Gone are the days of innocent playground tag as kids – with Social Media ruling most of our adult lives, the idea of being tagged now is a whole different kettle of fish; and a far more complicated one!

If you’re running a small business, chances are you currently have at least one social media account representing your brand online right now. Be it Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube or any one of the many, many SM options popping up left, right and center; they all share the same feature. The ability to tag accounts, or to be tagged in return.

The key to being able to interact with online accounts in this way involves one very important piece of information. Your Social Media Handle.

If you’re scratching your head right now wondering what the hell a handle has to do with anything online, let me explain.

What is a Handle?:

Your Social Media Handle is the account name that potential customers will use to find you, or tag you with. It follows the main URL of the SM website that you are on (for example, my handle is ‘danikalindselldesign’ as you can see from my FB page http://www.facebook.com/danikalindselldesign).

It is also used within the comments section of many sites to link to and notify a person or brand of their inclusion by placing a commercial at symbol (@) before the name when typing; for example typing @danikalindselldesign into a comment on Facebook would tag my page, creating a link to it for anyone that clicked on my name, and notify me that I had been mentioned in a comment.

Your Handle is used to identify you online, and as such can be one of the most important things to get right if you want your brand to be easy to find and connect with.

How to choose a good one:

When it comes to business online, you want to be present and very easy to find. If you have a website of your own, we already know that it’s super important to keep your web address short, sweet and simple to remember. Your Social Media Handle is no different.

Here are my top tips for coming up with a winner:

  • Keep it as short and simple as possible
  • Use your exact business name (or match your website URL) if it is available
  • Make it relatable to your content
  • Try to avoid unusual spellings (obvious is easier to remember)
  • Don’t add unnecessary characters for embellishment
  • Use the same handle across all of your accounts!!

That last point is the one that I would recommend as the most important when it comes to effective branding. It is soooo off-putting to receive a business card that needs to have every social media account individually listed on it due to them all having different names. Not only is it confusing for your potential customer to find you online, it can make your printed goods look chaotic and cramped with your oodles of account names taking up prime real estate on your advertising material.

Let’s keep it professional and streamline those babies! Ready? Good.

Setting up your perfect social media handle:

If you’ve got to this point and are now feeling the anguish of, “Oh Danika, but I’ve already got my handles are they’re all a mess!” – fear not, my little business bunny! Further down I will be showing you how to change your existing handles on some of the most popular Social Media platforms. Yes! There is a chance of redemption! Take notes as we go along to develop your swanky new handle, and we can put them into practice at the end. I’ve got you, don’t worry!

1 The first thing you want to do is simply jot down a few ideas on paper, in order of preference. The more SM accounts you have, the more likely you are to hit a snag with that name already being in use and need a Plan B. May as well get in early.

2 Take note of your character count. Each platform has a different character limit when it comes to usernames/handles. Depending on which ones you plan to utilise for your particular business (I suggest doing a couple of things really well, rather than lots of things averagely; stick to a maximum of 3-4 platforms) you may have more room to move.

The ultimate “covers all bases” username would be a maximum of 15 characters, using only letters A-Z and numbers 0-9.

3 Hop on to a website like http://www.namecheckr.com to quickly and easily see if your handle of choice is available on all of the channels you wish to use. This will save you hours of manually checking each one! (still no luck with your name of choice? Scroll down to the next section for help)

4 Sign up for all of your Social Media accounts quick-sticks and get those names locked in, before someone else does! If there is a platform you’re not sure if you’re going to use just yet, I’d suggest nabbing that name anyway – then it’s setup and ready to go for when you are ready, and also stops any confusion or identity issues if someone decides to use that name for something totally unrelated to your business (or your competition from using it!).

5 Give yourself a high five for being awesome and taking the hard work out of finding you for your customers. Start filling your new Social Media pages with some amazing content and spread the word!

My name is already in use! Help!:

Sometimes, life gives us lemons. Yeah – you could make lemonade…but I think the best thing you can do with them is add a little sumthin sumthin to make them even BETTER. Tequila, anyone?

If your ideal username/handle is already in use, don’t fret. Try a couple of my tips below and see how you go!

Location, location!: If your product or service is a location-based business, why not use it to your advantage?

  • Only ship to Australian customers? Try adding au to the end of your username.
  • Work specifically within a local area? Add your state’s abbreviation, like wa.
  • Got a really niche market? How about including your postcode!

Nitty gritty: What is it that you offer people? A product? A service? If your biz name is quite a broad term, add to it!

  • Make it obvious to followers what you have on offer. Tee business called ‘Your Biz’? How about @yourbiztees or @yourbizapparel?
  • If you own a bricks and mortar store, and are now selling online; let people know with @yourbizonline.
  • Create a community or team vibe with a collective @weareyourbiz.

Less is more: Sometimes, adding more is not an option. You may have already reached your character limit, or just want to simplify.

  • Remove all unnecessary stop words, such as ‘the’ or ‘and’.
  • Abbreviate where possible. If @yourbizgraphicdesign is too long to fit in, just shorten it to @yourbizdesign.

If you’ve exhausted all of these options and still haven’t landed on a winner, perhaps enlist the help of a fabulous local copywriter! Supporting a fellow small business is a great way to start your own. I believe in you, though…keep at it, you’ve got this!!

Updating your social media handles:

So, you’ve come this far and you’re in a cold sweat because you currently have 8 different business accounts, all with different usernames, and now you need to change them.

Don’t fret!

It is possible to easily update your username/handles on most social media platforms. Granted, some are simpler to do than others (I’m looking at you, Facebook Page Manager!) but with a little forward planning, you can have everything looking shipshape in no time!

The rules are constantly changing, but a quick Google on each platform’s requirements will give you the answers you need. As a general rule, you have at least a couple of chances to update and change your handle.

Get that checklist ready and start handling it!