Editor's note: This post was updated in April, 2016. Check out the current version: Maiden to Married: A Channel-by-Channel Guide to Changing Your Name on Social Media.
On July 21, 2012, I married my best friend. And, while life on the home front has been pure newlywed bliss, marriage comes with its own set of hurdles in the online world. Take, for example, this conversation I had with the hubby prior to the nuptials:
- Me: How much are you against me keeping my maiden name?
- Hubby: Why would you want to do that?
- Me: If I change it, I don’t know what to do with my Twitter handle!
Maybe I’m a bit extreme, but changing my name online scared me—especially since I'd been building my online brand under my maiden name. I was stepping into uncharted territory as Mrs. Tracy Lewis (instead of Ms. Tracy DiMarino).
I found myself asking: How do you change your name online seamlessly, while preserving the brand you’ve created around your maiden name? Well, this post has the answers. In it, I provide a step-by-step process for changing your name on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest, based on my own experiences.
After logging in, click on “account settings” in the upper right-hand corner, and then “edit” next to the name field. Update your last name and username (which changes your Facebook profile’s URL).
If you would like to still be found in search for your maiden name, enter it into the alternate name field. Save your changes. Note: It’s may be good to put your maiden name on your profile for starters (even if you don’t want it there permanently) to help your friends get accustomed to the change.
Example set up:
How changes look on profile:
Note: While an exact number is not provided, Facebook does limit the number of times you can change your name.
Oh, and while you’re in there editing, be sure to make it Facebook-official and update your relationship status to “married.”
To change your display name (the real name associated with your account), simply click on “profile” in the “settings” section, and update.
Your actual Twitter username is a bit trickier. In updating your username, you can retain all your followers, tweets, lists, etc. However, you lose your original URL and username completely. In fact, your username becomes available for someone else to acquire immediately after you drop it.
If you have a large online presence, this could be a problem. In my case, @TracyDiMarino has been linked to in numerous blog posts, guest posts and even mentioned in Paul Roetzer’s The Marketing Agency Blueprint. In changing my username, I essentially lose all the SEO and branding power associated with these mentions.
To minimize the impact of this, I:
- Sent out a warning tweet to my followers that I was about to update my Twitter handle.
- Changed my username under “account” in the “settings” section, releasing my old username.
- Created a second Twitter account to re-claim my original username. (And had a minor panic attack in the interim.)
- Sent a tweet from my original handle, explaining that I changed my username and encouraging people to follow me at @Tracy_J_Lewis. Included a similar message in the profile bio. Note: This way, if someone lands on my old account, they’ll still be able to find me. It also gives me access to @messages and DMs to my old username in case people don’t realize the transition right away.
- Updated as many of the old links and references to my Twitter handle as possible.
In the "settings" section, click on “edit your name, location and industry.” Update the last name and maiden name fields. By including your maiden name, you still show up in LinkedIn searches for it.
Example set up:
Note: Unfortunately, public profiles do not display the maiden name field, so you may not appear if someone searches on Google, Bing or other search engines. For this reason, I kept my maiden name in my public profile URL to help with search rankings.
To update your public profile URL, click on “edit profile” on the profile tab in the main navigation, and then “edit” next to the public profile field. Change your URL as relevant.
Here’s how my profile now looks to LinkedIn users:
On the “view profile” screen, select “edit profile.” Click on the name field, and then “more options.” Update your last name. If you would like your maiden name displayed on your profile and to appear in searches, list it in the nickname field. Select how you would like your name displayed on your profile, and hit “save.”
This is what the updates will look like:
Note: Google+ limits name changes to three times every two years.
Select “settings” in the right-hand corner. Then, in the profile section, update your last name and username. Hit "save."
Tips For Social Newlyweds
In going through the name-change experience, here are some other pointers:
- Don’t forget about changing your name on email accounts, email signatures, and other web pages where your name is listed. (For instance, I had to update my PR 20/20 bio page.) Tip: Do a quick search in Google for your maiden name to make sure you don’t miss any main mentions or accounts.
- If possible, keep your maiden name associated with accounts and content for search purposes—at least until your new name catches on. For example, I changed my blog bios to Tracy (DiMarino) Lewis, since I’m better known by my maiden name.
- If you change any URLs, be sure to update them across the web. For example, I changed my LinkedIn public profile URL, which was linked to from my Twitter page and the PR 20/20 site, among other places. I also had to update my email signature. Most social sites do not put redirects in place for you, so you’ll need to manually change links.
- Don’t change your avatar (profile picture) at the same time you change your name. Your name and avatar are the two most recognizable aspects of your social profiles. Updating both at the same time makes it harder for people (particularly social acquaintances) to make the connection that you’re still the same person.
- When it makes sense, warn your network that a name change is about to take place. For example, I sent out a tweet before I switched my Twitter handle as a heads up.
- Lastly, don’t marry someone with a common last name. Okay, so this is a joke (sort of). In all seriousness though, if your new last name is common, be sure to reserve usernames as soon as possible, as they go quick. In many cases, I found that my preferred names and URLs had already been taken.
Advice for the Blushing Bride
Have you recently been married? How did you handle the whole online name change? I’d love to hear your tips and experiences.
Or, if you just want to share with me marriage advice, honeymoon stories or whatever else married people talk about, I’ll take that as well! :)
Comments are yours.