Your username is part of your digital eReputation
Now that there are more than 300 million Twitter accounts that have been created, the options for an appropriate 15-character username — also known as a Twitter handle — are quickly being used up. A shorter name is generally more desirable (if only to fit better into the 140-character limit for messages), but today even jumbled up initials are heavily used up. Although Twitter does provide a “verified” status for some celebrities and companies, the ownership of the handle is not protected by any oversight body. Thus, a brand or person is not guaranteed to get its unique username. Individuals and brand marketers are facing issues of illegitimate accounts and brand name hijacking (for example, @Renault or @NicolasSarkozy). Clearly, one if the benefits of first mover advantage.
Real or “avatar” presence?
From an individual user standpoint, the questions range from whether the username should be your real name or a code name. The proper answer to this lies in what your objectives are, but I generally suggest going for transparency and trying to find a strong name associated with your personality or personal brand. Having a consistent username across multiple platforms is highly recommendable to build a strong personal eReputation. From my angle, when someone uses a generic name (for example “@cool”), does not have an identifying image (“avatar”) or has no bio information, I have a rule that I do not follow. I know that I am not alone in this position.
Digital marketing usernames
A large company has to occupy its own branded account (e.g. @cocacola). And, outside of the official company account, there are sub-brands and other functions (e.g. customer service) who will wish to use the Twitter channel. However, typically, as a consumer, I want to know that there is an individual on the other end of a branded account. Picking a username and filling out the bio/description correctly is absolutely vital.
How to keep an official channel personal?
Take Ford, for example, which does an excellent job of crossing the divide. They have their official Ford account that is run by Scott Monty and Craig Daitch (whereby their individual tweets are signed ^SM or ^CD, respectively). For their brand Fiesta, they have the @FordFiesta account. What I like about what Ford does here is they clearly identify the two responsible people (with their handles).
Another interesting case is Comcast, where for their customer service accounts (“Comcast Care”), they associate the individual’s first name with Comcast. For example: @comcastbill or @comcastmike…
Brand marketing quandary
Even if I believe branding must get more personal, if one opts for the personal profile (i.e. @personalname) to represent a brand, one of the risks is what happens when that person leaves the company. Numerous are the people whose followers and connections are directly linked to their status or title. Once that person moves, so do their followers. All they need to do is change the bio. For Human Resources, much less brand marketers, this is the new frontier for Employer Branding and Brand Marketing.
The Myndset recommendation:
For digital marketers embarking on a Twitter strategy, the minimum is to have the name of the individual(s) clearly identified within the description, as does Ford. If you desire to have many people and accounts involved in the conversation/amplification efforts, the best solution is to create a protocol that includes the brand name in some way in the handle along with the individual’s name (as Comcast). Caveat: the 15-character limit will clearly be a limiting factor.
Separately, if you are a brand marketer and have not decided on a Twitter strategy, my recommendation would be at least to reserve the best available name and keep it locked down for now. You might also want to capture surrounding handles (e.g. @coke or @coca-cola which are presumably owned by @cocacola, the official handle). Another caveat: at some point, one can imagine that Twitter will come around to weening out inactive accounts. So, you had better conjure up your strategy. In any event, as I have mentioned before, I believe that Twitter will experience another surge of usage in 2012 with the huge number of political elections upcoming. So, what’s holding you back?
As always, please share your thoughts or experiences!