I was taking a look at the Hubspot blog this weekend (after a thoroughly enjoyable time at this week’s hubspot.tv broadcast). Some great stuff. One post did catch my eye. Hubspotter @danzarrella cautioned against using Twitter names containing numbers and/or underscores if the ‘standard’ version of a name is already in use. For example, say your name is Joe Smith. Odds are that the name @JoeSmith is already taken. Zarrella warns against using @Joe_Smith or JoeSmith123 – at least if you want to attract a large follower count.
Zarrella presents charts comparing standard names with number- and underscore-laced variants. Sure enough, the original versions hold a significant lead in average follower count. Q.E.D, right?
Maybe so. The reason Zarrella offers for users choosing a non-standard name, however, exposes another possible reason for the follower count discrepancy. That reason is that the original name is already taken. The implication is that the letter-only versions of a given name is likely to be older than the nuber- or underscored-using variant. Most users (who are not @oprah) start with a lower number of followers and increase the count as time passes. Doesn’t it make sense that more recent users will have fewer followers on average than their more seasoned counterparts?
It would be interesting to examine a comparison that took this age difference into account. I still think the original name holders would win, because somene who creates an original social identity (rather than a variant on one already extant) is more likely to create the kind of engaging contact and connections that attracts and retains a large community of followers. I just think that blaming a hapless numeral or underscore is needlessly alpha-centric.