What Is a Social Media Handle?


If you’re not a frequent social media user, you might find some of its terms confusing. One of these being “social media handle”.

In this article we take a look at social media handles, explaining what they are, how to pick one, and how websites use them.

What Is a Social Media Handle?

A social media handle has nothing to do with grasping something.

Rather, a social media handle is a public username that represents people on social media sites. The public distinction is important, as usernames exist on other sites where they don’t serve the same purpose.

For example, when you sign into your bank’s website, you have to provide your username and password to log in. But this username isn’t a handle, since it’s not used as a public identifier. Nobody needs to know your banking username except you.

Where Does the Term “Handle” Come From?

Your next question after hearing this might be “what is a handle?” As it turns out, “handle” didn’t originate online.

The term was used by CB (Citizens Band) radio users before the internet was around. These folks identified themselves by nicknames, which were eventually called “handles.”

Once the internet brought message boards and other forms of discussion to the masses, people started using “handle” to refer to their usernames.

Where Are Social Handles Used?

As you’d expect, handles are most common on social media websites.

Because these websites have millions of users, many of them with similar or identical names, social media handles allow everyone to have a unique identity on the service. Thus, when you create an account on a social media site, it checks to make sure your chosen handle isn’t already taken.

Let’s examine some of the most popular social media websites to see how they implement handles.

What Is a Twitter Handle?

The term “handle” is closely associated with Twitter, as the service has called its usernames handles for some time.

When you create an account with Twitter, you set up a unique handle for yourself. In addition, you can add your first and last name, which is different from your handle. You can see in the below tweet that my social media handle is @stegnersaurus, but my name is Ben Stegner:

This allows you to provide more information to others. You might have a preferred handle that has nothing to do with your name, so adding your name lets people find you more easily.

Twitter is built around sending short messages called “tweets.” If you want to mention another user in your tweet, you can include their handle using the @ symbol. For example, MakeUseOf’s handle on Twitter is @MakeUseOf. Below is an example of a tweet that includes it:

The act of including someone’s social media handle in a tweet is called “tagging.” By default, being tagged sends that person a notification. You can also click on the @handle to view that user’s profile.

Check out our guide to Twitter

How to Use Twitter

How to Use Twitter

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if you’d like more help getting started with it.

What Is an Instagram Handle?

Instagram uses handles in a similar manner to Twitter. Everyone has a handle that identifies them on the service. If you want to tag someone in a post or a comment, include their handle with an @ symbol before it.

Like Twitter, this notifies the person you tagged and lets people click on their name to visit their page. You’ll notice the person’s handle appears at the top of everything they post, making it easy to spot.

What Is a Facebook Handle?

Facebook is a little different when it comes to usernames. The site doesn’t use @handles like Twitter and Instagram do. This is primarily because Facebook is designed for more personal connections than Twitter and Instagram, so it uses your real name when you sign up.

If you want to tag someone in a Facebook post or comment, you can still type the @ symbol followed by their name. This notifies them that you’ve mentioned them and lets people click their name to see their profile. The only difference is that it uses their real name instead of a username, and doesn’t show the @ sign.

Facebook Tagging Example

However, Facebook does have a username feature. Its main purpose is to provide a unique URL that goes right to your page.

You’ll see this on business cards and in company advertisements. A business will often have its Twitter @handle next to the Twitter logo, then put /acme.corp next to the Facebook logo. This lets you know you can go to Facebook.com/acme.corp to visit them.

You can check your own username by logging into Facebook, clicking the small arrow in the top-right corner, and choosing Settings.

From the left side of this page, choose General, and you’ll see a Username field where you can change your username. By default, Facebook sets this to your first and last name separated by a period, which works fine.

Facebook Set Username

If you don’t have one set, it’s a good idea to pick one. Otherwise, your profile URL will consist of random numbers, which aren’t easy to remember.

How to Pick a Social Media Handle

Social media handles are quite important for brands and online influencers who want to maintain a consistent presence across the web. While they aren’t as vital for an average user, you can still follow a few general guidelines to create a solid handle.

  • A tried and true handle is your first name and last name. Something like @MarkJohnson isn’t fancy, but it is easy to remember.
  • If you don’t want to use your real name, nicknames are good fits for handles.
  • A shorter username is better. The longer it is, the harder it is to type and remember. There’s also a greater chance for typos.
  • Numbers can make your handle harder to remember, and might make you look unoriginal. It’s a good idea to avoid numbers unless they’re connected to you, such as a jersey number for a sport.
  • Want to spruce up your handle? Try adding terms like “The Real” or “I Am” before your username. “TheRealAlexHodges” has a fun air about it.
  • If the service allows capital letters in usernames (Instagram is all lowercase), use them to make your username easy to read. “GregWhiteBlogs” is clearer than “gregwhiteblogs”.

Namechk is a great resource for checking the availability of social media handles. You can type in the username you’re interested in and see the sites where it’s already taken.

Have Fun Picking Your Social Media Handles

In this article we’ve looked at what a social media handle is, how the biggest social media websites use it, and offered up some tips for creating your own. If you haven’t created a public username yet, creating one will make it easier for people to find you on the web.

To learn more about this topic, check out the social media slang terms you should know

25 Social Media Slang Terms You Need to Know

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