Twitter Branding Decisions Reviewed

One constant point of discussion is why I still tweet as @thelostagency instead of using my personal account @davidiwanow, I know there are people that refuse to follow my brand account just because they don’t feel it’s personal enough.  The question is how would success change for me as a marketer if I swapped to be using @davidiwanow exclusively and stopped using @thelostagency? This article is not so much about pure facts and metrics but is instead focused on actual marketers and their personal views using personal vs brand handles on Twitter.

What bout the Top 100 Twitter Accounts

It’s interesting that a majority of the top accounts on Twitter are using their owners real name, which relates closer to their success at personal branding and ability to secure their real names. Celebrities are often far more focused on building personal brands that sticking with a nickname or brand they built from the ground up but there are still a number that are not using their real names across social media.  You can see that most celebrities atleast use their first name to make it easier to link their personal brand to their social brands.

  • Ellen DeGeneres @TheEllenShow
  • Ashton Kutcher @Aplusk
  • Adele @OfficialAdele
  • LeBron James @KingJames
  • Demi Moore @JustDemi
  • Nicole Polizzi @Snooki
  • Russell Brand @RustyRockets
  • Neymar Junior @Njr92
  • Niall Horan @NiallOfficial
What about those in the marketing/search industry?
I reached out to several people I engage with on Twitter who are also tweeting on behalf of a brand or nickname, but most now feature their full name and real picture as the avatar.  The question I asked was why they picked a brand for their twitter handle, why they have decided to stay with it and would they consider swapping to their @realname if it was made available? You can see that some people have a clear and precise reasoning behind why the are not using their real name and others are using both at times starting with me.
Question Asked: Why do you tweet as a brand/company and not as your real name?

One of the biggest points is that @thelostagency is the name that most people in the industry know me as, but also it’s always just felt like a security blanket I could sit behind when throwing stones or sometimes stirring the pot.  The amount of time and effort I have put into @thelostagency twitter account far outweighs my commitment to @davidiwanow with around 28 times the number of tweets from my main Twitter account over it’s lifetime so it feels established.

It’s not a massive issue but since @thelostagency is the primary account linked to all my social profiles initially and it’s always been my default account for self promotion and engagement with businesses and people in the industry I have always felt scared about trading it for my real name. When I started in this industry I felt comfortable sitting behind The Lost Agency branding and since I decided early on dedicating much of my time building a brand than struggling to make it as an individual marketer.

While I could easily rename my main account and swap between the two and gain an instant following but would it make a massive difference to my social profile and would people unfollow my account if they didn’t understand the change and what happened to @TheLostAgency.  Also I would assume it would change how I use my Twitter account and the tone of my messaging if it’s coming from me personally instead of from @thelostagency? Do most marketers know me as David Iwanow or The Lost Agency??

Chris Thomas @Reseo
So we use @reseo for a couple of reasons. The first was to secure the channel, trying to make sure we didn’t end up losing it to a squatter. We continue to use it as the entire team are logged into it which means they can post on behalf of the company (not that they do very often!). The account also uses my name as a secondary option which adds a bit of personality. Some of my guys also have personal accounts which they use quite a bit for more ‘personal’ tweets. I don’t think we’d like to change things to be honest, we’re pretty comfortable with the current set up.

The reason why I chose the brand name as my handle was because protecting my brand name felt more important that protecting my personal name. Since getting on board with twitter in 2007 I’ve since realised that twitter is a place were people interact and not brands. So we changed the profile image to be a photo vs logo. Given that it’s been on my list of things to do. I’ve just setup @ChrisMeMedia :)
Here’s my 2 cents … I had already been writing on the servantofchaos.com website for several years when Twitter came along. I remember thinking that it might be worth making the shift to @gavinheaton – but realised pretty quickly that most of my friends were already used to the servantofchaos name. Then as the size of my Twitter following grew, it just became too difficult to think about shifting. Along the way, I had the opportunity to also start using the @gavinheaton account. This account has a very different audience and a very different tone and focus. Having the two accounts allows me to tailor specific conversations for different people and groups.
I used Twitter as a tool to build the profile of Snappy Sentences when I first started the business – so I wanted people to recognise the business name rather than my name. I also have @sally_bagshaw (which I may switch to one day), but for the time being I’m happy being known as @snappysentences. I think if I had a company with a team of people I would have made the move by now (to a personal handle), but as it’s just me behind the brand I’m comfortable keeping it as is.
In our case, we intentionally blur the lines between person & brand. The question is strictly a Google organic decision. Ideally it should be both, for defensive purposes. Also, there “are” both aimClear and Marty Weintraub in this world. Conventional wisdom dictates that both profiles should be procured, even if the personal one is not active.Even past the social media aspects of Twitter, reputation defense in the SERPs is an overriding concern. You sure would not want a third party squatting on either your brand OR personal terms.

