Twitter Branding: Are You Confusing Your Followers?

In the past few months I’ve noticed several freelance writers changing their Twitter handle more often than some of us change toilet paper rolls. I think that’s because when we’re confused about what to call ourselves online, or how to present ourselves to clients, we continue to reinvent ourselves.

Here’s something to consider: if you’re confused about your branding, your followers are even more confused. If they don’t know what to call you, they may not call you at all.

Hear me out on this one

Defining Yourself on Twitter

I don’t believe there are any hard and fast rules when it comes to Twitter, or even choosing a Twitter name. My only caution is to think about the branding, if that’s your purpose. For example, I maintain two separate Twitter accounts. One account @freelancewj is the feed for the blogs in the Freelance Writing Jobs network and some news regarding the FWJ community. The account, @debng, is the one I use the most. I don’t use “@debngwriter” or “@debngblogger” or “@debngsocialmediaperson” because there’s more to me than that and I don’t want to limit myself to a label. I wear many too many hats. Plus, friends and family follow me. The common variable between my friends, my colleagues and my clients is that they all know me as “Deb.”

I also feel it doesn’t always work to define the niche too much. For example, if I wrote mostly about, say, gardening, I don’t know if I would call myself @debnggardenwriter on Twitter because it means I’m branding myself as someone who writes about gardening and potential clients might hesitate to reach out to me regarding non-gardening projects. I’m all about establishing expertise in a niche, but sometimes specialized niches don’t bring in as many clients.

I know that some feel that if you don’t brand your niche or career in a Twitter name no one will know who you are or what you do. It’s a valid concern, but not one I necessarily agree with. I can tell what many Twitter friends and followers do just by their reading their Tweets. Also, if there’s a Twitterer I find interesting, I’ll click on his or her bio and browse links.  Finally, If really want to know more about a person, I’ll ask.

You’ll notice that most of the people who follow you do so because they sought out folks who share the same interests or have the same career. Most of my friends and followers are involved in social media or freelance writing. If you have a bio listing what you do, and if you talk about yourself on Twitter, people who are interested will find you.

Sticking With One Twitter Name

The inspiration from this post is the result of a conversation with one of my favorite freelance writing Twitter friends. (I’ll let her out herself in the comments if she wants you to know who she is.) Over the past year, she’s changed her Twitter handle quite a few times. She used her name, her name with initials next to them, her name with a swear word,  her name with “writer” next to it, and finally, her name with herniche next to it. When I told her she’s confusing me with her Twitter name changes, she said she’s working on branding herself. She has a writing niche she wants to specialize in, and is using her Twitter handle to help brand her with that niche. My concern is that her niche is very specialized and I wonder how many clients will contact her as a result of this very specialized name. Would someone who is simply looking for a writer to help with some content for his website pass her over in favor of someone who doesn’t use specialized branding?

(I’m the first to admit I can be wrong about this, though, and would love to learn your thoughts.)

I guess this is why I stick with my name. No matter I do, I’ll always be me. There’s no confusion.  Again, there are no hard and fast rules. However you want to use the social networks is up to you. My only concern is that when you constantly change your name, potential clients, collaborators and friends might be a little confused. What happens if the niche isn’t working for you anymore? Do you change your name again?

How Do You Want the Twitter World to See You?

Do you wanted to be labeled? I don’t. I like having lots of different projects (beyond writing), so for me it makes sense not to label myself on Twitter strictly as a writer. Think about how you want people to see you. Do you want to be known as “JoeDirtTechWriter,” “Joedirtwriter,” “Joe Dirt” or just, plain Joe? Each name might offer a different impression.

I think when we put so much importance on branding we worry about whether or not we’re doing it properly. When we think too hard about it, it gets to complicated. That’s why my brand will always be my name. There’s no confusion there, and what you see is what you get.

What are your thoughts on Twitter and branding? Why did you choose your particular Twitter name?


9 responses
  1. ChinaMatt Avatar

    I don’t think too many of the people I follow on Twitter have changed screen names much (or at least not in a long time). I vaguely recall a few people switching names early on (have I really been using it for that long?). I’m just not motivated enough to ever think of another screen name.
    .-= ChinaMatt´s last blog ..Satanic Verses =-.

