If you're renaming or rebranding your business (or yourself, for that matter), and consequently need to change your Twitter username, you can do so without losing your followers.
You'll also want to visit the Profile tab to update your picture and bio. In the bio section, it's wise to let your followers know—for the next few weeks, at least—that you've changed your account username, and that you'll continue to receive all of their @replies and direct messages at your new username.
Financial journalist Vince Veneziani decided to switch the name of his Twitter handle to @GreatestTrades ahead of the launch of his first book titled, appropriately enough, The Greatest Trades of All Time.
Veneziani says he didn't lose any noticeable number of followers when he changed his name, but it did take "a month or so before everyone officially recognized who I was again in their stream." Since then, the new handle has helped build sales and name recognition, as well as attract new followers, he says.
Likewise, fashion startup Have to Have was compelled to change its Twitter handle after changing its name from WingTipIt. The young company leveraged several channels, including e-mail, Twitter and Facebook, to alert existing users and the online fashion community at large about its rebranding efforts.
Cofounder Carla Holtze says it was a "tough decision…to move to a brand and a name that better represented our company," but the feedback has been so overwhelmingly positive that it was worth the pain. "We have far more followers on Twitter than we had before," she adds.
What to do if your desired Twitter handle is taken
Not infrequently, businesses find that someone has already registered the Twitter handle of their company's name.
If the account is active and the user is not impersonating your brand—even if you hold a trademark on the name—there's little you can do. If someone is pretending to speak on behalf of your company, you have a few options.
First, you should try to contact the holder of the account in question by sending a tweet or finding a link to his or her contact details in the account bio.
If you're unable to contact the holder, you can then try to work through Twitter to gain possession of the account.
Twitter says they will suspend an account and notify the account holder "where there is a clear intent to mislead others through the unauthorized use of a trademark."
If, however, an account appears to be confusing users, "but is not purposefully passing itself off as the brand/company/product," the account holder will be notified and allowed to keep the account if he or she clears up any potential confusion.
If the account is inactive altogether, Twitter says it "may also release a username for the trademark holder's active use."
If you aren't able to get the name you want, it's time to get creative. Think of a way to represent your name in more or fewer characters, or add an underscore. Just don't let the obstacle keep you off Twitter altogether.