I do have @bryaneisenberg never used it. I was given the grok nickname in the late 90s. It is how my original newsletter got it’s name too. I am no longer affiliated with that newsletter but I’m still known as TheGrok.

Edward Lewis - @PageOneResults
“Why not @EdwardLewis” Unfortunately I wasn’t thinking real names when signing up for Twitter. Everyone in this industry knows me as P1R (PageOneResults). It was only natural that I continue using that handle. I wish I would have had the hindsight to use my real name but oh well. Also, @EdwardLewis is another SEO in the UK. Imagine that? :) Also many of us older SEOs have stuck with our forum usernames I think.

Brian Wallace -  @Nowsourcing
Why I picked a brand and stayed with it? Well, if you look at how I have it set up, it’s kind of a hybrid. My Twitter handle is @nowsourcing but the user shows up as Brian Wallace. At the beginning, I had used my brand logo rather than a headshot as an avatar and felt that it was too impersonal. Pete Cashmore at Mashable utilizes the same strategy of using his name and headshot vs a more corporate play. Would I ever swap to a real name? Well I do have @brianwallace (not active for now), but I think there is inherent value in having a face to your brand. The more corporatized social media becomes, the more the users of the system want their brands they frequent to be more human.

Tad Chef@Onreact_com
Back in 2001 when I chose onreact.com as my domain name I knew that I want to reach a global audience. My real name is unpronounceable outside of Poland. When I joined Twitter in 2008 I wanted people to find my site easily. Sadly Twitter blocked URLs as names so I had to use the underscore. I have come up with the nickname Tad Chef ever since. I have secured it, onreact and my real name on Twitter as well. I may use them for different purposes in the future.

Chris Dimmock@Cogentis
I wasn’t sure at the outset which way to go. I started with Twitter being corporate i.e. @cogentis – because it was used at conferences E.g. at SMX or conferences I spoke at, Cogentis had a profile – and it was shorter – and I used my name for Facebook. I actually have both in Twitter – but I just use @Cogentis I find it incredibly annoying when people have a corporate twitter account,and a personal one, and post identical tweets from both accounts. I suppose as founder of Cogentis, it probably doesn’t matter which account as long as you don’t post identical tweets /updates from multiple accounts.

Janina Geraghty@Mzjaygee
If I’m understanding your question right, I personally recommend to keep personal and business handles separate on Twitter. The reason being that the “voice” of your business is not always going to be yours. It could be a number of contributing staff who in unison, create the voice and personality of the account. If you create a personal following under the name of a brand, there is also the question of who owns the account. Once you’ve established relationships in the twitterverse under your personal handle you will probably find that your followers will after a while connect you to your business account and follow both.

Susan Payton@EggMarketing
At the time, I wanted to brand my company, not me as a person. Inadvertently, I’ve branded myself through my writing. But I probably wouldn’t swap to a real name in the future, since I’ve built my brand up arund @eggmarketing.

Frank Watson @Aussiewebmaster
I use Aussiwebmaster as am more know by that name – at early conferences people would see Frank Watson on my pass with a speaker tag and ask what session and when they heard the accent asked are you Aussiewebmaster. On Twitter your real name shows too so using brand is okay and people get used to brands on social media, I had Aussie Webmaster on Facebook way back but they cancelled it and had to reach out to get them to just change the name.

