(Article last updated May 2019)
Is your desired Twitter username already taken and no longer available? So annoying! I’ve been there. I truly feel your pain.
When I first set up my Twitter account in 2008, I intentionally wanted to keep a low profile, especially because I was still an employee at a large company. It’s hard to believe now, but there was once a time when the future and potential popularity of Twitter was uncertain. Back in 2008, they only had about 500K monthly active users (MAUs), and even my tech peers in the Bay Area where I lived at the time weren’t sure if the platform would really take off. So I picked a VERY obscure username, jp_liu (underscores must have been in at the time), just to tinker with the platform, but to keep myself as invisible as possible.
Fast forward five years, when I decided to launch my own business, and suddenly, Twitter has 240 million MAUs. Crazy. As of 2019, Twitter has over 330 million MAUs. So as far as anyone can tell, Twitter is here to stay.
As a career consultant who coaches clients on building a strong, consistent personal brand, including securing your online usernames, having that weird jp_liu username was not ideal. I figured I’d just head on over and grab @JosephLiu, but guess what. Someone else had taken it. In 2009. Grrrrr!!! The user didn’t seem active, so I tried to write to him to see if he would give it up. No response. Okay, so how about @joeliu. Nope taken. @joseph_liu? Taken. @josephpliu? Taken. Fine. At LEAST @jpliu without the underscore. Taken.
My best, albeit inelegant solution, was to settle for @JosephLiu_. Wow, did that underscore drive me crazy. Just ask my wife. Every time I saw it, I was annoyed. And I was even more annoyed because I actually joined before all the people who grabbed those other alternatives.
I recommend everyone who cares about their personal brand to at least secure your @FirstLast username on Twitter right away while you can. If you’re reading this, it may be too late though. Sorry.
So what can you do if you want a username that’s already taken? Well, you could just try to come up with another username. Or you can do what I did and try to secure it anyway. Here are the exact steps I followed to successfully secure my desired Twitter username @JosephPLiu, which had already been taken by someone else.
This process has no guarantees. In fact, my attempts did NOT work for me the first two times I tried, but with persistence, it eventually worked for me. I hope it can work for you too.
6 steps to secure your Twitter username if it’s already taken
1. Secure the corresponding Top Level Domain (TLD), ideally .COM
At the time of securing my username @JosephPLiu, I had secured josephpliu.com as my primary website. During my first couple of failed attempts to secure my username, I did NOT yet own my matching .COM website. So I’d recommend you secure your username.com. If the .COM isn’t available, you could try .net, .org, or another popular Top Level Domain (TLD). Try to get the .COM though because the .COM TLD is the most widely used and recognised TLD.
If you’re looking for a good domain registrar, I recommend Namecheap to my clients because it offers some of the most competitive purchase & renewal fees. I used to use GoDaddy. However, although their initial, first-year pricing is competitive, their ongoing renewal fees are higher, so you’ll save in the long run if you go with Namecheap.
If you need hosting, I highly recommend A2 Hosting, which has lightning fast servers and fantastic customer service along with reasonable fees. I switched from GoDaddy to A2 in 2017, and I’ll never go back. Also, A2 includes many things like SSL, domain privacy, and site backups for free, while GoDaddy charges additional fees for each of these. Note, these are affiliate links.
May 2019 Update: In 2019, I shifted to josephliu.co, which I now use as my primary domain because, well, it’s shorter. Also, the .CO TLD seemed to be more widely accepted as a credible, professional alternative to .COM according to Namecheap’s 2018 Domain Insights & Trends Report, where .CO was the #2 most popular ccTLD (country specific Top Level Domain) in H1 2018. They stated “.CO has become increasingly popular because it’s short, SEO friendly, and synonymous with ‘company.’” However, .COM is still king.
2. List that .COM as the primary site in your account
Edit your profile, and add this URL in as the main website.
