How to pick a good username, @eschmidt0

December 7, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Branding

Google 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.

Look 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.

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