What Does “Instagram Handle” Mean?

An Instagram handle is the unique username that identifies you on Instagram. It’s how people search for you and tag you. Here’s the thing; there are more than a billion active users on Instagram.

If your handle doesn’t stand out, it’s going to be hard for people to find you. In many ways, your handle is similar to a business name. It needs to be catchy, and at the same time convey your brand.

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So, how do you choose an Instagram handle that will attract new followers? In this guide, we’ll talk about what an Instagram handle is, and how you create one. We’ll discuss why it’s crucial to choose a good handle, and what makes one better than another. We’ll also go over how you can change an existing handle. After we’ve talked about those and other things, you should have a better handle on the subject. Let’s get started, and see what we learn!

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What is an Instagram Handle?

Think of a handle as a username – that’s basically what it is. Much like a username on any other service, each one has to be unique. Keep in mind that this is not the same as an Instagram name. Take a look at someone’s Instagram profile. Their handle will be at the top in big letters, right next to the Follow button. It will also be the last part of the URL for their profile page. The Instagram name is in smaller lettering, further down the profile, just above the bio.

There are two differences between your handle and your Instagram name. Your handle belongs to you, and nobody else can use it. Your name, however, does not have to be unique. This is helpful for users who aren’t able to use their own name as a handle. For example, suppose your name is John Smith, and you get stuck with JSmith49ersFan as a handle. You could still set your Instagram name to “John Smith.”

But Instagram handles are also functional, while names are not. To begin with, people use your handle to tag you in pictures, stories, and videos. For example, if you were going to tag Nerd Techy on Instagram, you’d type “@nerdtechy,” not “@Nerd Techy.”

Because your handle is part of your profile’s URL, changing it also changes your link. By comparison, changing your Instagram name has no effect on your profile URL. Finally, your handle is what shows up when someone searches for you with the magnifying glass icon. Your Instagram name only shows up on your profile page. It also shows up in likes, as well as lists of story viewers.

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How to Create an Instagram Handle

You’ll need to create an Instagram handle during the account creation process. You don’t have to get it perfect at first, but it’s best to come up with the strongest name you can. Here are the basic requirements for an Instagram handle:

  • It cannot be longer than 30 characters.
  • It can contain only letters, numbers, underscores, and periods. It cannot contain spaces or any other symbols.
  • It must be unique.

Finding a unique handle will probably be the hardest part. Considering how many handles are already taken, you may have to try several variants. Don’t get discouraged; you’ll eventually find something that works.

Why Is Your Instagram Handle Important?

Your handle is important for several reasons. Most significantly, it’s the way people find you on Instagram. If you want to grow your followers list, you want a handle that’s both catchy and easy to remember. And if you’re an influencer or brand, it should boost brand awareness. The most obvious example is using your business name as your handle. This would make you very easy to track down.

A good Instagram handle will deliver the following benefits:

  • Make you easier to find on Instagram.
  • Distinguish your brand from other profiles in its niche.
  • Make it easy for people to tag you with “@” mentions.
  • Give people an idea of what your profile is about.

If all you want to do is keep up with friends and family, none of these things matter. Choose whatever tag you like.

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Instagram Handle Tips

So, what is it that makes one Instagram handle better than another? Here are some tips for choosing the best handle.

1. Don’t Overthink It

Let’s say you own a car wash. If we’re being totally honest, your business name is almost certainly not unique. Elsewhere in the English-speaking world, there’s going to be another “Squeaky Kleen,” so “SqueakyKleen” will be taken. In other words, you’re not going to get your actual business name unless you’re very lucky.

On the other hand, you might be able to use a variation, like “StevesSqueakyKleenCarWash.” Between that and a unique picture, it will be easy for people to find you.

2. Tie Your Handle to Your Niche

If you’re trying to become an influencer, you’ll want to use your own name. But once again, that pesky uniqueness requirement comes into play. Unless you have a very unusual name, it’s not going to be available. Instead, see if you can tie your handle to your niche. For example, you can forget about snagging a handle like “SaraJohnson.” But “SaraJohnsonFitness” or “SaraJohnsonPhotography” might be available.

