Are you using Twitter to build your online presence? If so, what’s your handle? Is it your author name or a readily recognisable variant? If it’s not, you could be wasting your time.
I love Twitter. For discovering lovely distractions, uniting in the face of shocking news, tripping over quips that restore faith in the human spirit – and, in a professional capacity, for networking. I’ve had numerous good opportunities that started with a humble tweet. And when I meet a writer I might get on with, I naturally seek them out on Twitter.
But sometimes that’s not straightforward. Eventually after a bit of a hunt and a beakful of guesswork I might track them down and discover they have a name that’s many species away from the name they write under.
Forgive my blue-faced cheek, but this seems to be a mistake.
1 It makes you hard to find
On Twitter, you really want to be found. That’s how the Twitter world revolves. Somebody shares your blogposts, or talks about your work. They use your name, which brings others to you.
So you want to make sure that any stranger could find the ‘right you’. And thus you can be introduced to a new and eager flock. This is incredibly powerful – unlike other social networks, you don’t have to already be friends with a person to start tweeting to them.
It’s as easy as calling their name.
Here’s how it goes. I’ll look up Jane Austen and find @JaneAusten – but she’s an estate agent, unlikely to be my author. I ‘ll look down the list at the other users whose real names are all Jane Austen. Which one is mine?
I squint at the avatars and the biographies. If I’m lucky she might be @AuthorJaneAusten or @JaneAustenAuthor, in which case, all is good. But she might be @Bonnetgirl5, or @InventorofElizabeth. Or @WriterInFarthingaleLane.
Finding her handle has now proved quite the expedition – which is not ideal in our attention-deficit world, and especially not in the 140-character-squeezed bird-brain world of Twitter. If I’m on a slow connection, or using a fiddly device that won’t tolerate a lot of searching and footling, I might not persevere any further because Jane Austen has made it too hard.
2 The much more important reason to use your name
You know how comedians traditionally sign off a set with their name? ‘Thanks for being a great audience, I’m Joe Bloggs.’ It’s the last thing they do before they leave the stage – make sure you remember their name.
They’re not going to trust that you’ll look in the programme, or the sign outside the pub, or that you’ll remember how they introduced themselves at the start. Their last task before they leave you for the night is to TEACH YOU THEIR NAME.
This is one of the reasons you’re putting yourself about on social media, talking to strangers. To teach them you exist. To teach them your name as it appears on your book covers.
So why teach them @WordHoarder, @PagesBeforeBreakfastAtHelens, or @ToastAt10am? You may laugh, but these are name-forms that I see used by otherwise respectable authors on Twitter. Every day.
So can you change your Twitter name?
Yes, it’s easy. Just open your profile, type the new name in and see if you’re allowed to take it. Start at your profile page and look for your icon at the top. Hover over it and you’ll see ‘Profile and settings’ appear. Then look for ‘account’.
What if your name is taken? Yep, I have that problem. Read on.
Can’t use your actual name? Good solutions and not-so-good
Here are some of the tactics authors use to convert their name for Twitter.
By far the easiest thing to do is to put an underline in the middle. It’s as close to your real name as possible and doesn’t eat up many extra characters. That’s why I’m @Roz_Morris. Out there on the wires there’s another @RozMorris – who is actually rather quiet, but that’s another story.
Underlines in other places – beginning or end, or a double underline in the middle – are trickier for users to spot. A double-underline is hard to type reliably on some devices. If the underline option is already taken, you might be better adding something that makes it clear you’re the writer Jane Austen, not the vet or whatever. You could also preface with ‘author’ – @AuthorJaneAusten. Or put it afterwards @JaneAustenAuthor.
Initials – if you use initials I think you’re becoming harder to remember, but @AuthorJAusten at least looks professional. However, an initial is straying away from the name on the book cover (is she Jane, Jean or Josephine?). @JaneRRAusten gets both elements of the name in, but might be tricky to pick out from search results and autofills, or difficult to remember if typing from memory.
(Scenario: ‘oh darn, she’s JaneRR, not Jane like she is everywhere else – I always forget that’.)
Reverse your names – @AustenJane – Just my personal opinion, but I find this is easier to recognise at a glance, and have no problem remembering it the proper way round. Maybe that’s just the way my brain works. Your grey matter may differ. But – another point in favour of this format – Hootsuite seems to include swapped names in search results quite readily.
Numbers – you could add a discreet number – @JaneAusten1. Again, this is a personal view, but I find this to be a good solution that doesn’t interfere with the readability or memorability of the name, and it doesn’t cause search problems.
Character names or book titles – I don’t think this is such a good idea. Certainly it’s useful for people to know your books. But social media are about people, not products. Readers would rather connect with a person, not a figment, although @MrDarcy would probably be a notable exception, especially if tweeted from @RealJaneAusten’s brain.
(That’s another option if you have the chops for it: Real. Or Himself.). Back to book or character names, think long term – do you want to build a presence for one work when you might one day something completely different? For instance, if, like me, you swerve into a completely different bookwriting lane with a travel diary (which is coming along quite nicely, now you ask). But build your platform in your name, and you can use it for anything.
Abbreviations – @JaneAstn. The other day I came across an author who dropped some characters from her name to make a Twitter handle. It was infernally difficult to find her. What’s more, the result was so unintuitive that I kept mistyping – had she dropped the second r, or the vowels ….?
