So I Changed My Twitter Handle

Posted June 06, 2012 - By | 8 Comments

So I changed my Twitter handle this weekend. The moment was chosen carefully, when Asia would be asleep and the UK awake but outside enjoying the 4 day drizzle of a weekend that was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Two browsers, 5 minutes, a dozen clicks and it was done. Some might say an era was over: I would say @Wise_Man_Say was no more.

pic 12 1024x295 So I Changed My Twitter Handle

Well, not entirely actually. I’m still here and as a business, a blog, a contractor vehicle, Wise Man Say is going from strength to strength; even the twitter handle is still up there, but now the world’s most platform unfriendly moniker (3 capital letters, 2 underscores, 13 characters adds up to 1 metric ton of wtf) – is now a sign post for the real me: @HungLee

It’s important I made the change. Here are 5 reasons why

1. Unwieldy

 So I Changed My Twitter Handle

I wasn’t joking about it being platform unfriendly. Has there been a more ill conceived twitter handle than @Wise_Man_Say? It was difficult to type, easy to get wrong, involved the shift key – twice(!) and most importantly on a character limited platform, ate up vital messaging real estate. I got used to it, but messaging with 120 characters when everyone else was going with 130 was maybe a disadvantage and definitely an annoyance. As with most things social, less is more, and on Twitter, you can definitely can say more with a shorter handle.

Lesson: make your moniker easy for your audience. And pick a name that is retweetable. It’s cost me…..millions of followers. FACT.

2. Original Intent

 So I Changed My Twitter Handle

There was original intent behind the @Wise_Man_Say. The concept was create a brand that held value independent of real me. This was so I could sell it to the highest bidder and retire to a private island in the South Pacific. The brand, the IP, the digital assets, the whole damn thing would go – perhaps to a forward thinking recruitment firm, maybe a social media marketing consultancy, or maybe just to a company who wanted access to the audience I had built up.

But that was in 2009 and I didn’t know shit. I didn’t know anything about how the world would change, or how I might change with it. I didn’t know enough about personal branding. I didn’t know about network value. And I didn’t guess how online properties would become essential communication platform, extensions of Real Me. As my knowledge grew, my views changed, and original intent with it. I could never sell my digital properties now – it’s a big part of who I am, and entirely what I do. Can you imagine starting twitter again from scratch? I can, and the idea doesn’t appeal.

Lesson: plans are overrated when setting up a new business in an emerging space – things change; the trick is to change with it.

3. Findability

 So I Changed My Twitter Handle

You ever try to find someone you knew were on Twitter but didn’t have the handle to? You’d typically type in @firstnamesecondname and hope the guy had the common sense or lack of imagination to come up with anything more creative. If he didn’t, you were stuck and left hoping the guy was active enough on the platform for him to be picked up by a search engine and, over to Google you go. It’s do-able but a pain, and only the highly motivated would take the time to track people down after failing on first pass. So, calling yourself something you’re not breaks the first rule of the social web – be findable.

Lesson: Let’s face it, ou’re on twitter because you want to be heard. And to be heard, you first have to be found. So forget being cute and go with boring old @firstnamesecondname. Tough luck if you’re Tamil or native Welsh

4. Personal Branding Is Over

 So I Changed My Twitter Handle

Those who follow this blog, will know that I have a complicated relationship with Personal Branding. As a concept, I think that it’s simultaneously useful, flawed, good fun, unethical and probably injurious to your mental health.

In truth, it’s nothing new – we’ve been being giving facets of our personality to different audiences ever since mass society gave us the opportunity to move to different places and be with different people. Freed from the strong ties of village and home town, the city gave us the weak ties that we needed to create identities we wanted and present them to the audience we wanted to show them to. All social media did was give this a pedal-to-the-floor fuel injection.

The world is turning again. If the late noughties was about projecting brand and curating the message, the era of the tens is about that message getting out of your control. We can no longer help but interact on social platforms, and whenever we do, we produce data. Lots of it. And Big Data aggregators are in the business of pulling your fragmented persona’s back together again. This includes search engines, by the way.

