitter name, they are using up a portion of the 140 characters that are available for a message.

          • I hadn’t appreciated until I read this post, and indeed now your comment, that your name uses up a portion of the 140 characters. I may need to think about the underscore idea…
            Thanks very much again for your help, Jon.

  7. Please note that Twitter says that your username can be up to 15 characters, while your real name can be up to 20 characters.
    Some Twitter accounts set up in the early days didn’t have this restriction, but it’s there now.
    See for more details.
    P.S. If you’ve got a common name, then you’re often forced to go with something more branded.

    • David, thanks for that important detail! It came in handy as I was just advising someone who wanted help choosing their Twitter username.

  8. I think it is a very good point. Using your real name or your online brand name on twitter people can find you and identify you more easily.

    • Yes, because the point isn’t merely self-promotion. Let’s think larger: For me, it’s about connecting people to people, so we can help each other.

  9. I agree that it’s a good idea to post with your real name!
    Especially if your name is long and different, then it could stand out above the others 😛

  10. Thanks for the tips. I considered using an underscore, but decided against it after reading your post. You’re right, underscores are difficult to reach from mobile devices.

    • Glad I could help, Aaron. I’ve actually had an underscore in my eBay user ID for some time, so I’ve continued to wrestle with it on my phone. You just inspired me to take the small step of changing it so it doesn’t have an underscore. 🙂

  11. This blog is really amazing and thank you for all your advice! But I am having trouble with finding a name associated with me. I tried to use my own name lisamarie but that was taken and then I tried mslisamarie and even that was taken so now I have no idea.

    I have no “handle” name because people prefer to say my real name. So what should I do?

    • Is your last name Marie? Sounds more like “Lisa Marie” is your given name, or given name + middle name. So I’d try tacking on the first letter of your last name: LisaMarieX

      If that’s not available, how about tacking on a shortened version of where you live? For example, using SJ for San Jose: LisaMarieSJ