Welcome to the tenth installment of Twitter Tuesday. In the spirit of Twitter, this blog will be short and sweet and to the point. The tips offered here are all based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. If our goal is to build an author platform in the thousands to tens of thousands, then we will have to approach Twitter differently than a faceless corporation or even the regular person who does not possess a goal of becoming a brandwill help you rule the Twitterverse without devolving into a spam bot.
This Week’s Fail Whale–Cutesy Moniker Tweeter
When we are writers using social media to build a brand, the only acceptable Twitter handle is the name that will be printed on the front of our books…period. Too many writers are wasting valuable time by hiding behind cutesy or clever monikers. Our name is our brand.
I can already hear the screams of protest and gnashing of teeth. Sorry. I am going to save you a ton of time and extra work.
When we seek to be published this means we seek to be considered writing professionals. Professionals sell books that are listed by their names. If we are writing for a hobby, then we can be @funnywritergirl all we like. If we are writing for fun, we don’t have to worry about one day selling out our print run so we can get another book deal and quit that day job.
Danielle Steele, Stephen King, James Rollins, John Grisham, Amy Tan, Shephenie Meyers, Sandra Brown, J.K. Rowling, and Dan Brown all rely on their NAMES to sell millions of books. If we want to be like these mega-authors, then it is a good idea to act like them. Powerhouse authors are proud of their names and rely on their brands (names) to move a ton of books and bring home fat royalty checks.
I see a lot of writers on Twitter who post great content and are really wonderful people. I like them and want to support their work, but I cannot go to Barnes & Noble and pick up a book by @author_girl, @vampyre_mistress or @thrillerguy.
What I love are the social media folk who claim to know how to teach authors about branding, but their handle is something akin to @authorsuccesscoach.
Um…yeah. Sorry, can’t buy your book on BRANDING under the name @authorsuccesscoach.
And, hey, I have made all the dumb mistakes so you don’t have to. When I started on social media, I was texaswriterchik until one day it dawned on me that my followers might love me and my content (blogs), but they couldn’t go to Amazon and find a book by texaswriterchik. And I was being awfully self-serving to think that followers were going to drop everything to:
1. Find a computer.
2. Log into Twitter.
3. Find one of my tweets.
4. To click on my profile.
5. To get my name.
6. To buy my books.
I made the sale too hard! There were too many competing authors smart enough to use THEIR NAME. *slaps forehead*
When we hide behind clever monikers we are wasting valuable time and energy. We are frittering away the most powerful marketing tool we have…the “top of mind.” Every time our followers see our name float by linked to great content, it is an opportunity to link our name interminably with that content.
For instance, those who follow me on Twitter know that @KristenLambTX is all about social media for writers. How? Because every time I tweet, I link my NAME to my content over and over and over.
The earlier we start the better. So if you are on Twitter to build a brand and you happen to have a cutesy moniker, change it. And yes, your name is probably taken. Mine was too, which is why I am @KristenLambTX. I could have also been @KristenLamb007 and given myself a license to kill. You can preserve your name with a smidge of creativity.
This Week’s Twitter Tip–Your Name is Your Handle
Put your name out there. We are on Twitter to create relationships and friendships. Do you make your real life friends call you @fantasy_writer? Then why do it to your Twitter pals?
Trust me. Twitter peeps are the people who help us build a worldwide following. They should at least know our name. The more often our name appears linked to positive and valuable content, the stronger our brand becomes.
All a brand is is a name linked to content.
When you see Ragu, that NAME is linked to pasta sauce.
When you see FedEx, that NAME is linked to overnight shipping.
When people see Stephen King, that NAME is linked to NY Times Best-Selling Horror.
When people see our NAME, what do they think? We are responsible for defining that WHAT…which is brand.
Tweet ya later!
Kristen, just want to say that your book has weaned me off the drug of complexity. It’s gonna be a long and winding road, but I gotta get clean. Starting with name is brand is identity.
p.s. confessions of a multi-personality author on my blog
When I see writers using monikers instead of the name that will be on their work, I get the immediate impression that they aren’t ready to come out of the closet. I don’t know. Maybe they haven’t broken the news to their families, yet, or they are afraid of success. Whatever the reason, they aren’t ready for me to buy their books.
Our twitter handle is our cyber-handshake. A name looks us in the eye and has a firm hand. It says, “I’m ready to engage.” A moniker is a limp grip and a glance at our shoes. It lacks the confidence of someone who believes in his work.
I would add one tip. Don’t have a name like @AloiciousAlexanderHumperdink. Something that long with a message behind it is too long to easily retweet and will limit your followers in what they can do for you.