Personal Branding is about promoting the parts of you that win, hiding those parts that don’t. This will simply become too onerous for anyone to do effectively, or will produce such low returns that it will be more efficient to simply live honest and transparent lives. Privacy is over, and without it, Personal Branding cannot survive.

Lesson: You can’t hide. So don’t try. Be the Real You, all the time.

5. Portability

 So I Changed My Twitter Handle

I did a search for 'traveling light'

Personal Branding may be bad, but Persona Branding worse. I never did quite pull the trigger on being ‘Wise Man Say’ full time and go as nom de guere, but others have, and well, good luck to them. I didn’t, and I think I may have just lucked out. Here’s the thing with a Persona brand. It’s not portable. Calling yourself ‘CVHero’ or ‘LinkedInExpert’ or ‘RecruiterGuru’ and you’re betting all of your social capital on you being interested in those things for all time or that those things will still be around at all. What happens if CV’s go out of fashion? Or if LinkedIn becomes so ubiquitous no needs experts on it any more? The same applies for those who have attached employer monikers to their online presence – ReutersKaren, CNNStuart and so forth. What if you move, or get moved?

The future of work is characterised by the breakdown of the employer-employee social contract. Labour flexibility, project related work patterns, multiple client engagements – they are going to be the norm. We can expect to be move around a lot more than we have ever done before, and when you do, you better be able to take your all of your assets with you.

Lesson: your digital properties need to be portable.

Final Thoughts

 So I Changed My Twitter Handle

What is our relationship with our digital properties? What is the distinction between our online and offline selves? What can we do, in the face of Big Data? The relationship with your digital properties is that they must be yours. There is no distinction between online and offline. And there is nothing we can do in the face of Big Data, other than buy that private island and retire to the South Pacific.

The anonymity of mass society is over. Claim your name and be the whole you, wherever you may be. You can only be one person on the social web.

Wise Man Say advises companies on hiring strategy, social media and football. Now tweeting from @HungLee, for those who give a shit.

Published under : Essays, Personal Branding | Tagged with : ,


  • Gareth Jones June 06, 2012

    Welcome to twitter Hung! ;) . Although I did catch the early days of the “real you” account – loved the pic of the day ;)

    Spot on post. Wait until big data reaches the masses, which it will do eventually. Agree totally on personal branding etc and also the whole twitter name thing. Always wondered what people will do when they leave abc inc!

    Sadly for me I’m in the welsh camp so I just didn’t consider @garethjones12678432 a viable name! Fortunately i got in there first with my website!

    Finding people on twitter sucks badly – seems not even twitter have made any effort to make that easier.

  • Hung June 06, 2012

    Thanks Gareth. Digital real estate is hugely important. It matters if you can be @firstnamesecondname on a platform used by a large &age of the world. If you’re not covering off social handles for your kids, you should. I think it will even impact naming conventions, as parents seek to avoid calling junior Hung343546+a…

    And yeah, with you on Twitter search.

    Best wishes


  • Stephen O'Donnell June 06, 2012

    Nice one Hung. I find a good test of a job board’s technical proficiency, is if it can handle the apostrophe in my name. Any that say “illegal character, please correct” get binned very quickly.

    Whilst I understand there are sometimes good reason to, I detest the use of cutesy, cool or sinister nicknames of any kind, when your own name is what people know you as. I would like everyone, including on forums, to use real names instead of ironically adroit pseudonyms.

    A few months ago, I went through the process of ensuring that all my social media profiles used the same name as my Twitter handle (Stephenodonn). A chap from Edinburgh had already taken stephenodonnell. I now push stephenodonn consistently enough, that all my profiles are easy to find, and all associate with me.