3. Avoid Using Gibberish

It might be tempting to add extra letters or numbers to the end of your handle. Why not just use “SaraJohnson2845”? The problem is that everybody does that. Your profile will end up getting buried with all the other Sara Johnsons who tried the same thing. Besides which, random strings of characters are impossible to remember. You might as well just ditch your name and use random letters to begin with.

4. Add Emphasis to Your Handle

Instead of confusing potential followers, why not intrigue them? Words like “Official,” “Real,” and “Original” are all likely to make you stand out. You can also try something like “The,” or even “I’m” if you want a more personal touch. Try a few options, and see what’s available. Not only will you stand out from other similar names, but all of these words pique people’s interest.

5. Think Long-Term

Last but not least, think about where your business is going. Is your screen printing company going to grow into a general graphics and branding company? Tailor your Instagram handle to your aspirations; don’t limit yourself to what you’re doing right now.

The same goes for localization. If your goal is to take your local business national, leave your location name out of your handle. Unless, of course, your location is part of the appeal. If you’re making Kentucky bourbon or New Orleans gumbo, shout out your location to your heart’s content!

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How to Change an Instagram Handle

If you’re not happy with your Instagram handle, good news! You can change your handle at any time. But before you pull the trigger, you need to understand the consequences of making the switch.

To begin with, changing your handle will break any existing links or “@” mentions. Literally anything that’s tagged with your old handle will no longer link properly. The same goes for any links to your profile from other websites. Links from other sites give a huge boost to your search rankings, and breaking them will eliminate that boost.

You’ll also have to update any links you’ve made to your Instagram profile. If you have a blog or website, you’ll need to replace the old URL. And if you link to your profile in every blog post, that’s a lot of links to replace.

The same goes if you have your handle on your business card. You’ll have to order new cards, and any old cards you’ve given out will now be inaccurate.

On the plus side, Instagram gives you a 14-day window to change your handle back. If your search rankings suddenly plummet, you can revert it to undo the damage. With all of that being said, here’s how to change your handle using the iOS or Android Instagram App:

1. Tap your profile icon in the bottom right corner. This will bring you to your profile page. Tap “Edit profile” in the center, directly above your post thumbnails.

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2. Tap in the username field and enter a new handle.

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3. Tap the blue checkmark in the top right corner to submit the change.

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Provided the new handle is available, the change will take place immediately. If for any reason you change your mind about your new handle, you will be able to change it back to your original handle for the next 14 days.

Should I Put My Instagram Handle on my Business Card?

In many professions, Instagram is a standard tool of the trade. This isn’t just about being a social media influencer. Artists, architects, construction companies, chefs, and landscapers all have one thing in common: they love to show off their work. And an Instagram page is a great way to do it. For this reason, many people are now giving their Instagram handles a spot on their business cards.

Is this a good choice for you? Here are some reasons to consider it:

It’s a convenient way to share your work.

A well-maintained Instagram page can serve as a portfolio for potential customers. Instead of carrying around a big book of pictures, you can just give someone your card.

It’s great for networking.

Even if a given prospect doesn’t end up hiring your services, they may follow your page. This can introduce your brand to people who might otherwise never have heard of it.

It’s a legitimate communication channel.

Not only that, but it shows potential customers that you’re open to using modern communication methods. Depending on your market, this can be a big help.

That said, business card real estate is valuable, and you don’t want to confuse people with too many communication options. Unless you’re active on Instagram regularly and keep up with your DMs, you’re just wasting space. It could even backfire if you give someone your handle, they message you, and you take two weeks to answer.

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Final Thoughts on Instagram Handles

At first blush, choosing your Instagram handle may feel like a trivial decision. In the grand scheme of things, is it really all that important? By this point, we hope it’s obvious that the answer is “yes!”

A lackluster Instagram handle could cause people to ignore your posts. And if your handle is confusing or difficult to type, people may not even be able to searchable. With so many accounts out there, you need to find a handle that’s memorable and easy to search. It should also be relevant to your brand, so you can immediately attract interested followers.

A great handle won’t guarantee success. But it’s a key element of running a successful Instagram page.

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