Thanks for a great post, Kristen.
I think Piper would have suggested @KristenLambDEATHSTAR, LOL. But maybe that’s taken. 😉
My name is more common than dirt, unfortunately.
Names do not make us unique. Content does. Stephen King is not an unusual name. Neither is Dan Brown. What is unusual, authentic and awesome is CONTENT. And @KristenLambDEATHSTAR was a tad too long :D.
@piper, you got that right.
I had a slap my head moment too! I changed to the name I want on my books. Great post, as usual.
I am still too shy to go all into the open. I just read another blogger, who is so worried as he has been using his name, that he might have screwed up completely. His audience apparently is not the one it is supposed to be. What if you think of changing your focus all of the sudden? Does it not look weird to have this under one name? Real names are easily dismissed, and the person behind it. Just take a look at the celebrity hype. Okay, we are not celebrities (yet), but you do or die with your name, no other option given.
His content is the only thing I can see that would mess people up. This is why I advise formulating a plan before getting on social media or blogging. Too many people go into this half-cocked with no agenda and that costs a lot of wasted duplicated effort.
Frankly, I don’t know why people are so afraid of putting their name out there. What do you think will be on the front of your books? This is like opening a restaurant and refusing to put a sign up because then people will know you are there. Yes, we are putting ourselves out there. That goes with being in the entertainment industry. It is part of the job. But when we don’t build our name and make it synonymous with great content…then we are basically PLANNING to fail. And that is a hell of a lot of work to put into a sinking ship doomed for the ocean floor.
I’m still sort of shocked to see (even published) authors use all sorts of odd nicknames. *shrugs* Maybe I’m not that shy about using my name to promote myself, but to me that seems like one of the very basic of basics.
(and it sure is annoying to have to think “who’s that again?” whenever you interact with people with nicknames. I don’t have an endless memory for nicknames.)
Thanks for the post, Kristen!
This has become my opinion for almost every website I post on. If I’m being ‘professional’ I use my real name. It’s easier, keeps me honest, and much more enjoyable to be known as me.
My two cents, at least.
While it does bode well to primarily use your name to enable consumers, I chose my concept of Writer Wellness instead of my name because in this case it puts the emphasis on the consumer and the brand I’m trying to promote rather than being all about me. My brand is all about the consumer in my mind. The whole concept of writer wellness is to empower the writer.
But in the case of fiction, your principles are solid advice.
Actually in NF it is just as important, if not more important to build a name. Dr. Phil, Tosca Reno, Oprah, Dave Ramsey, Zig Ziglar to name a few. I can appreciate wanting to make the concept paramount, but it is not in our best interests (as the author) to make people look for books specifically by concept. Then we open ourselves up to possibly losing the sale to another author.
I would still put your name with your concept. It is a “top of mind” thing. My advice would be to make is Joy Held-Writer Wellness, because as is people see “writerwellness”over and over…but no name. Now they have to look up the name. And, you risk losing a sale to another author. Our name must be linked with our product or we are a jar of pasta sauce with no label and that will limit how far our sales can grow.
I love your content and you are my fellow author at WDW Pub. But I have to admit that I have to double check the spelling of your name every time I promote you since I don’t see it all the time like Amy’s. I see “writerwellness.”
I think I understand what you mean, Joy. But I think you’re looking at it from your own point of view rather than the consumer’s point of view. That would be akin to trying to brand a can of soup as ‘Tasty Soup’ rather than Campbell’s. Which would you be more likely to remember?
Yeah– this is a mistake I made when I started on Twitter. My first handle was @Iwhodareswins because @BobMayer was taken. I used that for about six months before I realized how dumb it was. Then I found that @Bob_Mayer was available so that’s now my handle. I still see so many people with weird handles and pictures of their dog as their avatar. Some of them claiming to be social media experts and advertising their consulting services to writers, which really makes me wonder.
I think those who use their real name have more credibility than someone who hides behind an alias. It also forces them to take responsibility for what they say.
Kristen you’re killing me! In the last two weeks I’ve changed the signature in my blog to my name. I changed the gravatar and my twitter icon for my picture. I even have a picture of me in my blog now. Piper is totally right, is fear, but thanks to Kristen I’m working on it before I have a book to sell, so just stay put, I’ll be totally out by then.
Fear to what you may ask, I think it this whole privacy paranoia. I don’t even like to place many pictures on facebook. What I’ve understood since reading this blog is that I’m trying to make a writing career and nobody is going to know I exist inside my dungeon, therefore nobody is going to buy my books, therefore my 9-5 is not going to go away… duh!
