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February 25, 2014

Like all my colleagues at ChatterBlast, I spend my days critiquing, promoting and advising on social media. We talk about everything from what kind of voice to use on business accounts to how to craft targeted advertising campaigns to drive website traffic. Social media is our sport and we practice for 40 hours a week. So it’s not often that I find myself fretting over my own social media presence.

One thing I tell clients looking to launch new social media platforms is that they should stay consistent when it comes to naming their accounts. Although it’s important to keep your brand name consistent across all platforms—you don’t want your customers and community members to have to remember different ways to contact you—it’s especially important for Instagram and Twitter, because the accounts integrate so closely. (How many times have you pushed an Instagram picture to Twitter only to find out your friend has different names on both accounts—so annoying!) If you’re @BusinessName on Twitter, you should be @BusinessName on Instagram, too.

But when I looked at my own accounts, I realized I wasn’t taking my own advice. While I’m @errrica on Twitter, I’m @ericapalan on Instagram. I wasn’t practicing what I preach. I, the social media professional, was that annoying friend.

First: I panicked. What kind of impression am I giving my past, present and future clients if I wasn’t representing the best practices I so strongly encourage them to use? Then, I started to think about whether this is a rule that is hard and fast. Is there ever a good reason to have different names for different platforms? What’s REALLY in a name?

I started digging—and it turns out some of the world’s biggest brands don’t always have matching handles. Take a look:

Quintessential athletic publication, Sports Illustrated shares breaking news and other journalism as @SInow on Twitter, but uses the handle @SportsIllustrated on Instagram.

ChatterBlast’s hometown football team, the Philadelphia Eagles are @Eagles on Twitter, where they are the official source for all information on our beloved Birds. But over on Instagram, they go by @PhiladelphiaEagles, where they share images and videos from both on and off the field. (I just love this fan video!)

None of these brands are irreparably harmed by having different handles. In fact, they’ve got thousands upon thousands of dedicated followers. By any metric, these brands seem to be thriving despite their incongruous names.

So while it’s definitely the best practice to keep consistent naming conventions, there are times when exceptions can—and SHOULD—be made. Here’s some reasons why you might want to deviate from the best practices:

  1. Your desired name is already taken. In an ideal world, the second your hear about a new social network, you take 15 minutes to explore it and sign up your business’s preferred handle. But we all know the world isn’t always ideal. When this happens, you work with what you’ve got and try to get the most logical name possible.
  2. You’ve already built a brand under an alternative name. This is my personal dilemma. I’d love to switch my Twitter over to be @ericapalan, but I’ve been linking @errrica everywhere for more than five years and I’ve been approached by strangers who only know me by my handle. After careful thought, I’ve decided my personal brand of @errrica currently outweighs the convenience reasons

    to switch.

  3. You’re trying to build a different community on each platform. Though most brands use all social media networks simultaneously to curate the biggest, most engaged community possible, sometimes it makes sense to segregate your community a bit. For example, an organization in the healthcare industry might use their Twitter account to reach medical professionals, but use Instagram as a way to showcase patient success stories.

As with any big marketing decision, it’s important to look at your brand’s goals and make the choice that will help you achieve that goal efficiently, creatively and wisely.

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About the Author

Erica Palan

Erica is ChatterBlast's resident cat lady and the adoptive mother of Banana, our office fish. Her hobbies include reading (quickly), running (slowly) and listening to Bruce Springsteen (loudly).

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