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social media squaredance Photo: ALec Perkins via FlickrI have been working with a few clients lately who have rebranded and who have had to discard their names in Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.

The question I was asked on all occasions was, what should we do with our old account names?

My answer was based on fear and courtesy. Let me explain.

And just before I start, remember to let your followers know what has happened during the change period and this can be a great time for capturing the change in your WordPress blog!

Should I be nervous about a social media name change?

I think there are two situations that give us pause when it comes to dealing with redundant names in social networking.

The first is the scenario where the social profile for your business has a sizeable following that would be hard to recreate. Imagine your social media profile has hundreds or thousands of followers. To abandon them and start a whole new account with a new name would be similar to leaving your own party and setting up down the street.

The second scenario is where your old name will still be how many people will know you, even though you have rebranded. Just think for a moment about a wise competitor or prankster getting hold of your old name and starting to tweet nonsense (or worse) through it. Reputation anybody?

The only situation where I lose little sleep over social media name changes is where the initial name has little or no relevance or track record in relation to the brand.

Grab, 1, 2, Rename, 3, 4, Shuffle, 1, 2

In a changeover I handled recently, we opened a new Twitter account and grabbled the new name there so we knew we had it. Let’s call it @NewName.

Then, when all was ready for the swap, we renamed the new account to something else, such as @NewNameTemp.

Then, within the same minute, we renamed the original account from @OldName to @NewName.

Finally, we went back to the ‘new’ account, now called @NewNameTemp and renamed it @OldName.

Yes, that sounds like a social media squaredance.

The reason we did it this way is that if we had decided upon @NewName and then not been ready to launch for a week or more, I’d be concerned that someone else might have taken the name before we had gotten back to it.

Facebook involved a little more cleverness and a 14-day wait and I’ll explain that process in a follow up post.

For now, I urge you to consider keeping or losing your followers and leaving your good name available for others to squander, when next you consider rebranding your social media profiles.

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