*Sigh* alright, when I get home I’ll change my twitter handle. I can’t do it from work. I’m amazed they have not blocked wordpress yet, LOL! and the few tweets I can squeeze I do it from my phone.
and yes, I’m going to change the name of my blog, I’m working on it dang it!! LOL!
Seriously, you don’t know how much I appreciate you!
Hi Kristen! Good point. When I registered, I actually tried to use my name-Marian Pearson Stevens, but it was too long–I don’t think it let me. I shortened it to MarianPS, and provided my website link on the profile. Does this sound right or am I missing something? Am I doing enough? I’m still learning my way . . . Thanks for the post!
No…you need to keep the last name. People will look for your book alphabetically by last name. MarianPStevens is a better choice. The way you currently have it, you are forcing a potential consumer to have to stop everything and look up your name.
I have bought books on impulse simply because I recognized the name as an author I knew off Twitter and I wanted to spend a couple of buck to support them. You will lose that impulse buy if people don’t know your last name.
How would I even begin to change this? Is 14 letters the limit? Would MPS-MarianPStevens work? Would I lose my follows/followers I’ve accumulated thus far? Thanks for your input, Kristen!
JUst find one that has your last name and you will be fine. Most people will catch on just fine. The only thing that will change is the name. Your account will remain the same. I do recommend that you just keep the same pic/avatar for a couple of months. So long as you don’t do something drastic like change the name and the pic at the same time, most people will barely notice.
I did a little checking around, and found this: http://www.digitalkonline.com/blog/bid/34243/Change-your-Twitter-Name-Keep-Your-Followers
It looks like it should work. (Once you’ve found a name you like). Good luck!
KB–thanks so much for taking the time to reply! I’ll check into this!
Like Les says, just go to account settings and change the handle. You don’t need to start over. But what a great resource if someone had to!
Why do I always feel like your Twitter posts are picking on me?
I do agree with Piper on not being ready to come out of the closet. My blogs and twitter account were made back before I wanted anyone to know about my secret desire — the one that makes me sit in a room all by myself with nothing but a laptop to keep me company. Now that I’m thinking about a releasing a book (gasp) and my brand, it’s probably time to put on the big kid pants and present myself like a professional.
And I know what you’re thinking. Not “probably”. Definitely. Thanks for the reminder.
Okay, I changed my username on twitter to my brand….but I’ve still never tweeted anything. Baby steps.
I just ordered WANA today….I can’t wait to read in addition to our online workshop!
Yes! Use the name you want to be known as. Totally agree 100 % – I was lucky that nobody had yet used AlannahMurphy so I was the first, and I use the same photo I use in Facebook and my blog. It’s easy to hide under a cutesy name and not have your photo out there but if you want to be a writer, these are things that have to be done. In my previous blog, I didn’t use a photograph, and I think that can sometimes make people wonder: “Who’s writing this?”
Thank you. Thank you! I’ve been preaching this for months, and it’s great to get back-up from a pro.
I am so guilty of this as Kangaroobee, but I have a reason for it. There are so many professionals out there, writers too called Catherine Johnson I just didn’t want to get mixed up with them. Once someone knows me well as Kangaroobee I try to comment as Catherine Johnson and I have my name right at the top of my blog too. The thing is once you do this it is very hard to change to your name. I totally agree with you, maybe I should have chosen to simply add my middle name, too late now.I do have my photo on everything though not a kangaroo if that helps 🙂
You can change it. I did. Kristen Lamb is NOT that unique of a name. In fact, there is a HUGE media personality named Kristen Lamb. I just had to make myself the Kristen Lamb social media for authors. This blog was originally WarriorWriters. Look at the URL. I still feel you need to get that name in the title of your blog or it is a lot of work for nothing.
Great Post! I have one comment on the name thing. If you register your name with Google, your name will be reserved for you on every social media site. I have a friend who did this with his stage name, Jnspire. (I’ve never done it because MaLinda is pretty rare). Have a great day!! 😀
Ooh interesting thanks Kristen.
*blushes* I’m only halfway out of the closet. My blog still has title rather than my name and my Twitter handle only has my last initial. I’m edging closer to being fully out there. It seems to me that it won’t be too difficult to make the transition to my full name when the time comes. At least, I hope that’s the case.
I agree with having my Twitter handle be my real name. I get so annoyed when I try to search for someone on Twitter and can’t find them because of their moniker. Fortunately, my name wasn’t taken. (There is another Laura Droege on Facebook, though; I may have to friend her!) I think I’ll change the name of my blogs. I hope that’s not too hard!
