How to pick a good username, @eschmidt0


create user nameGoogle CEO Eric Schmidt joined Twitter this weekend and decided that going in disguised as a dirty spammer was the way to go. The crack username he claimed for himself was “eschmidt0”. Yes, complete with his very own spammy ‘0’. Way to go, Eric! In fact, he didn’t even take the time to upload an avatar. I guess if it’s not Google, it aint gonna get no respect from the Eric.

Eric Schmidt can get away with picking a username that most people will assume is spam because He’s Eric. Schmidt. You, unfortunately, cannot. You need to pick a username that’s going to help brand your company, that’s interesting and that will bring value to what you’re doing. With that in mind, here are some tips for how to pick a memorable username that doesn’t blow as bad as Eric’s.

[Update: Of course, right as I publish this Eric Schmidt has now changed over to the verified @ericschmidt username. You’d think it would make this post moot. I prefer to think it just makes it “right”. He still too cool for an avatar. ]

Use your real name

Ten years ago handles were all the rage. Kind of the same way boy bands were. Thankfully, we’ve all since matured. In today’s world of the “personal brand”, more and more businesses are starting to lose the monikers and have begun using their real names to kick start that community. If you don’t already have an established moniker in play (ala Graywolf, Shoemoney, et al), then I’d recommend the idea of simply sticking with your name. It helps you build up your personal authority, you secure your personal search space, and I think it does a lot to build trust. It’s common knowledge that only shady people (like Sugarrae) hide behind monikers. Real people aren’t afraid to tie their Web actions to their person. If I was Eric Schmidt, this is the route I would have taken. [@EricSchmidt looks to be suspended on Twitter (probably because someone was impersonating him). I would have contacted Twitter in order to grab it. I’m pretty sure if Google’s CEO called to claim his name, Twitter would have bent over. Again.]

Use your profession

Remember how I just said above that monikers are passé and that real names are where it’s at? Yeah, well that’s not always the case. If you need a great real life example of this – look at @chiropractic. I think he’s done an awesome job building a strong personal brand around an industry-specific username. Everyone who speaks with Michael on Twitter immediately knows his area of expertise and what he does for a living. There’s power in instantly branding yourself with what you do because it makes you THE go-to person for that topic. If you’re not comfortable using your name, look for a memorable way to tell people who you are through what you do.  Why not start with a band name generator and go from there? ;)

Be creative


If you have a particularly common name, you’ve probably already been screwed out of using your legal name as your username. It’s gone. Sucks to be late, doesn’t it? Not really, it just means you have to get creative. For example, when WordPress hottie Chris Pearson went looking for a domain to house his hot celebrity rant videos, he discovered his actual name was taken. Foiled, he decided to get creative and ended up spurring the moniker pearsonified. It’s brandable, it’s memorable and it was a completely new term that he can now rank for and do virtually anything with. Domain and username win all around.

Don’t be too creative

If you’re not sure where “quirky and funny” meets “faddish and offensive” consider asking for help. If you’re the type of person who would name your child Apple or Sunday Spring, you shouldn’t be selecting your own username.

Avoid throwaway numbers

You know what the problem is with using @eschmidt0 as your username? It doesn’t distinguish you from anyone else using that same lame system. You don’t stand out from @eschmidt1, @eschmidt5, @eschmidt7 or, if we’re getting really crazy, even @mschmidt91. Using a generic name with a number makes you generic and forgettable. Tagging numbers to the end of your username also tends to make you look like a spammer. Or, if you’re not a spammer, then you were probably one of the few people really saddened when Geocities recently went away. Either way, no one wants to associate with you. Stay away from the random numbers. Letters are where its at.

robotLook like a person

Make no mistake: Your community will be affected by the username you select. Even if the goal of your company is to legitimately help people make money online, do not use MakeMoneyOnline as your branded username. Why? Because people are going to assume you’re a spammer. We’ve all been burned and harassed by people promising to make us $300 a day on the Internet. If I see that account friend or start following me, I’m going to immediately block it. It’s the equivalent of driving by a little kid’s birthday party in a windowless van.  You’re gonna make people uneasy.  The name you select should help you solidify your role as a real, living and breathing person. It should tell people what you do and calm them of your intentions.

