You come up with the ultimate social media handle. It’s unique and funny. It’s the best day of your life. You can’t believe your luck. You sign up to every platform without fail. But then one network isn’t having it. The best day of your life turns into the worst. Your new handle is already taken. We’ve all been there.

“What are the odds?” you think. “What are the odds that out of 7.7 billion people, two come up with their name followed by the last two digits of the year they were born?” Why would God be so cruel? Don’t worry, there are ways around it. Always. You don’t have to go straight back to the drawing board. You can still use the one you thought of, albeit with a few modifications.

Today, we’re going to focus on Instagram. Why? Instagram is a long-established presence in social media. Having been around for 12-years, you’d think every possible handle would be taken. And though a lot are, the reality isn’t completely stark.

Why is this even important? Aren’t there bigger issues going on in the world? Yes, but let’s say there aren’t. Let’s imagine coming up with a social media username is the most arduous thing a person can live through. In this article, we’re going to touch on what you can do to remedy a taken social media handle and live your best life on Instagram.

What is a social media handle?

We can’t count out the idea of some of you reading this having previously led an Amish upbringing.

A social media handle is a public username that represents people on social media networks. The word “public” is particularly important for a handle, as usernames exist on other networks where they don’t serve the same purpose.

When you log into your bank’s website, for example, you have to provide a username and password. This username isn’t a handle, so it’s not used as a public identifier. This is information only you should know.

Your social media handles are very much public and are used for people to search for your page and content as quickly as possible.

What makes a good social media handle?

Having a social media presence is important for everybody these days, regardless of whether you’re trying to start a brand or not. And having a good handle is more important than you might think. But, as often is the case, a lot of handles are already taken, and have been so for years and years. This is when you have to get creative. Using invented words, words that create imagery, or acronyms is a great way to make your handle pop.

Keep your social handle to 15 characters or less as it will help your social media branding stay clean and concise. Shorter handles are easier to remember, and therefore easier for customers to search for online as well as spread through word of mouth.

What is Social Media Squatting?

Social Media Squatting, or Username Squatting, is when a third-party creates a social media username that is identical to or deceptively similar to a brand’s trademark and subsequently uses that social media account in bad faith to deceive people. Social Media Squatting is common among popular news sources.

It may also happen to personal names, especially to well-known or famous people. Typically, this kind of account could attempt to either impersonate the brand or individual in order to muddy the waters between who’s real and not, or try to obtain money from the brand itself. Social Media Squatting can create consumer confusion, reputational crisis, and topsy-turvy online communication, among other things.

Can you buy someone else’s social media handle?

Imagine you’re Dr. Teal and you’ve got an AskDrTeal brand name but somebody already has the handle you trademarked. You can just negotiate with the social media platform or the person who currently owns the handle to bag it for yourself, right? Wrong.

To avoid messy consequences, do not try to purchase a social media handle from someone who got it first. Purchasing and selling social media handles is explicitly stated as a violation of the terms of almost every social media platform, including Instagram.

If you do have a trademarked name and know someone is clearly using it as a handle to deceive naïve users into thinking it’s you, then you might have a case for the social media network to take the name from the squatter and hand it to yourself. If this taken-handle is inactive, you’ll have more luck in convincing the network to salvage the account in your interests.

But don’t get carried away. Requests of a social media site can take months to be answered, if answered at all, so don’t rely on this method. The likelihood is that you’ll need to come up with a different handle. This may seem like the end of the world but truth be told, there are a few ways around it. Chances are, you can keep some semblance of your existing handle and just modify it a tad. Here are a couple for you to consider:


This is the most obvious, and perhaps most painful, one. We all know what an underscore means and it’s never “stylistic choice.” You’ve been brought to your knees by it. The underscore owns you. Unless you decide to own it.

To some, an underscore is worse than no handle at all. You should change that. Look fear right in the eye and tell it you’re proud to have @craft_beer_revolution as an Instagram handle and no amount of pointed fingers and verbal abuse is going to come in the way of that.

Add a neutral word

Adding a neutral word might have to be your solution if an underscore doesn’t prove enough. Say @craft_beer_revolution is taken. Stick another word on the end to distinguish it from the existing account.

Look for words that won’t change the meaning of your handle and that will suit your brand, if not emphasise altogether. @craft_beer_revolution_uk, for example, or @craft_beer_revolution_us, depending where this revolution is taking place. Outside of geographical neutral words, try @craft_beer_revolution_movement. Bit long, but it’s different – and (at the time of writing) available!

Add “Official”

This one goes out to all the celebrities reading. If you’re convinced of your fame enough, you might want to consider adding ‘official’ either at the beginning or end of your handle to make sure fans know which account is yours without the help of blue ticks. Alternatively, you could also use “Real” as a substitute word.

This could be used by a non-famous person just joining the app. In fact, it’d actually be funnier for some average Joe to be swanning about with “official” in their Instagram handle. @AverageJoeofficial. It works, doesn’t it? How about “Joefficial”?

Pick a Niche

Though the majority of people signing up for social media are doing so for personal reasons there are some who are wanting to create brands. This creates a little more wriggle room, depending on what your USP is.

If you’re a doctor or medical professional, for example, you might be offering advice to the general public. You could use “Ask” in your handle as in @AskDrTeal or even something like @DrTealSolutions. If you specialise in making commissioned art for people you could have @TealPaintsPictures or @PicturesByTeal

Get a Suggestion

Maybe you don’t have a handle in mind and are struggling to think of one on your own terms. You’ve gone back to the drawing board multiple times and failed to think of one original handle that might help you or your brand out. Well, fear not. Turns out there are sites catering to that exact need.

Sites like SpinXO offer suggestions for names based on your name, what you’re like as a person, what your hobbies are, what you’re into, important words and so on and so forth. This is a great little tool to use to get you off and running

Try a new social media platform

OK, say you’ve tried all of the above and it still hasn’t worked. Say you’ve actually taken your squatter to court and the judge has ruled they’re not breaking any laws. You’re outside on the curb, crying, wondering where to go, what to do.

Try a new social media platform. If Instagram doesn’t have any available handles that fit your criteria, move over to a new app and swoop in before anyone else can. What’s more, you might discover something special before it goes worldwide. In that scenario, not only do you have your handle of choice, but bragging rights over everybody else. And what’s more to life than that?