Thomas Bosilevac@Bosilytics
You always want a global message coming from a brand, however, it is also important for larger brands to create a “human voice” (eg: Customer Support Staff, individual baristas, southwest baggers, best buy employees). In this case the name provides a real person behind the brand. Insight on company use of social via Stephanie Shkolnik @Stephanie00

Ann Smarty @SeoSmarty
In my situation, that all happened by itself. I am from Russia, so when starting a blog I was afraid people would find it hard to spell and pronounce my real second name. Besides, it’s too long for social media accounts. So I decided to create a pen name. It all started with the domain name. Finding a catchy short domain name with “seo” in it wasn’t easy 5 years ago (as well as now). SEOsmarty was the one that was still available. So I picked it. Then I took its second part and added it to my first name: Ann + SEOsmarty = Ann Smarty

It turned out to be very catchy. People remember me by my second name. So no, I will never drop it :)

Christy Correll @Denverish
Instead of using my real name, I chose the handle “denverish” when I joined Twitter for two reasons:

  1. It matched the name of a personal blog I started about the same time. I had just relocated to Colorado, and was in the honeymoon stage. Just fell in love with the place, including the capital city I live in! Almost five years later, it’s hard for me to picture living anywhere else. If I move, though, I’m going to have to make a tough decision about whether or not to change handles. I’ve laid claim to Twitter.com/ChristyCorrell “just in case” this ever happens.
  2. Most of my friends and coworkers who tweeted used handles back then, and @denverish uses fewer characters than ChristyCorrell for sure. It’s also easier to remember than my “real” name. For a time, when I tweeted constantly, a few of my fellow Tweetaholics routinely referred to me as Denverish offline. They weren’t teasing me, they had just grown to know me by my handle. You might say we were a tad bit obsessed. Just a little.

Todd Friesen @Oilman
Why Oilman? I was working for a large oil and gas company over 10 years ago and I thought I was being clever with the name.

Over the past decade it became my personal brand online and changing it simply makes no sense after all these years.

Dave Earley @EarleyEdition
I chose my Twitter handle @earleyedition as a branding thing in 2008 because it was the same as my blog, the earley edition, which had been around since 2004. At the time it wasn’t a conscious decision not to use my real name, it just seemed to make sense to continue with the name, or brand, that was already being used. I’d definitely be willing to swap to a real name. I’ve also gone through the brand/personal decision with Facebook when personal profile vanity URLs were introduced. In the end I went with my real name instead of earleyedition because Facebook was more about personal than public activity.

Since then personal profile changes like Subscribe mean you can use it for personal OR branding, depending on what you want public. If that had been a feature at the time, it probably would have been an argument for using using earleyedition on Facebook too. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point I did set up my real name Twitter handles, just to park them for possible future use.

David Olsen @DDSD
“I initially went with @DDsD on Twitter as all the decent variations on my actual name were already taken and I didn’t feel like being @DavidOlsen1224532 – besides I was already quite a prolific forum poster under the DDsD handle on a few online forums so it made sense to continue using it in the psuedo-anonymous space of Twtter”.  In addition, during the early days of Twitter (Before “native” retweets) the length of your Twitter username impacted on retweetability with long tweets, so @DDsD had additional advantages compared to my full name too. Now that I’ve sucessfully managed to secure URL variants for my actual name for Facebook and Linkedin, I’d certainly consider migrating the @DDsD ‘brand’ to an account fo my own name, but on Twitter, it’s not as critical as it is with other services.

Melanie Roe @MissMel
I can’t understand why anyone would use a boring real name when they can create their own alter ego!

Scott Stratten@UNMarketing
I used unmarketing cause it was shorter than scottstratten and the name got people curious.

Wayne Smallman@Octane
Octane is — if you’ve not already figured it out — the name of my company, which I started in 1999. As a brand name, it’s been the cause of some consternation with several other businesses who would just love to get their hands on it, but lost out. I often get messages sent to me by people who think that I’m a coffee shop franchise in Atlanta, America, which is apparently literally called @octane. I do have an account for myself personally, but I had (and continue to have) no intention of using @waynesmallman for businesses purposes, and instead use it for my literary endeavours, which are — incidentally — published by Octane Interactive Limited.