Make sure it’s available. Everywhere

Whatever username you choose, you’re going to want to keep it consistent through the various social media channels. That means NOT selecting a username that you won’t be able to secure everywhere. Before you make that final naming decision, use to make sure you can claim it everywhere. While you’re there, may also want to outsource the task of doing the actual claiming to them. You have better things to do. They really don’t.

Your username is your identity on the Web.  Choose it wisely.  People may have winced when they heard Eric Schmidt’s username choice, however, your audience won’t wince. They’ll just ignored or block you. Friends don’t let friends pick bad usernames.

Your Comments

  • Dan Grossman

    I seem to be in the bad position of having a name which is extremely common among technophiles. You can’t even tell which Dan Grossman is which by looking at our interests or education. When you search Google for my name, the first result is a CS professor, and the second result has a MS in CS. Which one am I? I’m not even sure sometimes. There are loads of Dan Grossmans on Twitter already; my name is reserved by someone with an inactive account. Other Dan Grossmans list the same interests and professions in their bio, so who knows if anyone can tell which is me.

    I can’t go with my name, and I can’t go with my profession, as neither differentiates me from the other Dan Grossmans.

    I suppose I actually *need* a moniker, but I’m not creative enough for that.


    • Lisa Barone

      Do you use the “djg” for all your usernames or just Twitter? I think in a situation like that your photo becomes even more important. I can’t tell by “djg” if you’re a real person or if you just faceplanted on your keyboard. If your profile pic was your smiling face, that may put me more at ease trusting you. :)

  • Mercylivi

    Hi Lisa,

    Cool thoughts! His user name selection juz look like dumb (though he managed to get a suspended account back to his profile now to everything set right) with an post in techcrunch he was managed to get thousands of followers in a record time.

    • Lisa Barone

      He was going to get thousands of followers ANYWAY because he’s the CEO of Google so it really didn’t matter what username he had. However…for us “normal folk” it definitely matters. We don’t get the Google luxury.

  • Alysson

    My recent Twitter username change was met with a mixed reaction. Some people miss “SEOAly”, while others support my decision to change it. The truth of the matter is that “SEOAly” may not always exist, but I’ll always be Alysson. While I’ve always been myself on Twitter and never hidden behind a brand, I decided it was time to be a person instead of a moniker. Many people have contacted me since changing my handle because they’re considering doing the same.

    I’d established a bit of a following, most of whom clearly already know my name is Alysson, so making that change likely didn’t have any negative impact. That said, I kept my avatar the same just to make sure I remain a recognizable personality in my followers’ Twitterstreams.

    • Lisa Barone

      Heh. Yeah, my issue with your change is that I can’t properly spell “Alysson”, but I’m learning. :)

      We’re all such creatures of habit that it takes away when people switch names (or photos). I remember when Susan Esparza went from @sesparza to @susanesparza – even something that subtle can catch people by surprise.

      Keeping the same avatar was definitely important, otherwise people may have been completely thrown off. It’s definitely something we have to worry about and consider BEFORE building that brand. Trying to get people to switch over or change isn’t an easy task. Poor Bing.

      • Alysson

        Yes…poor Bing, indeed. :) And, by the way, if you used TweetDeck you could set it to autocomplete usernames for you. Very handy. I’m just sayin’. ;)

        • Lisa Barone

          I’ve TRIED to use Tweetdeck. I’ve TRIED to use Seesmic. I’m old school, what do you want from me? A written confession?

          My name is Lisa and I still use the Web version of Twitter.

          • Alysson

            HAHA! I believe I just got one. You just have such a grumpy, old “GET OUTTA HERE WITH YOUR NEW, FANG-DANGLED CRAP!” approach to 3rd party Twitter apps that I couldn’t resist giving you shit. ;)

            I <3 TweetDeck, but there is a transition period required. I can't imagine life without it these days though.

  • netmeg

    shady? SHADY???


