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Twitter 101 Q&A: Twitter handles & account set-up

NOTE: This is a joint posocial-media-q-and-ast by Matt Batt and Heidi Sullivan. It is cross-posted on Story Assistant and CisionBlog.

Pipeline Media Relations President & CEO Matt Batt and I did a free Cision Social Media Webinar earlier this month titled Twitter 101, and we received more great questions than we could answer about engaging in Twitter on behalf of a company, organization or brand. In an occasional series of posts, we’ll be answering some of those questions over the coming weeks. Here are some questions and answers about Twitter Account Set-up and Twitter Handles.

Twitter Account Set-up

Emily: If you are tweeting for a non-profit that really needs to get their brand out there, do you still think it is better to use a photo or is it better to use the logo?

Matt: Logic (and others) might tell you to use your logo for branding purposes but the reality is that on Twitter and in life, people like talking with people. For this reason, I would suggest that you use a photo of the individual representing your non-profit on Twitter. If there are multiple people managing the profile, I would try and customize your background (see next question) to reflect the pictures and individual profile names for each and/or I would switch out the photo each time someone new is managing the profile. Ironically, here is a great example of this from Cision.

Tim, Megan, Mark, Amy, Sara: Do you have any tips on making compelling Twitter backgrounds?

Heidi: The best practices in social media apply to creating your Twitter background as well. Your Twitter page provides a snapshot of you so it should reflect your brand (personal or professional) and your personality. A customized background will draw more attention than the blue-skies-and-clouds Twitter default. ZMogo has a nice post that lists the 10 best sites that offer free Twitter backgrounds and templates. I recommend scanning through the comments as well – lots of readers offer additional tips and sites to get started.

Abbey: On your setting panel should you protect your updates?

Matt: Quite simply, never protect your updates. In the spirit of social media which includes transparency, interaction and conversation…hiding behind protected updates just doesn’t make any sense. I have heard of organizations that do this for media purposes (i.e., they release embargoed news to a select group of journalists) but honestly, I don’t think it makes sense. I use the same logic when I look at companies using the Facebook Group (vs. Fan) page and restricting members. I understand the need for privacy…but take it off social media then.

Twitter Handles

Taylor: I heard a rumor that most Twitter usernames with numbers are spammers, is that true?

Heidi: Most of the spammers that start following me do have numbers after their names, but I have also noticed that a lot of ‘legit’ followers have started the practice as well. As Twitter has grown in popularity, more and more handles are already taken and adding a number to the end of your name can seem like the easiest way out. However, I have heard the same rumor about spammers, so if you’re creating your Twitter account for the first time, it’s best to avoid the numbers game so that others don’t think you’re a spammer. Don Reisinger wrote a post about creating your handle on CNET and argues that adding numbers after your name is “so 1999.”

Beth, Nelda, Taylor: My blog name/last name/company name is too long for a twitter username, suggestions?

Matt: This is where years of trying to guess the license plates during long road trips come in handy! Seriously, you have to get creative. You can always elaborate on your bio to spell out all of the details. One of the most important things is to create some consistency with your brand across all of your social media platforms.  Liz Hover had a guest blog post about this subject earlier this year.

Amanda, Jeanne: So if I didn’t take Twitter seriously + need to change my name, do I cancel and start again?

Heidi: If you aren’t happy with the handle you created because you didn’t realize you’d be using your SexyEyez875 account to interact with clients and the media, there’s good news for you: you can change your handle and keep your followers. Go to Settings > Account > Username to change your handle. Just remember to let your key followers know that your handle has changed so that you don’t miss important tweets. It’s probably also a good idea to set up Tweet alerts (we recommend the RSS function in Twitter Search or TweetLater) for your old handle to catch any residual tweets that you receive.

Shawn: By using my first and last name as a profile name am I detracting from my personal and professional brand?

Matt: Similar to my answer above, you have to determine what your personal brand is on Twitter and across all social media platforms. Take myself for example, it would have made all the sense in the world to have used @MattBatt for my profile name especially since my name is so catchy or I could have used my business name @PipelineMR (Pipeline Media Relations). Instead I decided to brand myself as @StoryAssistant because I didn’t want to seem at all self serving with my agency but also wanted to build a relevant brand vs. my name.

About Heidi Sullivan

One of PRWeek’s 40 under 40 in 2012, Heidi Sullivan is Senior Vice President of Digital Content for Cision and a self-proclaimed social media metrics nerd. She leads the company’s digital and broadcast content teams, the global research team for Cision’s media database, Cision’s social media community team and the company’s content marketing strategy. You can find her on Twitter @hksully.

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