The abbreviations were probably logical, but people in the rush of Twitter don’t have time to learn the rules you used to create your name. Copying letter by letter is laborious and squinty. And anything that creates an obstacle might be enough to make a person lose heart in trying to contact you. Although Twitter and Hootsuite has an autofill option, you only have to misremember the contracted version to be tweeting the wrong person.
Cutesy or oblique versions of your name or anything that makes sense only to people who know you or your books – these are the most difficult of all. They’re fine if you only want to be found by your personal friends – and that’s how some people use Twitter. But it’s not ideal if you want to be visible to the wider public.
Once again: it’s easy to change your name! Red-faced relief…
And yes, I’ve flirted with less suitable Twitter names. For a while I was @NailYourNovel, because I was dividing my teaching side from my fiction-writing side. For my fiction I had a separate account, @ByRozMorris – more here about that, and why I stopped it).
My first Twitter name, though, was the epitome of unsuitable, and if you’ve been with me for a long time you can enjoy an in-jokish kind of chuckle. We live and learn.
Other tips to help good Twitizens
Anyone who mentions you on Twitter is doing you a favour. Help them to help you.
- Make sure your description includes as much identifiable stuff about your writing as possible, not just who you read or how you take your tea. Make it absolutely obvious – if you put ‘changing the world, one word at a time’ people might think you’re just a sweet teenager, not an author.
- Use a consistent headshot so that people who know you from your blog or Facebook recognise you instantly on the list of possibles.
- Put your Twitter handle prominently on your blog and in the byline of your blogposts – change it in your blog settings). Like this:
But most of all, make us remember your name.
Thanks for the peacock pic Jamain. And, update, in case you’re curious about Not Quite Lost, you can now get it at your favourite book outlet.
#1 by vaniamargene on June 29, 2017 - 10:19 pm
Well said, thank you for pointing this out. I use my real name everywhere. I want to be found!
#2 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on June 29, 2017 - 10:28 pm
Thanks, Vania – and thanks for your tweet!
#3 by acflory on June 29, 2017 - 10:21 pm
Great post, as always, Roz. Being consistent with my name is the one thing I did right on the social media front because it’s my /brand/.
#4 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on June 29, 2017 - 10:28 pm
Thanks, Andrea! Yes, full points, I’ve noticed you’re consistent about these things. 🙂
#5 by acflory on June 30, 2017 - 12:48 am
#6 by Carol Riggs on June 29, 2017 - 10:41 pm
Well fooey! I was all convinced to change my @Artzicarol handle, and went into Twitter. It looks like the only thing I can change under Edit is my displayed name, Carol Riggs. There’s not a place to change the @ handle. Huh. Well, I guess people can search for and bring up my name still; it’s just that it’s a fairly common name and there are a couple dozen other Carol Riggs.
#7 by Carol Riggs on June 29, 2017 - 10:56 pm
PS! I found how to change it under Settings and then Account! But alas, I wanted to use CarolRiggsAuthor and that is ONE letter too long…gah!
#8 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on June 30, 2017 - 5:39 am
It’s too long? But I know tweeps with much longer names than that!
BTW, thanks for test-driving that. I’ll add it to the post.
#9 by Carol Riggs on June 30, 2017 - 10:20 pm
Yeah, I was wondering about the length! Because some of your examples in the post are longer or as long. I wonder how they made it longer. I try to type in the box, and it won’t let me make it any longer. I finally had to just use @CRiggsAuthor. I think my profile will still come up in a search for Carol Riggs, though, since that name is on my profile too.
#10 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on July 1, 2017 - 6:35 am
Perhaps they’ve imposed a limit on name length. Certain friends with long names will be relieved that they joined Twitter before that!
#11 by S.C Karakaltsas on June 30, 2017 - 3:41 am
Some great advice – thanks for sharing.
#12 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on June 30, 2017 - 5:37 am
And thanks for commenting!
#13 by Glynis Smy on June 30, 2017 - 6:35 am
I always thought myself boring ‘cos I use my own name. I do so as it’s unusual and folk might run into problems with the spelling. Now I feel I’ve done something right for a change! Lol. Interesting article, thanks Roz.
#14 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on June 30, 2017 - 7:22 pm
#15 by AshleyRPollard on June 30, 2017 - 2:47 pm
I use my name, but Twitter seems to have a high noise to signal ratio, and at times I doubt it is even worth my time and effort to maintain @AshleyRPollard.
#16 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on June 30, 2017 - 7:23 pm
Ashley, I think it’s like all social media – you have to go there frequently and think long term. When I go to Google+ I feel similarly overwhelmed!
#17 by dgkaye on July 1, 2017 - 4:22 am
Thanks a lot for this post Roz. My author name is on all my social media except Twitter. Long story, but the point is I wanted to change it for so long but afraid I’ll lose all my followers I’ve built up through the years. By changing your handle it won’t affect stats? Should I pin something on my page to let people know? 🙂
#18 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on July 1, 2017 - 6:32 am
Great question, Debby. No, you won’t lose any followers or damage your stats. There’s certainly no harm in letting people know. And if you do change, remember to change it anywhere it’s mentioned – on your website, in the backs of your books, on your Amazon page etc.
#19 by dgkaye on July 1, 2017 - 9:53 am
Thanks Roz. Yes, that’s the problem, it’s everywhere! Lol. 🙂