Your name should be your Twitter handle

I have a friend and colleague who is debating whether or not to change her Twitter handle. Right now she’s @Postgrad. She likes the name. She’s gotten attached to it. She feels it says something about her. I think she should change it to her name, Meg Crawford, or some available variation.


Because that way people will know what her name is.

I follow more than 1,100 people on Twitter. Some use their names, some use something else. I just heard @unmarketing on Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation podcast this morning. I follow him on Twitter and he shares great information. He has more than 57,000 Twitter followers.

I have no idea what his name is.

Clearly his Twitter strategy is working for him, and he may have reasons for wanting to brand “Unmarketing” instead of his name. Is @Mashable really Pete Cashmore, or is it Mashable, the online tech news site? We already know that @GuyKawasaki isn’t just Guy Kawasaki, it’s a network of people that share information for, essentially, the Guy Kawasaki brand.

I met Wayne Sutton close to two years ago. I never had a moment’s trouble remembering Wayne’s name, and that’s no mean feat for a 44-year old brain that is constantly bombarded with information, noise and toddler.

Why didn’t I have trouble remembering Wayne’s name? Because his Twitter handle is @WayneSutton.

The question you need to ask yourself is, “What is the brand I am promoting on Twitter?” For most of the people I know, the answer to that question is, “Me.” Even if you’re tweeting on behalf of a company or organization, you’re trying to establish your credibility. Your value. Your brand.

If your name is your brand, make it your Twitter handle.

photo by quinn anya

Fear of geek robbers

Mashable makes an extremely valid point in the debate about the safety of location-based apps. As you’ve probably heard, there’s a new tool that aggregates public check-ins from location-based apps that users have posted to public places like Twitter and lets you search them by zip code. (I’m not going to link to it or even call it by name. I think it’s completely irresponsible to create something that exposes other people’s vulnerabilities, whether or not you’re claiming to do it for their own good.) My friend Wayne Sutton has a good rundown of the whole issue.

I used to worry a lot more about security and anonymity on the Web. I’ve relaxed a bit, although I still try to use common sense. I’ve stopped accepting Foursquare requests, for instance, from people I don’t know. (For one thing, if I don’t know who you are, why would I care where you are?)

But here’s what it comes down to for me: I was burgled twice in my old house, almost certainly by the same people (they entered the same way, were very tidy, and only took consumer electronics that could be easily sold – I assume they waited until I had replaced everything before coming back a second time). Those people robbed my house because it backed up to the woods, because I didn’t have a back porch light and because there was no one there to see them. Also, I’m sure it was clear I wasn’t home.

In other words, I’m not worried about a crackhead with an iPhone casing me on Foursquare, when the vast majority of the robberies in my town are someone kicking in a door or breaking a window, grabbing a laptop or a DVD player and running. If the typical burglar around here had a device that he could use to check Foursquare or Gowalla, he would have sold it by now.

Twitterary aspirations

This morning The Mrs and I took The Boy to the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (as I was required to write it when I was a reporter) for the North Carolina Literary Festival. The two of them went to listen to children’s book authors and I went to a panel called “Tweeting: A New Form of Writing.” The panelists were Paul Jones, Mur Lafferty and Wayne Sutton. (Clearly they did not agree on a dress code.)

Over the last year or so I’ve been in a lot of conversations about Twitter, as well as listening to panel discussions and webcasts about it. But to date I had not been to any Twitter discussions where poets ask panelists questions about accessing their unconscious.

It was a different world, and I liked being there.

Those of us who are trying to incorporate social media into marketing communications have to keep reminding ourselves, as Wayne reminded me, that social media is about community and conversation. That can be a hard message to spread through any enterprise that’s more used to delivering “messaging” than making connections.

But forget about marketing for a minute. As Wayne pointed out, tweeting helps you unlock unconscious ways of thinking that make you a more interesting communicator.

You could take that a step further and say social media can make you a more interesting person, if you work at it. The more you care about your audience and the better you understand the medium, the more likely you are to share information in a way that will be compelling, amusing or thought provoking.

Artists talk about developing their craft. That’s equally important if you’re writing a poem, a novel, a tweet or a blog post.

On a side note, it was great to see Wayne on that panel, representing those of us who some in the audience might see as the people ruining Twitter. Wayne is a perfect ambassador for social media in general and social media in the Triangle in particular. It’s inspiring to see someone at the convergence of social media and marketing being publicly recognized for doing it the right way.