Friday, April 17, 2009

Best (and Worst) Twitter Usernames: My Favorites

Usernames are important on Twitter because unlike with email and web pages, messages are limited to 140 characters so the username is the most common way to identify a user. With email you see the full name in addition to the address. With domain names you have more flexibility with length and suffix, and these are not usually associated with a specific individual.

Don Reisinger of CNET wrote a useful article with Eight Twitter username tips. He provides sound, useful advice. However, now I will discuss what makes a username particular memorable and stand out among the crowd.

So what makes up for the best and worst usernames on Twitter? Here are my favorites, followed by ones I dislike.

Best: Coin Your Own Term, Start Your Own Movement

My favorite username, by far, belongs to professional athlete Rod Benson. Rod was a basketball player at my alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley, aka Cal. He has his own blog, Too Much Rod Benson, with his own take on professional basketball, trying to make it to the NBA, and life in general. He is also a contributing writer on Yahoo! Sports. How come he doesn't have more followers on Twitter? You have to follow this guy!
  • boomtho: Boom Tho is defined as "an occurrence of an uncommonly good thing" or "an exclamation or show of excitement". It even has the Boom Tho Movement spreading across the Internet and through the sports world.
Well, not everyone can coin their own term - or at least, it's rather difficult to come up with one that will take off, or even necessarily be that catchy. Certainly it is a rare thing to start your own movement! So what is a suitable alternative?

Best: Use Your Real Name, With A Twist

If you have a common name, or a short name, you can use a play on words to come up with something original, creative, and unique. Here are some examples of some popular Twitter users:
  • Mickipedia: My favorite example - bonus points for being a play on words of Wikipedia, which itself is a portmanteau.
  • sarahcuda: A common name turned in to an edgy and completely unique username.
  • CupCate: Cute and endearing, but not too cute. Food reference subliminally stimulates the appetite.
  • Scobleizer: Not a common name, but goes from simply a name to something that brings comic book hero gusto.
A couple more great examples - these are not popular, well-known users on Twitter, but they are a couple of my friends (so check them out!):
  • bryonium: Like with scobleizer, not a common name with that spelling, but goes from a simple name to something with that mad scientist sci-fi feel.
  • mofobes: What's better than Fobes? Mo' Fobes.

Best: Shortest Username
  • ev: Unfair advantage, Twitter co-founder. Same thing with biz.
  • om: It's his name, and a word, and part of the name of his company.
Bonus points for being easy/fast to type.

Worst: Redundant (Or Conceited) Self-Proclamation
  • iamdiddy: Yes. We know you are. No need to tell us.
  • itsparis: No. I wish it weren't. UPDATE: It's not really Paris Hilton. Hers is BabyGirlParis (what do you think, just as bad? Worse?), which provides a great lead in to the second part of my worst list:
  • Any username that professes something particularly conceited. I won't cite specific examples - in fact, I have not really seen users guilty of doing this. However, please don't do it! Hypothetically speaking, if you were to call yourself the world's best photographer, you would instantly lose credibility in my book. On the other hand, if you are an avid photographer or fan of photography (again, hypothetically speaking), I have no problem with something to the effect of "photo fan".
  • Exception to this rule: Non-obvious reference or facetious statement. Hypothetically, if the username is "JoesHouse", and Joe is a dog - that's cool with me. Also, Judah Friedlander declaring himself the Greatest Athlete In The World is obviously a joke and has the twist of irony.
Update: Now I think "itsparis" was brilliant, because it really wasn't!

Worst: Blatant Marketing Promoter Or Spammer

First it was junk mail. Then it was telemarketers. Next was e-mail spam. Then came IM and text message spam. Now spammers on Twitter follow you and try to get you to click on their links. It never ends.

Closing Words

The vast majority of accounts on Twitter are individuals that use their real name. I do so with my own personal account. It may not be original, but it is definitely convenient for all concerned because it makes it easier to remember, easier to spell/type, and easier to identify people.

The second major pattern is companies/organizations using their name (and not the name of individuals). This is less personal, but makes sense for branding and identification purposes. This is also effective because it can be updated by different people without causing confusion to consumers.

Finally, there are accounts that are for companies/organizations, but are represented by an individual. This is less common, and blurs the line between the person and the brand.

(Note: I currently have to give myself low marks for having ambiguous identity/branding, but I would like to turn TechRantAndRave in to an organization/company with its own branding, with multiple people contributing to it. So don't forget to follow me too!)

Overall I see a lot more accounts on Twitter that interest me and pique my curiosity, and very few that are a turn off. What are your favorites and dislikes? Let me know!

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