A screengrab of the spreadsheet, with scribbles on it to illustrate how it works

Reserving multiple usernames on social media sites


For the purposes of this blog I am going to pretend we are setting up a “wobable” (walk or bikeable) campaign in a number of UK cities.

It is ridiculously easy to set up a Twitter account, but you do need a seperate email address for each account…or do you?

The Gmail Trick Version 1 (the dot(.) trick)
So we need a different email address for each twitter account? Eventually I expect we will have a different email address for each local campaign (London @wobable .com, Liverpool @wobable .com) but we haven’t set them all up yet. In addition, until we hand control of the accounts to the local teams (who we haven’t recruited yet) it’d be useful to administer them all from the same email address. Quite apart from anything, if the twitter account for London gets more interest than the one for Liverpool (before they are properly promoted) we know to concentrate our energies on developing London!

While we sort ourselves out, it is worth using the special properties of Gmail to get the accounts created. Gmail addresses are very forgiving about how you write them. The following addresses will all work (I have left off the “.com” to defeat spammy email harvesting robots!).

  • wobable@gmail
  • w.obable@gmail
  • WobAb.le@gmail

you can shove a dot (or even multiple dots) to the left of the @ sign and the email will still work. The great thing is that Twitter sees them as different email addresses, and will allow each variation to be used to set up a new twitter account!

I was dead proud of this tip, until I discovered…

The Gmail Trick Version 2 (the plus(+) trick)
While that is a great way to fool twitter, there is an even better way (though it doesn’t work on some other social media websites, which is why I blogged the dot trick). Gmail will also allow you to include a + sign in your email address.

The following addresses are all analagous to Wobable@gmail (I have left off the “.com” to defeat spambots).

  • Wobable+London@gmail
  • Wobable+Liverpool@gmail
  • Wobable+Derby@gmail
so you could set up the accounts using a plus sign and the username. Easily memorable for each account, and only one email account needed. (Incidentally you can use the same principle when signing up to websites. Add +websitename and find out who is selling your email address to spammers…).

Hiding accounts until you are ready to launch them
Simple tip, but once you have set up your twitter accounts, set them to “protected” so that you don’t end up with people interacting with them before you are ready.

Use “Follow Recommendations” so each account follows the same accounts
You might decide that there are a number of accounts that all your accounts should follow (each other? a group of politicians? the central corporate account?). While you could add these by hand to each account, there is a smarter way (so long as you are creating a brand new account each time).

  1. Set up a public Twitter list on an existing Twitter account (henceforth referred to as your “core account”). The list should contain the twitter accounts you want each new account to follow.
  2. Include the hashtag #WelcomeToTwitter in the list description.
  3. Log out (or open another browser – see tip below).
  4. navigate to twitter.com/CoreAccount
  5. On the right hand side there should be a “sign up to twitter” box:

    Sign up to twitter box on twitter.com/wobable

    Use this form to register the new account.

  6. Agree to the terms and conditions etc..
  7. On the next page you will find the new account will already be following the “Core Account”. Below that will be a list of the accounts that the core account suggests you may like to follow:

Thanks to Techcrunch for alerting me to this feature

Flicking between multiple Twitter accounts

It is possible that you will want to keep flicking between your new Twitter accounts – perhaps each time you add a new account you then want all the older accounts to follow it? Or maybe you want to add the new account to the “#WelcomeToTwitter” list? You can do this one of three ways:

  • The terrible way is to keep logging in and out of each account. This can very easily get confusing – especially if you aren’t yet uploading a unique profile image to each new twitter account.
  • The marginally better way is to have multiple browsers open. Each browser can have a different twitter account open. And don’t forget that Chrome Incognito (and similar “sneaky” browsers) counts as a separate browser.
  • The best way is to use a third party twitter client. A good one is CoTweet. In the top left corner is a box marked “Load profile“. You can then follow the profile you load from this box with all (or some) of the accounts you have logged into with CoTweet:

Transferring twitter account names

So a well meaning colleague has (without your knowledge) set up a twitter account that doesn’t follow your naming protocol and, to add insult to injury, she has gathered a whole load of followers. The ideal thing would be to rename her account with the name you reserved …but is this possible?

Yep. When Twitter started, any username was reserved for 6 months after the user had stopped using it. Now, usernames are only suspended (and only for a month) when the twitter account is deactivated. If the account username is changed, the old account name becomes immediately available.

You can read more on how to transfer the name in Twitter Help.

Depending on how much your well meaning colleague has got into Twitter, she should also let her followers know her username has changed (in particular she might want to message any contacts she converses with regularly on twitter), and she might want to secure the old username with an empty account (so she is not immediately spoofed).

Allowing your local accounts to tweet from your core account

Earlier today I found the app BirdHerd.com which seems relevant to this post. The idea is that local accounts can update the Core Twitter account be sending it a Direct Message (DM). There seem to be controls so that you can choose which accounts can DM to publish, and which ones just act as a standard DM.

This could be really useful when some of the stuff a local twitter account is talking about is only relevant to followers of that account, while others will be of wider interest. You will also know who sent which tweet, because there will be a DM associated with each tweet.

Next page: Reserving Usernames on Facebook

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.