Monday, January 23, 2012

Twitter: What's in a Name?

What's your twitter name? Mine is @dhatfield.

This past weekend I had the honor or presenting with Linkedin pro @RRWade to the Triad Association of Black Journalists to discuss personal professional branding for journalists on the campus of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University.  We even had @frugalista share a tweet chat with us to share how she transitioned out of debt and into a brand she built while a journalist for the Miami Herald.

During my presentation, I mentioned that while building your personal professional brand it's important to use the name that the public knows you by, when you purchase your domain name for your website, when you create/change your twitter handle, grab your custom URL on Facebook or Linkedin or any other social site for that matter. Consistency is key and creating a personal brand should be approached with careful planning and attention to detail.

As John Robinson pointed out during my presentation via a tweet to Sheeka Strickland of Fox 8 News (she was @fox8sheeka then @sheekaStricklan and now @Sheeka_S) and , it's not a good idea to misspell your twitter name. And I agree 100%. When building a personal professional brand use your full name - spelled correctly - and only your name when ever possible. But there is often a frustrating catch to that very sound advice . . .

Many people may not know that twitter has a limit of 15 characters for your user name. I was faced with the same dilemma as Sheeka Strickland and many other people with long names who wanted to use their real name to build a personal brand but didn't have enough room!

Let's say that instead of being Jane Smith where @janesmith and  /janesmith usernames and custom URL's come easy to you, consider your challenge if you are are Janet Smithsonian, and while trying to create your twitter handle you notice that your name is cut off to @janetsmithsonia . . . what to do?

Whether you are a journalist, anchor or professional looking for a job - when building a personal professional brand - having a twitter handle that reflects your real name is best, but be aware that you will be faced with some tough decisions if your name is already taken or too long for Twitter and you may have to get creative.

Say your name has already been taken online . . . as an example if @tiffjonesjourno was interested in changing/creating her professional twitter profile name - Naturally I would first think to recommend @tiffanyjones, @tiffanysjones or @tiffany_jones , hell even @thetiffanyjones but sadly ALL of those are already taken. Can you see the challenge Tiffany faced when she created her account on July 29, 2009? Finding a real name combination that still let's people know its really you, that's memorable and represents your personal professional brand is at times a huge challenge. What Tiffany faced is a perfect example of how building a personal professional brand may not be as easy as it looks and that it will take time and some decision making while creating and building brand consistency.

Remember that you may not be able to use your full name every where online. So before making any changes spend some time planning out your online identity and ask your peers/mentors if what you have chosen best represents your personal professional brand.

Way back when I was setting up my twitter account, my name was cut off and I had to decide quickly what I was going to do with @daniellehatfiel. Do I go with @danielleh or @hatfieldd, it was so frustrating to only be short one letter!! That's the rub with folks who have long names, we have to decide between our first or last and at times a mix of both. (and pray they aren't taken already!)

I ended up going with @dhatfield as my user name and thankfully my whole name fit in the 20 character limit for my real name.

One piece of advice for those of you considering changing your twitter handle or creating a new personal professional brand account, carefully think about your decision. If you are a journalist, having a twitter handle with your station id or newspaper name in your handle is fine - but to be clear that is NOT your personal professional brand. You are you and will always be you. . . you may not work for the same station or newspaper for the rest of your career.

My husband @brandonpierce also has a great piece of advice to add too - don't change your avatar and twitter name (if you decide to change it) all at once . . . the folks that know and love your tweets may not know who the heck you are! 

Before you change anything you may want to send out a tweet with your old twitter handle and new avatar (once you have confirmed your desired username is available) of your new name online. Then make the switch. 

If you do decide to chance your user name - set up and save a twitter search for your old twitter user name and keep an eye on those who may mention you. You don't want to miss out on any tweets!

Here are some great articles about building your personal brand: 

HOW TO: Build Your Personal Brand on Twitter

The Brand Called You | Fast Company

7 Steps For Building Your Personal Brand Online -

Eight Steps to Building Your Personal Brand | Monster

90 Tiny Tips to Build Your Personal Brand | OnlineMBA

Building your personal brand and profile

Professional Branding: Building Your Personal Brand


Do you have a long name that didn't fit in the 15 character Twitter limit? 

How did you come up with handle for your personal professional brand?

Are you using your full name when you can across the web to help build your personal professional brand? 

Do you know someone who is doing it well? Share it!


  1. Great post, Danielle, and very sound advice. To take our brands to the next level, we have to be consistently recognizable.

    1. Thanks! Especially when building a personal professional brand where your name IS your brand. . . and with social media it does often present a challenge when laying claim to your name.

  2. Top Read Danielle - my issue is claiming back an unused twitter tag. I have a name I'm happy with but it would be great to have it without the underscores. I contacted twitter to speak with them about the account I would like, which has been unused for over 3 years, and received nothing back. Any tips on claiming unused names?

  3. Thanks Ryan! Looks like you are not alone on this issue. From the active discussion over at Twitter Dev. site, many feel the same as you. Frustrated at seeing a user name sit for years unused.

    As far as a resolution? Looks like Twitter is only responding to Trademarked brands for now.