  • Sukh Pabial June 06, 2012

    It’s an interesting one, the whole Twitter naming thing. Your handle shows whatever you want it to, yet on the new and improved (!) timeline, your real name shows – if you have provided it of course. So did I always know you were Hung Lee? Yes. Did I always know your Twitter name? Kind of, but it’s ‘cos I’m good like that.

    Personally, I started with @SukhPabial. It then moved on and became @naturalgrump. I tried changing it to @LearningGrump, and that was a pitiful disaster so I went back. And I’ve thought about going back to @SukhPabial because at some point I need to grow up and have a ‘proper’ name. Yet, my current name has some mileage left in it. I will end up changing in the future, because it’s the right thing to do.

    Stephen raises an interesting point about consistency across platforms. So I only use @naturalgrump on Twitter. Everywhere else, I’m Sukh Pabial. Equally I’m consistent in doing so, and the same applies to my avatar. Which, although recently updated on Twitter, is the same for all platforms I’m on.

  • Hung June 06, 2012

    Great points Stephen. And I’m with you on the personal identity issue. I think a whole lot less trolling would occur if you could only post as you, and no one else. A case can be made for security, especially in politically unstable places, but generally anonymity simply provides opportunity for cowards to have their undeserved say. Thanks for your comment – always add value

  • Hung June 06, 2012

    When I was writing this post I was thinking of the people I’ve connected with on social platforms that perhaps shared similar challenges – you were one of those who came to mind Sukh

    Your journey on Twitter was very similar to mine – @firstnamesecondname, before opting @personalbrand / @businessname. What was your thinking, as you made your change? My original view was to keep @hunglee pristine for private use; this would be place where I would follow Charlie Brooker, Skysports, maybe a starlet or two and have a laugh with my mates. But that meant managing two accounts simultaneously, and it became too much hard work for the return I was getting. Additionally, the discovery that I was forging relationships and making friends on my ‘work’ account, signalled very clearly to me that the boundary that I had placed in dividing work / play was a legacy habit, a value brought over from a world that is fast receding into the distance. As I began to increasingly inhabit @Wise_Man_Say, @hunglee atrophied so that not much at all was left. Towards the end, I was left with a ‘work’ account which had accrued significant social capital, and a ‘personal’ account which was nothing more than a placeholder. I realised then that I needed to make the switch – I had got it the wrong way round. To be clear, I’m going nowhere as Wise Man Say, but I can’t not Hung Lee, and ultimately, that’s where my investiture of time, and accumulation of social capital, should be.

    Thanks for the comment Sukh. Hope you still have the old handle, and I’ll look forward to bearing witness to the rest of your journey.

  • Sukh Pabial June 07, 2012

    At the time of changing to @currentname it was an act of silliness. I didn’t see why I needed to have a Twitter name that meant anything as I was just dabbling in it for fun. Then I started blogging. I should have changed it at that point, but decided to stick with it.

    At some point, I started to enjoy the attention of my Twitter name. So I kept with it more. There seemed to be something about it which people remembered – most obviously the name itself, but also that it was being associated with my blogging.

    I have toyed with the idea of having two accounts a lot. One should be more serious. The other should be the fun me. But as you quite rightly say, I can’t stop being Sukh Pabial. So I use Twitter for everything. We all have our personal reasons for Twitter, and in my case it’s to express myself about everything. I’m careful not to be rude or harmful in my use of Twitter. I’m building quite the support network and some really enjoyable connections and even friendships.

    So when I change my name, it should be quick and easy. Until then, the social capital is an enjoyable journey to be on.

  • Niall Gavin June 13, 2012

    Nicely said Hung. I came to Twitter using my yahoo email name, the “uk” bit differentiating me from Irish Shinty players and CEOs of shipment companies in N. America. Without over-thinking it, I have subsequently used it for all my SoMe presences – in LinkedIn, Storify, Blogger, Instagram and Facebook. It’s who I am and how I ‘show up’. Keeps things nice and tidy whilst allowing me to let different aspects of my personality and interests appear to those who may be interested in them. Great to have you in my #PLN now.

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