Whilst at SLA 2011 (noticing a theme with how the recent blog entries are beginning?!) I gradually became more confident at introducing myself, and often ended a conversation by enquiring if the other party was on Twitter or had a blog – cue business card swap. One problem I quickly realised, and was accentuated by talking to fellow ECCAs, was that my Twitter and blog name didn’t make any sense. It was just a string of letters and numbers that once formed the first part of my university email address. When I set it up, I was intending to primarily to follow, not tweet so presumed that the name did not matter. I quickly realised I would get a lot more out of Twitter if I contributed, and waded in without thinking about my online identity. The name problem spread when I started my blog – I felt that the most important factor was keep the same name to identify a clear link between my Twitter and blog. Upon my return from Philadelphia I have been riding a wave of library excitement, and decided to finally get round to fixing the situation. Below, I have outlined the process I went through, and some tips for changing/creating an online name.
1. Actually think of a new name. This was the crux of the problem. When I first joined Twitter etc, I did not give my name any thought. I just used the first thing that popped into my head. Thats a bad idea, and the reason why I ended up as shw34. To arrive at my new name, LibWig (you can decide if it is any better!), I did the following…
- Ignored online name generators – they are of little use, producing generic strings of letters and numbers, some not too dissimilar to what I had before.
- Get a pen and paper! Write down all the words you think emphasise what you want to say about yourself. For me, this was primarily stuff to do with libraries, mixed in with my name, such as library, libraries, 2.0, information, knowledge, biblio etc.
- Cross out words that you do not like the sound of. You’ll be saying your name to potential co-workers and employers, you have to like how it sounds. It also needs to roll off the tongue easily, else you will just confuse conversations!
- Take the first end end parts of names, and string them together in as many ways as possible. Hopefully they should produce something of use.
- Google these names – many that made my shortlist were quickly ruled out when they were either taken on Twitter already, or on another blogging platform with a presence far greater than mine. I wanted to avoid confusion with these other people, so avoided the names.
- Contemplate just using your full name! Unfortunately, it seems I have quite a popular name on social networking sites, so all variations of my name that I liked were taken. I contemplated using underscores and numbers, but as the whole point of my name revision was to make it simpler to say and type, I wanted to avoid these if possible.
2. Actually change your Twitter name.
- Big tip for when you do this, update your bio just before you change the username, as your old name and bio will exist concurrently for a short amount of time. If you can explain in your old bio that you are changing your name, it will help your followers if they come across your old twitter.
- Put out a few tweets including your old name and your new name in the same tweet to help people identify who you were, and who you are now.
- Consider reserving your old Twitter username to prevent it being taken by someone else and associating themselves with you.
3. Consider your ‘new look’, but don’t change it too quickly.
- I thought about altering my Twitter picture at the same time as my name, and creating a whole new ‘look’. I decided against this when I thought about how I read my tweets. I keep an eye out for certain people’s conversations, and I do this primarily not by looking for their name in the text, but by scanning my feed for their picture. Keeping my eggs will hopefully help people identify that I’m the same person as shw34. Plus, I do quite like my eggs. They are a good metaphor for a lot things. Maybe over time, when people have become used to the new name, then the eggs might be upgraded to a picture of yours truly.
4. Update your blog name, if you want it to match. Remember, if you have done your checks properly as per point 1, a domain should be free to move your blog to, or create from scratch. I’m on wordpress.com, which made it easy to migrate my content across. I’m sure there are plenty of guides out there for other blogging platforms too.
- First, from within wordpress, I’d recommend downloading an XML file of your blog content, just in case the unthinkable happens and all your hard work vanishes. To do so, click on ‘Tools’ in the left panel, select ‘Export’ and save your file. You can also use this to upload to other blogging platforms I think, should you wish to change provider.
- When changing your username, you have several options. For a quick overview, take a look at the WordPress.com video. I chose to move my content to my new address – libwig.wordpress.com – and create a new, blank blog in the old address. This meant I could create a page explaining to people that I have moved, and where they can find me. Bear in mind, if you choose to discard the old usename, you cannot recover it, ever. It might therefore be better to create a blank site with the old address, and then just make it private just in case you change your mind. On the plus side, no one else will be able to use that name, so don’t worry about another blog making use of your old site traffic.
5. Update your links
- All links to your old site will become dead. You can pay for a wordpress.com upgrade of $12 to map your new domain and automatically forward any users across. I haven’t used this, instead deciding to work my way back through all links to my site in the site stats, contacting other sites and blogs to inform them that due to my change in URL, their link is dead and invite them to update it. Remember to apologise for the inconvenience though! You’ll also have to publicize your change in address, but creating a blank site explaining that you have moved will help.
- Also remember to update your blog link in your Twitter address or anywhere else that you have it!
- Update any business cards you have to reflect the new address!
6. Pick your timing for when you alter your name etc.
- I have chosen to update my name, somewhat foolishly, after handing out lots of business cards at a conference with my old name and blog address on. In an ideal world, I would have altered this prior to the conference, however as explained above, I did not see it as an issue back then. I’ve decided to do it this weekend prior to the New Professionals Conference in the hope that anyone who hears me speak will then associate me with my new name.
- My blog is still in relative infancy too. Were I to wait until it had matured, updating links and contacting other sites would have been a lot more laborious. I think I would have opted for the $12 wordpress.com redirect if that were the case! If you are considering a change, maybe do it sooner rather than later, just incase you hit the big time and it becomes too difficult to alter.