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How to pick the right username

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by Staff Writer

Username and password fields on a computer screen with a lock symbol.

This post has been modified to reflect new information since its original publication.

Virtually every site you create an account on will ask you to choose a username. Sometimes this can be your email address, or you might be required to use your real name or a made-up pseudonym. However, the username you choose can have professional and personal implications for your online reputation, and it’s worth taking a moment to choose something that will reflect well on you. Don’t squander job opportunities or business connections because of a poor username or display name.

Should you use your real name for a username or display name?

Several of the sites where potential employers or business contacts are likely to look for you require you to use your real name. Facebook and LinkedIn are probably the most prominent of these, so you want to present a professional image on these sites. Don’t try to get creative with some derivative of your name, just stick to your real first and last names. This will help the right people find you and prevent misunderstandings.

On sites that allow users to enter anything as a username, you need to decide the level of anonymity you need for the service. If you ultimately want to enable friends, business contacts, family, and others to easily find you online, it might be a good idea to use your real name. If you have a public profile on the site, using your real name can also help your online reputation: if the site shows up in your search results, it gives you that much more control over the image you project to others online.

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The reverse is also true. If you need an account on a site that you don’t want associated with your online reputation, don’t use your real name or a common derivative of it. You want to avoid having a Google search of your name lead to these profiles. Try to pick something completely unrelated to your name that you’ll be able to remember. For example, if you like to fish, you might go with something like “troutfisher.”

Be ready if your name is taken

Millions of people use the Web, so you may not be able to get a username that matches your real name. If this is the case, add some additional qualifying factor, such as:

  • Your middle initial
  • For professionals such as doctors or lawyers, you can attach a prefix or suffix to your name: e.g. “JohnDoeMD”
  • Numbers, though keep it simple and avoid using the year you were born. Exposing your birth year may create privacy vulnerabilities and makes it easy for people to judge you for being too old or too young.

Keep the name clean

If you’re choosing a username that might be seen in a professional context, keep it clean and straightforward. Nobody wants to hire “SexyGirl69” or “420Toker.” These names might be fun among friends, but they do not look good on a resume or at a trade show. Choosing vulgar names reflects poorly on your judgment and professionalism.

Incorporate your personal brand

If you’re joining a website to promote your business, incorporate your brand and expertise into your username, leveraging name recognition. If you’re the Mattress King of the Midwest, keep your username closely tied to that slogan: e.g., “MidwestMattressKing” or “MattressKingoftheMidwest.”

Use your username consistently

For sites that you want to appear in your search results, try to use the same or a similar username. The more often you use the same name online, the more likely it is to rank in the Google search results for your name.

If you are looking to establish, improve, or otherwise control your online reputation, ReputationDefender can help you project the right image across usernames, social media profiles, and a whole host of other websites. Contact us to learn more.