Have you ever looked for a brand online and not found them because you’re not sure EXACTLY what they use as a user name?

Have you ever tweeted at a business or mentioned an organization in an Instagram comment only to find out that on THAT platform, there’s an underscore instead of an exclamation point.

It’s not good.

When you’re working on developing your online identity, consistency plays a very large role. If people can’t find you easily, they stop looking. They look for the brand that makes it easy.

So how can you make sure that you’ve got the right handles for your brand? It involves a splash of planning, a hint of tech, and a dash of creativity.

Here goes.

A Splash of Planning

While you can never be sure where the wild world of the internet will take you, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of the direction that you’re heading in. Before you just go register every single platform, consider a few things.

Am I going to use this platform?

If you’re NEVER going to use LinkedIn, should you bother to register an account?

Well, sometimes the answer is yes. If you believe that that name is valuable enough and you want to ensure that no one co-opts your brand, it might make sense to lock it away.

In general, do some serious thinking about the platforms that you’re ACTUALLY going to use and register those.

But how do you know what’s available?

A Hint of Technology

There are a number of services, like The Name App and Namechk that will scour the internet and figure out if the domain and social media handles you want are available. I would strongly recommend that you run everything through something like this before you start registering profiles so that you’re not TheHatStore on Twitter, The_Hat_Store on Instagram and TheHatStoreHFX on Facebook.

When it comes to choosing your handle, it doesn’t necessarily have to correspond with your registered business name or even your website but if it’s possible to have your branding align across web and social, do your very best.

A Dash of Creativity

There are a couple of ways in which creativity come into play here. The first is in choosing your handle in the first place. As I said above, you want to do your best to align your brand across web and social but that doesn’t always mean being identical. If you can come up with something clever that connects your brand between these two areas, go for it.

If your business name isn’t super exciting, try to spice it up a little when it comes to selecting your social media handle. There are LOTS of brands, especially smaller businesses driven by a single individual, that decide that CorporateNameInc isn’t the best handle ever but ThatBusinessGal might make a lot more sense.

So what if you decide that you want to register an Instagram account because you MIGHT use it in future, but you don’t want to use it yet? Ghost the profile. Make it private. Don’t upload all of the branding. The last thing you want is an Instagram account with your photo, following three accounts (including your personal account) with a couple of bot followers and no posts. Keep it locked down until you’re ready to unleash it. And as I’ve stated before, if you’re FOR SURE not going to use it maybe don’t bother registering it in the first place.

You have a LOT to do to get your business going. However, if you’re going to grow your brand using social media you need to make it a priority. Being consistent with how you approach your social media presence looks good on you.