Let’s be candid. When you created your Instagram account eight years ago, and the sign-up form prompted you to choose a username, you rushed the process and used the first three names that came to mind.
Your Instagram username is more than a string of words you put together for the sake of creating an account. It is your identity on the platform, the key to determining whether or not users will find you. Choose the right username, and you will increase discoverability and leave a lasting impression on users. Choose incorrectly, and you will be lost and forgotten.
If you want to create an Instagram username that will withstand the test of Search and competing users, avoid these pitfalls.
1. Using a String of Recurring Letters
It’s difficult to create a unique username on a platform that has two billion monthly users. When you created your account, you likely tried several usernames before finding one that wasn’t already taken. To create a username that hasn’t been claimed, you’ll likely add a recurring string of letters. If jimmyboi is already taken, you will simply add another “i” to differ from the already claimed name.
Usernames with recurring letters are difficult to find on Search. If you searched for jimmyboi on Instagram and missed one letter, that user will not appear on your results. To remember the username’s exact spelling, you would need to count and memorize the number of recurring letters—that may be too difficult for your brain, especially if the sequence contains more than seven items.
Of course, certain words and names naturally have recurring letters. The “little” in the username littlebananie contains two letter ts. Although the ts are recurring, they are easy to remember because the original spelling includes two ts. Adding another t to differentiate the username will confuse users because “little” doesn’t contain three ts.
If you want to differentiate your username from an already existing one, instead of multiplying the letters, add a symbol, a word, or a number: jimmyboi_me, littlejimmyboi, or 1jimmyboi.
2. Changing Your Username Frequently
Frequently changing your username will make it difficult for people to find you. Your username should be permanent, and you should only change it if you’re rebranding. Don’t change your username on a whim, and don’t treat it like a profile picture that you swap every few weeks.
Avoid changing your username and carefully think about the name you want people to associate with you. Brainstorm a few ideas, ask for people’s opinion, and choose the one you absolutely love. If you think the username you created won’t stand the test of time or your taste, don’t use it. Keep brainstorming until you find the one.
3. Using Phrases with Contractions
Avoid usernames that include contractions, shortened versions of words that contain an apostrophe to replace omitted letters. For example, “aren’t” for “are not,” “shouldn’t” for “should not,” and “I’m” for “I am.”
Although Instagram allows certain symbols in usernames, it doesn’t allow you to use certain punctuations, including the apostrophe in contractions. So instead of having it’snotyouit’sme as your username, you will be forced to write it as itsnotyouitsme.
Without the apostrophe in the contraction, readers will likely struggle to read and understand your username. For example, users could read the username immadeinheaven as “imma die n heaven” when it should be read as “I’m made in heaven.”
If you insist on using phrases with contractions, separate each word with a symbol for clarity: immadeinheaven then turns to im.made.in.heaven. Better yet, avoid usernames with contracted words altogether.
4. Using Long Phrases
Some people, instead of using a nickname or a full name, will use long phrases as their usernames, like simplyridiculousfangirl or atravelingnomadofargentina. Long phrases as usernames are not only hard to remember, but they are also difficult to read when seen for the first time. Just look at this username: atravelingnomadofargentina. How long did it take you to read and understand it? Not only is the length cumbersome to the eye, but the reader must separate each word to make sense of it.
Shorten your long username. Use only the important words from the phrase. For example, you can pare the username simplyridiculousfangirl down to ridiculousfan. You can also replace a long word with a shorter synonym with the help of a thesaurus. For example, change ridiculousfangirl to goofyfangirl, swapping “ridiculous” for the synonym “goofy.”
If you insist on using a long phrase, break up words with symbols, like a dash, an underscore, or a period to improve readability: simply_ridiculous_fan_girl, simply.ridiculous.fan.girl., simply-ridiculous-fan-girl.
You may think nothing of your username for Instagram, but your username is more than a name. It is your identity. It can make or break your discoverability on Instagram’s Search.
I gave you four pitfalls to avoid when creating your Instagram username. If there’s one thing you should remember after reading my advice, it’s this: keep it simple. Oftentimes, simple is better.