Well, changing the names of the blogs was easy. So now it’s Laura Droege’s blog and Laura Droege’s book reviews. Now off to google myself and see what turns up.
It might take a couple of days to change, but that will help. Plaster your name on everything you can. Also make sure your name is in all your blog tags.
Wow, I never thought of using it in my blog tags. Thanks for that advice! Off to do that now, too.
Done and done. When I made the switch I learned there are about two dozen Clay Morgans out there. Bozos I say. So I copied you and went with my state rather than a number after my name. Of course, if you had been KristenLamb007 I would’ve know to hire you to take out the impostors using my name.
Even though I knew you were in Pennsylvania, Clay, I kept thinking the “PA” was something else: “I’m a PA!” (hands out cigars), or “public accountant” but not “certified” for some weird reason, or “pissed adjunct” (which would have been me, but that’s another blog ;))
Wow, what a let-down.
ok, just kidding 😀
This was an interesting concept. Fortunately, I won’t have a problem using my name for two reasons. First, I’m the only one with this name in the world (where I came from, Lubag isn’t even a common name and my first name is also rare). Second, I’m not yet famous. What’s in a name? The reason why Romeo and Juliet can’t be together. 😉 Montagues had been branded as the enemies of the Capulets.
For me, I don’t know what to brand myself in. Right now I’m still working on a lot of self-help contents. I’m also working on my novel. Getting there but not there yet.
If only I had known about this before I married a man with such a long last name! Sadly, @CatherineGillespie is too long for Twitter so I’m @chgillespie, although I’m not sure that’s any better for branding since “ch” is not what will be on my book cover either. What do you suggest for long-named people?
Modify it if you can to @CHGillespie. Gillespie is the most important part since that is how people will find your books. Looks fine to me. I would just caps those first letters to make that surname POP. Ever considered @CatGillespie? That would be memorable.
I had considered CatGillespie (some of my friends call me Cat anyway) but wasn’t sure if it was quite right, but then after your comment I reconsidered and decided to try it out. I went on a long Twitter hiatus last year, I think in part because I didn’t like the chgillespie handle, so hopefully this will get me back on track. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my question!
It’s probably also a good idea to use the same handle everywhere, something I’ve tried to do. Unfortunately when it came to Twitter, my name was already taken along with many of the common variations so I used a variation that was a bit too different. Now nobody knows me there. So I have been thinking for awhile about changing it.
There are some decent choices available:
LesHowardCA – I’m in Canada but would people mistake that for California? That’s 3000 miles away.
Les_Howard – not something I can type easily because my fingers can’t seem to find the underline character and I’m not a very good touch typist. I grew up in the BK era – Before Keyboards.
Les-Howard – this I like but will other people remember it’s a dash and not an underline?
I’d appreciate everybody’s thoughts and opinions.
I don’t see anything wrong with the first one, I changed mine to catherine_j3 because everything with c johnson was taken, unless I do the same as you and put CA for Canada at the end. I’ve got to get my surname in their somehow still.
The surname is the most important, again, since this is how people will find your books. A number is fine too. People will only pay attention to the name. I have been KristenLamb99 in certain forums (I graduated TCU in 99).
You could try adding “writer” or “author” after your name, like I did: @kbowenwriter. @LesHowardwriter or @LHowardwriter could work. A little long, though. The only drawback for me is that some people think my last name is “bowen” instead of “owen.” That’s why my blog is “K.B. Owen’s blog.”
I like the Les_Howard, and it isn’t like you are going to message yourself that much :D.
I chose a pseudonym as my handle because my real name is terribly common and I have a career (under my real name) in a completely unrelated field. But Crista Ayers is who I’ve branded myself in the writing world. I’m using it for Twitter, my blog, and I have a google account with it. When I branch out to other sites, that’s the name I will use. I spent time picking out my pen name, finding one that wasn’t used on twitter, or any big celebrity. I’m actually the only Crista Ayers (with that particular spelling) I could find. But it’s an easy name that people can remember and pronounce.
When I first started on Twitter, my name was taken, but low and behold, three years later it is suddenly available! I did not like being known as Maryjog. Yuk. Now I can tweet to my heart’s content with my real name. @Maryjogibson. Now all I have to do is wait for wordpress to recover and figure out how to change my blog name without crashing their system.
Good advice Kristen, and something I have to take care of myself (I’m bizzliz1 on Twitter!) Nothing to do with my own name! My name is so common though, so I may have a problem.
