An exciting new feature just went live on YouTube, one your business will want to take advantage of for visibility. Specifically, you can now create a unique username for your YouTube channel, identified by an @. YouTube’s official name for the feature is handles.
Of course, if you’ve spent much time managing, or even using, social media, this might not feel like a new feature. The @ username is a staple of everything from Twitter and Instagram to TikTok and beyond.
In a way, that familiarity is why this feature works. People are used to connecting to one another in social networks by typing in the usernames of friends, collaborators and brands. Now, bringing this functionality to YouTube allows you to use this video platform in a way that makes a lot of intuitive sense.
Handles Are Rolling Out: Ready to Claim Yours?
While YouTube is gradually rolling out the ability to claim a unique handle to YouTube users, the process is already well underway, and by the time you’re reading this, you’re likely eligible.
Creators get an email from YouTube that alerts them it’s now time to reserve a handle. If, in the past, you’ve created a customized YouTube URL for your channel, that is your handle by default. However, you can pick a different name for your handle. This is a way to make sure your social media usernames match across as many platforms as possible, to make your brand easy to find.
Handles are unique. If you take the handle @Yourcompanyname, no other account can use it. This makes them different from YouTube’s current system of channel names, and will allow you to promote your YouTube channel by its handle, plus also make sure that viewers will find your content when they search.
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What Can You DO with Handles, Exactly?
An important question about any new social media feature is what you’ll actually use the tool for. There may be a certain trepidation around using an extra add-on, especially when YouTube’s parent company Google has such a long history of killing off features and products after brief trial periods.
Handles, however, are a pretty safe bet. They’re so simple, there’s no real downside to grabbing one, and there are potential upsides to be had. When announcing handle functionality, YouTube noted a few details that make these new usernames worth a look.
- Easy visibility: Handles appear on YouTube channels’ main pages and their Shorts pages, so when visitors come to these sites, they’ll know at a glance who they’re interacting with. This helps if they want to tag your brand, which leads to another point…
- Simple tagging: It’s common on Twitter and Instagram for content creators to tag collaborators and creative partners in comments or right in their content. YouTube handles add this functionality to YouTube, letting viewers follow these links to your page.
- Uniqueness and confidence: The sheer fact that only one account can have a certain handle is important. This way, when people interact with your brand, they’ll know they’re really tagging you, not a third-party account — or even a malicious imposter.
- Consistent URLS: Every brand that uses a handle gets a URL based on that handle. For instance, the @Yourcompanyname handle would create a website at youtube.com/@Yourcompanyname. You can point users directly to that simple URL.
Not that much has changed with the advent of handles — the underlying structures of YouTube are basically the same. However, for all the reasons above, your brand should take this chance to reserve its handle. This is a way to expand your YouTube marketing toolkit, and to make sure no one else grabs the perfect handle for your company.
Are You Using YouTube as a True Social Media Network?
Sometimes, YouTube can get left out of the discussion when designing social media strategies. This line of thinking may come from the fact that when YouTube debuted, it was indeed worlds apart from what people imagine when they think of “social media.”
The perception of YouTube may have been shaped by its early role as the grand depository of viral videos, vlogs, low-resolution music videos and TV shows whose rights-holders weren’t litigious. However, in more recent times, platform-owner Google has added more features to make YouTube a true social network.
YouTube channels include spaces for written updates, and they provide ways for creators to talk to their fans and message one another. The platform also introduced Shorts, quick-hit videos designed to be shared in the same ways as TikTok videos or Instagram Reels. Handles are just an extra layer of user-friendliness on these systems.
With a little effort, you can incorporate YouTube into your overall social media strategy, which is a good idea, because as a place to upload video content, long or short, pre-filmed or live, it’s the industry standard.