3. Ensure the target username’s profile is inactive
Every time I checked the old @JosephPLiu Twitter account, it seemed completely dead and inactive. You ideally want your target username’s profile page to look something like this:
If there’s an egg in the profile, the person hasn’t Tweeted in years, and/or their followers of following numbers have been static for a long time, you may be in luck. Proceed to the next step. If the username you want is taken by someone who’s very active on Twitter, you’re probably out of luck. No need to ready further. Sorry 🙁
When I realised the old @JosephPLiu account had been inactive for years, I didn’t feel as bad about attempting to snatch it away. As a courtesy, I actually Tweeted to the user (this now shows my current username, but I tweeted from my old one):
@josephpliu, would you be open to allowing me to take over your Twitter username if you're not actively using it? -Joseph (please DM me)
— Joseph Liu (@JosephPLiu) November 23, 2016
I’m torn about whether you should flag your intentions to the person from whom you want the username. On the one hand, it’s a courteous thing to do. But on the other, it could just make that user bunker in. I’ll let you make your own judgement call on that.
4. File an impersonation claim with Twitter
You can report an account for impersonation with Twitter using this form.
Select: “An account is pretending to be me or someone I know” then, “I am being impersonated”
For “Username of the account you are reporting,” enter the username you want. “Your Username” is auto-filled in. In my case, I entered @JosephPLiu.
Enter your email. Now, in my case, my email had “josephpliu” in it, matching the same syntax as the username I wanted. I’m not sure if this makes any difference, but it can’t hurt.
In the “Anything else you’d like to tell us?” section, explain why you think you should get this username. I’d ensure you at least cover off:
- Why you should be the rightful owner
- The evidence suggesting the target username’s account is inactive
Here’s exactly what I wrote in case it’s helpful:
I included both my passport and driver’s license clearly showing my full name as supporting documents.
That’s it. Submit your info, and keep your fingers crossed. You’ll receive an immediate email from Twitter acknowledging your request.
5. Wait for an email from Twitter
If you’re lucky, and Twitter accepts your request, you will receive an email from Twitter. I heard back only 3 working days later with this email:
This makes me think you could be successful in doing this even if you don’t have an active Twitter account, but I’m not really sure.
6. Email Twitter back with your desired option
I immediately emailed them back, requesting option 1 above, stating:
“I already have a Twitter account, which is @JosephLiu_. I’d like to keep all my tweets and followers in place, but replace it with the username @josephpliu if possible.”
In 10 minutes, I received one final email from them stating the transfer had been completed:
HOORAY!!!!! No more underscore!!
BONUS TIP: Re-secure your old username & set up a forwarding message.
Your old username will be immediately released, so I’d recommend you be ready to grab it back up, at least temporarily, so that when people click on old Tweets or references that refer to your old profile username, people don’t end up landing on a dead page.
I would recommend you NOT user your full name on the old profile page to avoid confusing Google rankings, which you’ll want to favor your active account. I just put J Liu.
Just include a brief description indicating your new username in your profile description and a pinned Tweet if you want. You can see what I’ve done here at twitter.com/JosephLiu_. I may eventually cancel this account, but it’s a good for the temporary transition period.
Securing your desired profile URL allows you to have a more professional-looking handle, and also allow you to have a consistent personal branding across all your social media profile (I use @JosephPLiu across most my social media platforms including LinkedIn and YouTube).
Hope you found this useful. If it works for you, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Good luck!
Learn how to build a strong personal brand
Once you’ve secured your Twitter user names, if you want to learn more about how to build a strong personal brand using social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, or Medium, join my course on “Building a Strong Personal Brand to Land Your Next Dream Role.” In the course, you’ll learn:
- Powerful principles of branding
- A simple branding framework to build your own unique personal brand
- How to create a focused summary of your professional strengths
- Ways to reinforce your personal brand in your social media profiles and job hunting.
I offer this course at a special price to my website visitors, giving you lifetime access to the course for $149 (75% off regular $200). Preview the course and join today if you want to learn how to build your professional reputation and stand out to land your next dream role.
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