  2. Shevonne Avatar

    I have four different Twitter accounts. One is my personal one, and I talk about whatever I want. The other is for my writing. Third one is to talk about my passion for biking. The last is to bring awareness about alcohol poisoning.
    .-= Shevonne´s last blog ..What is a Technical Writer? =-.

  3. Barbara Avatar

    Deb, please get out of my head. All day long, I have been thinking about changing my Twitter name (for the 3rd time). Finally, I decided to open a second twitter account. I want to keep my freelancing tweets separate from my Mom in Paris tweets. I wasn’t sure why until wanted to keep the two separate until I saw the title of this post. I hope I’m doing the right thing…neither Twitter name is my own name. But my situation is different from yours, Deb. I have known your name for years. You’re established as your own brand. Me, my name is not so well-known. Yet. 😉

    Oh, and in case anyone out there wants to follow me, I’m now @ExpatFreelancer and (now) @InternatlMama.
    .-= Barbara´s last blog ..Do You Workshop? A Writer Conference/Workshop Round-up =-.

  4. Michelle C. Avatar

    This is a really handy post with plenty to think about.

    I’m actually having a major problem selecting my Twitter brand name… mostly, I can’t figure out whether to go with my real name or my “geek” nickname that I use at video game websites, fan forums, etc. On the one hand, I do want to get into geek related writing jobs, which would make using my geek nickname make sense; on the other hand, since it’s a handle I’ve used for fun and hobby stuff, it’s not exactly got a professional history. I’m honestly not sure whether to embrace my public geekiness and use it as part of my branding, or give a bit of distance from it by using my real name (thus avoiding possible awkwardness but somewhat covering up potentially useful “geek cred”). Or whether to get two Twitter accounts but link them somehow… argh! It’s all so confusing!
    .-= Michelle C.´s last blog ..Sample Humor Post: Egyptian mythology and sex (slightly risque) =-.

  5. Jennifer Avatar

    I use my own name too. While I do have a niche I don’t want to ONLY meet up with green folks, not on Twitter anyhow. I agree that it could very realistically limit the amount of people who get in touch with you about a job or another topic. I think it’s good enough to use your little bio for your niche or interests – for example I get many unschooling and green minded follows but it’s not like my Twitter name is jengreengirl or unschoolingmama; people get that info from my bio. Also, I don’t love trying to keep up. When people change their name it is really confusing, especially if you’re already trying to keep up with basic day to day social networking.
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Introducing the Like button at Facebook! =-.

  6. Karen Swim Avatar

    Deb, this is timely and I have this conversation with my own clients. I think that we can make it overly complicated and drive ourselves crazy about what handle to use. Your name or your company name are always good choices. For the new business owner, I always advise doing namechk for the availability of the name you’re considering, so that you can grab it and have consistent branding. I do many things too but people can always find me by my name.
    .-= Karen Swim´s last blog ..Social Media: Will the Free World Begin Charging Admission? =-.

  7. Heather Avatar

    I’d prefer to simply use my name, but my last name is difficult to spell (Carreiro) – people always mix up the r’s and the order of the “e” and “i.” I decided to make my online brand @expatheather. Now my website, Twitter and other social media accounts are in that name. I’m not sure it’s the best way to describe myself, but it’s definitely easier to spell and remember!

  8. allena Avatar

    I use this example in my soc media classes, and forgive me if I’ve said something here about it before. My LLC name- GardenWall Publications- is a play on my last name which means garden wall, adobe wall, etc in Spanish. I’ve got many, many offers to do garden writing– which I , um, know nothing about! Choose more carefully than I!!
    .-= allena´s last blog ..Guard Your Finances: Earn and KEEP Your Freelance Writing Money =-.

    1. Karen Swim Avatar

      Allena, that is hysterical and makes for a great socmed story!
      .-= Karen Swim´s last blog ..Social Media: Will the Free World Begin Charging Admission? =-.

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