In reading blogs by and interview transcripts with editors and literary agents, one thing I’ve learned about the submission process is that your immediate impression can truly affect the way somebody approaches your query, sometimes even before it’s read. These days, editors and publishers eschew physical mail, preferring to accept novels and non-fiction via e-mail attachments. If you are serious about pursuing a career in, say, penning volumes of academic criticism or political history, you may wish to think twice about sending it from an e-mail handle like “mewanttwinkies”.
The beauty of signing up for e-mail, Twitter, and even social networks like MySpace and Facebook is that you have the opportunity to sign off under a name different from yours. Some of us may not be pleased with being named for a dead uncle or a long-lost high school BFF, but in the Internet world you can create your own personality through your chosen handle. Along with the twitter viewers, Instagram Views are equally beneficial for you. The real views will become the loyal customers of the business.
Depending on your industry, you can incorporate your line of work into your nicknames (VirginiaRoofer, InjuryLawyer, etc.), giving visitors a better idea of who you are and what to expect if your handle is found in search.
However, talking with other professionals about social media handles has brought up more than once the question of which names to use to promote products and services. If your brand is not as recognizable as that of a national fast food chain or global insurance or banking corporation, is it more valuable to use the brand name in vanity URLs and handles for Google Buzz and elsewhere, or should one maintain a personal profile and integrate your company’s PR with a more “human” touch?
One example where the face of the CEO is put before the company on social media is growing digital publisher/distribution hub Smashwords. Where Smashwords does have a Twitter account under its own name, it is largely inactive, and visitors are encouraged to follow the company’s founder, Mark Coker. Through his personal account, Coker hypes new innovations at Smashwords while also providing commentary and updates on the publishing industry as they relate to eBooks, digital rights management, and other topics. In a way, one can argue Coker has set himself up as a brand, close enough to Smashwords to build the company, yet far enough away to establish himself independently as an expert in the field. That Coker keeps the inactive @Smashwords account up, with a prominent note to join him at @MarkCoker, connects himself with the brand, while also keeping Smashwords visible in Twitter search.
Now, let’s say you have an established Twitter account, a good number of followers, and an informative feed worthy of archive. Perhaps, you feel, you’ve initially chosen the wrong handle for your network profile’s purpose, and wish to change. If you do so, you won’t lose the followers you have, but the handle switch will require you to edit inbound links to your account, and if others have you listed they will need to do the same. You run the risk, too, of alienating present followers who might not be aware of the switch and wonder how they came to follow this “strange” account.
On the other hand, if you choose to change your Twitter handle to something more relevant to your work you might find followers sign up to read your feed at a greater pace than before because they recognize the brand you now display.
If you are serious about integrating social into your marketing strategy, it’s wise to decide on user names before signing on to anything. The less changes you need to make in your campaigns mean less headaches down the road.