What’s in a Name? Changing the Username of a University Social Media Account

mobile twitter screenshotWhen it comes to names, Shakespeare and I can agree to disagree. To me, names are important. They signal for us what is at the core of an object or thing. For people, our name can become part of our personal brand. And for universities, names are central to recognition and loyalty.

Sometimes, objects outgrow their original names. In our case, our central university account, @UMWnews, needed a virtual name makeover.

But first, a little background. UMW first created a Twitter presence in October 2009 (eight months after joining Facebook), primarily as one more platform to disseminate information about news and events on campus. The name @UMWnews fit at the time. Nearly five years later, after reflecting on the purpose of the account and about our larger social media strategy – think meaningful engagement with all of our university audiences – we decided that @UMWnews no longer was the best fit.

Why we changed the name:

  • to better speak to our audience (our followers are primarily current students, prospective students, young alumni, and faculty) and to the content of the account. We aren’t just about news anymore, rather we represent the university as a whole
  • to more closely align with the names of our other social media platforms (https://www.facebook.com/UniversityofMaryWashington, http://instagram.com/uofmarywashington#, etc.)
  • to better fit our brand identity as a university
  • to enhance the account’s searchability (@UMWnews is notoriously hard to find in Twitter searches) and the overall user experience

How we chose our new name:

  • Short – our university has a long name, but with Twitter, space is at a premium. We brainstormed several different options, including @UofMaryWashington and @UMaryWashington. We chose @UMaryWash partly because of its shorter character count.
  • Easy to remember and find
  • Specific – now, we can’t be confused with other organizations that use UMW as an acronym or with people named Mary Washington
  • Speaks to our campus audience – “Mary Wash” is a fond and often-used nickname for the university

Practical recommendations for making the change:

  • Make sure you have outlined your reasons for the switch and thought about any implications (good or bad) it might have
  • Get internal buy-in. If your team isn’t on-board, the change will be unsuccessful. We brought our proposal before all of the University Relations staff to get their feedback and to recruit them to help us publicize the change
  • Once you have changed the username, be sure to also change it on any linked accounts like Storify and Instagram, and in all of the places where the username can be found (institutional website, email signatures, e-newsletters, print materials, etc.)
  • Get the word out! Leverage your social media user’s group, if you have one, or mention it as part of your regular meetings with colleagues. There is no social media Social Security Office to handle the task, so we have to rely on word of mouth and a committed team

Now that our name fits who we are, we can truly delve into the good stuff – creating meaningful and effective content that will resonate with our audience!

About Brynn Boyer

Brynn Boyer is assistant director of media and public relations and a 2010 graduate of UMW.

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