Deborah Carney@Loxly
Every brand should have it’s own twitter account. Every website should have it’s own twitter account. Splitting personal and professional identities is key to using Twitter to it’s fullest potential.

Gail Gardner - @GrowMap
Brands are far more unique and easier to spell than names. Logos are more memorable and easy to pick out even in a sea of tiny Twitter Avatars. When Donna Fontenot went by @DazzlinDonna I ALWAYS instantly remembered her. When she changed to using her name I had to look her up in my notes or contact manager under Dazzlin Donna to find out here new Twitter handle and how to spell it.

Everyone knows Kristi Hines as @Kikolani. She later wished you used her real name and switched to @KristiHines but I know I always think of @Kikolani first and then Kristi even though I’ve known her online personally for years. She is fortunate that Kristi Hines is not a super common name. There are far too many Gail Gardners online (119 results on LinkedIn; 74 on Skype) for anyone to find me that way. There is only ONE GrowMap!

Dan Petrovic @DejanSEO
I didn’t think about it too much. DejanSEO was initially registered to secure our brand name on Twitter. I used it as my own for a while and then decided I’d have my personal account. After a few weeks I realised I would never actually find time to juggle between the two and decided to stick to one and focus my efforts on developing one healthy Twitter account. So you can say that it all happened organically and without much planning. Now that it’s all got momentum I have no plans on changing anything. Go with the flow.

Brad Geddes - @bgtheory
If @bradgeddes were open, I might consider it strongly, but as @bradg isn’t my entire name, then I wouldn’t take it. My social goals are either to share & converse as myself, or build a brand. A brand can be personal or a business (@bgtheory @ck_org)

Matthew Ho@inspiredworlds
Unless you have a very famous public profile and name, a twitter handle that is a unique name is more memorable. On the Internet, handles are very common and it provides a sense of online anonymity. Try to keep the same handle across the internet for consistency and personal branding. Would I ever change back? Probably not. There was another person at my high school with the same name. When I went to work at a large international organisation, I had several colleagues with the same name and I used to get their emails. But there’s only one @inspiredworlds!

Jeff Selig@SEOSEM
In the early days of social networks, Friendfeed, Plurk, Plaxo, Pulse, keywords in the user profiles were getting picked up in the SERP’s. This was evident based on the user profiles and the names of the users profiles specifically around brand terms but also around industry terms, think Acne, Mortgage etc….. With these results in mind, I quickly sought out opportunities to create user profiles around high value and easily recognizable industry terms. Although I have Twitter.com/JeffSelig as a place holder to safe guard my name for reputation management purposes and was first mover to lock in the usage of the name, in the personal branding space the decision to go with industry terms SEO/SEM, I believe helped establish some level of credibility in the twittersphere.

So What Do You Think?

You have read the reason behind several well known industry marketers still use the a brand or nickname for their Twitter profiles, have you seen any other examples of people swapping from a @realname to a @brand handle? Also you will see that even though a majority of them Tweet as a brand they show their real name on the account and most feature a real photo of themselves which makes it feel more personal. What do you do for your social branding?

Related

4 comments

  1. Amy Parks says:

    A very good article David.

  2. Great article David, very interesting reading the different opinions.

  3. Hi David,
    I have seen so many using their branding names because it makes people to easy remember them. Like me, I have 3 twitter accounts which am using my sites names on it.

    I like how you collected more data from other twitter users here and I will follow those that I haven’t heard of before :)

    Btw: Saw this posted via JustRetweet and I decided to visit.

    Thanks for this post.

    Valentine

  4. Tiggerito says:

    I’m strongly thinking of doing a big switcharoo but it doesn’t look easy.

    My main twitter is not even the brand but keywords so I want to switch it to something less spammy looking.

    Unfortunately, Tiggerito, my first option, is claimed on twitter and has not been used it since 2009 :-(

    I have my name, but like many others stated, it’s hard to spell and less memorable.

    I presume if I go for the switch I would need to do some username rotation to switch my current account to a better name then another account to it’s name so I can use it to forward people on.