Changing Twitter handles is easy

For many years, I ran my business from and tweeted with the non-matching Twitter handle, @painfultweets (because I couldn’t get @saveyourself). When I bought this summer, I was delighted that the matching twitter handle @painscience was also available, and even the abbreviated @painsci (which is the one I’ll actually be using, because every character counts).

But how to change to @painsci and keep all my followers? About 2600 of ‘em. (Not exactly celebrity-scale Tweeting, but decent. I certainly wouldn’t want to have to start over!)

Where’s the manual for this?

It was hard to find good information on changing Twitter usernames. Most of what I found was unnecessarily complicated and wrong. Twitter’s own information plainly states that you can just change handles and it won’t affect your followers, but I needed more than that for such a delicate operation: more detailed, direct reassurance that I wasn’t going to destroy years of building up a following. I also had the extra wrinkle of changing to name that was already taken. By me, fortunately. I more or less knew how it would go, but I wanted detail I couldn’t find. I had to work it out for myself.

But not you! You found this.


People follow accounts, not handles, and you can change the handle for any account to any other available handle. I had reserved @painsci by creating another account, so it was “taken.” So all I had to do was change the painsci account to something else, and then change @painfultweets to @painsci.

In detail

Using my own account change as the example, this was my challenge:

So, the solution…

  1. Free up @painsci by renaming it to whatever (@painsci123)
  2. @painsci is now available! Don’t let it sit there for long!
  3. Rename @painfultweets to @painsci while it’s available.

All done. The account I originally registered @painsci with is now redundant. But…

What to do with the old username?

Once the transition was complete, I logged back into the @painsci123 account and changed the name to @painfultweets (which was, of course, once again available). Then I updated the description for the account to announce the move and redirect people to the @painsci. This should catch a few people who go looking for painfultweets.

A tip of the hat to Kyle Ridgeway (@PTThinkTank, for this suggestion.