  • netmeg

    Using your real name also makes you easier to catch.

  • Nick

    whats your opinion on using company name with your personal photo?

    • Lisa Barone

      Depends if its YOUR company and YOUR photo. I wouldn’t be against one of the local establishments here trying to brand the owner with the place, however, if there’s a chance that the person who’s face you’re using will someday NOT be working at the company (even if its just an owner dying or passing it on), you’re going to find yourself in a weird branding issue if people associate a single person with the company.

      That said, if its your company and you don’t plan on going anywhere, I think it can definitely work.

  • David Zemens

    I never really understood the reason why people felt it was necessary to use some “handle”. In fact, my dislike of such names goes back to the CB radio days of the 1970’s when every trucker (and would be trucker) had some goofy “handle” for their name.

    I always thought it was a good idea just to use your own name. Crazy, eh? An added benefit is that your rarely forget which “handle” you used for which account and which website!

  • Dan Grossman

    Privacy/anonymity, David. The same reason people make up names for their avatars in online video games. When you are in recreation/entertainment mode, it’s easier to get out of your own skin and have some fun if you’re not tied down to your offline persona. You can be different than you are in your business role.

  • Luke Harris

    I couldn’t get my name on anything. I was really surprised to find ozzybeef was widely available thought. Even on gmail!

  • Dawn Wentzell

    So what you’re *really* saying is I did it wrong. Well, except that I’ve been saffyre9 for 10+ years, and that has always been “me”. Can I at least be forgiven for being a 17yo on IRC when I picked it, and therefore clearly not thinking properly? :P

  • Charlene Jaszewski

    I would LOVE to be able to use my name professionally, and I’m 99.8% certain no one else is using it currently (my relatives are all luddites).
    But look at it, it’s a consonant nightmare: CHARLENE JASZEWSKI
    No one can pronounce it, much less spell it, and too long for twitter.
    It took me FOREVER to come up with “theredheadsaid” but that does nothing for my branding of tech/content strategy. Which is fine because it’s good for just ranting about everything. The other problem is I’m one of those frustrating jack of all trades who is impossible to brand properly. Any ideas?**
    **I don’t actually expect someone to be able to solve my quandary, it’s just nice to have an opportunity for a completely relevant rant! :)

    • Lisa Barone

      Ha! :)

      I think in your case you did yourself a favor by picking a fun moniker. It may not have anything to do with your profession but its memorable and quirky and its a hell of a lot easier to spell than your real name. And if you consider yourself a jack of all trades then you really just wants something that’s “you”, anyway. I think you did just fine all on your own. :)

  • Alexis Dias-Nascimento

    Great post, Lisa. It reminds me of something I’ve been pondering for a couple of months now. I started using Twitter less than a year ago, under the handle of my maiden name (Dias). Recently, I got married and eventually will adopt my husband’s last name (Nascimento), but I am currently using a hyphenated version in the real world. My concern is whether or not to change my username to reflect my new “status.” Eventually I will want to be known as “Alexis Nascimento.” Although a year hasn’t been a long time, I don’t want to negate any of the traction I’ve gained using my current Twitter handle. What do you think I should do? Or better yet, what would you do?

  • Nathan Hangen

    All good points, but I would add that what you really need to do is establish your own personal brand. If you use your company for example, what happens if you leave? Make sure that you invest as much time as possible in your own Twitter account and in a way that isn’t affected by the details.

  • chiropractic

    OMG, can’t believe I missed this earlier. I’ve thought of using my real name in place of “chiropractic” and then using that account for more generic industry purposes, but the username has grown on me (I get introduced at conferences as @chiropractic more than as Mike or Michael).

    My primary reason for not going with a real name was due to my name ranking well in serps for sites related to my office, I didn’t want to add confusion for anyone possibly searching for me as a chiropractor and getting results related to local search or SEO. That’s all fallen apart now since I have clients DM me saying they’re coming to get adjusted (easier than calling the office) and commenting on “conferences” I go to in Vegas.

  • Gab Goldenberg

    No, what’s really cool about Eric is that he uses Yahoo mail, per his official site . Google him.