I’ve read through every single comment here and there is so much valuable and useful information in them.
It’s always a pleasure to read your posts.
If anyone wants to change their Twitter name, go to the Settings>Account page. It also has a helpful FAQ there that says this:
“Change your Twitter user name anytime without affecting your existing tweets, @replies, direct messages, or other data. After changing it, make sure to let your followers know so you’ll continue receiving all of your messages with your new user name”.
Fantastic Article. Some of the best solutions are the most simple.
Kristen, your advice is spot on! Right now I am taking an MBA class called personal branding and my professor has said the same thing. Leave the cutesy handles for the teenagers and use your name instead. Now I have everything from my blog to my landing page with my name on it.
My pen name was taken so I thought I’d try the cutsey route along with my picture. Started getting weird stalkers (guys), so I changed my avatar to a boat. Flattering at first considering my shelf life is half over, but mostly annoying. I decided not to put my real name out there after that. The boat avatar has stopped the requests. My profile says young adult author, my brand relates to being an author, and my list consists of literary followings. Twitter so far, has not been a pleasant experience. I’ve gone back to blogging, feeling safe within my “blog blanket.” Can you remove a Twitter account? Maybe if I opened a new account?
Your tweets are what are attracting the weirdos, not the profile (for the most part). Just keep blocking and reporting them. And watch what you talk about. Likely they are using word filters to spam you. When I recently purchased a Mac computer, I deliberately wrote “Ma_c Comp-uter” when I talked about my new laptop to the spam bots couldn’t pick up on me.
GRrrrrrr! I hate being so busy that I miss my favorite blogger days in a row!
Loved this post and Tweeted it. Our name is our brand, and our brand helps get readers to notice us!!
Thanks for your wisdom.
Have a fabulous day!
I’m struggling a bit with my avatar. My fiction is dark humor and my author name is androgynous. Difficult to know what sort of image is suitable.
That’s a whole other blog, but I think writers who are serious need to use a picture of themselves. Best-selling authors don’t have kittens or landscapes on the backs of their books. Professionals stand out because they use a picture. Follow any NYTBSA and guarantee you they use a professional headshot. I used a picture I took myself for a long time (but oddly it was a pretty good picture). At the first opportunity, though, I got a professional headshot.
Previously, I didn’t post under my real name, but, it wasn’t because I was in the writing closet. I felt like it was a matter of safety. A lot of women probably worry about this. But, I would like to point out something very important that I learned from Kristen’s book: It is good and fine for me to be @GraceHLewis on twitter and put my full name is on my blog, but I try my best not to put specific information about where I live (the name of my building, streets nearby, distinguishing features, or pictures), whether my husband is out of the country for a week, or other information that would make me physically vulnerable. She also makes good points about posting our birthdays and other things that would make it easy for someone to encroach on our identities. Thanks, Kristen, for teaching us how we can own our brand and still protect ourselves 🙂
Good advice, Grace. When I first started on Facebook, I made a deal with my husband that I would offer no specifics regarding our family or unnecessarily advertise where we live. People really need to be more careful what they put on Facebook and other places (full birthdays, hometowns, vacation plans) anyway; don’t make it easier for identity thieves to steal our identities.
It isn’t our names that give predators the information…often WE do it by not being vigilant.
Thanks for all the valuable information you post on your blog. I read it and your tweets regularly. I’m one of the lucky ones who had an available name–carolsilvis. I use it for my website, my blog, my email address, and my twitter name. As a nonfiction book author, I agree that it helps “establish” me in the minds of consumers. Your suggestions are spot on for anyone who is trying to create an author’s platform.
Since I publish under the full three names, I was just wondering whether you’d recommend ReneeCHall, rcarterhall, or RCarterHall (the variations on my name that are currently available). Thanks!
Just pick the one you like. We will see it over and over and get used to it. You train us ;).
Lots of great discussion here. Thanks for the help.
One other thing that catches me is when someone uses all lower case. It’s helpful to the reader if you capitalize your first and last name (and initials if they’re included).
For example – I don’t mean to pick on Crista because several others have also done it but it is a very good example – when I first read cristaayers I had to re-read it several times to interpret it. If it were spelled CristaAyers I’d have understood it immediately and it would be easier to remember.
Of course you should never use all upper case.
WHY NOT??? WHAT? YOU THINK I AM YELLING AT YOU OR SOMETHING? 😀 Good point. Just had to take that opportunity to be a smarta$$.
or unless you’re OWEN MEANY!