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What Is An Instagram Handle?

If you want to look someone up on Instagram, you need their Instagram handle. But what is a handle, and how do you find your Instagram handle?

An Instagram handle is your Instagram username that appears on your page with your posts. You know how superheroes have official titles? Yeah, that’s kinda like what Instagram handles are. In other words, an Instagram handle is basically your “name” while on the platform and is what people search to look up your Instagram page.

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What Is My Instagram Handle?

When you create an Instagram account, you will be prompted to create a user name. This name will be your Instagram handle. It’s the name that appears at the top of your Instagram page when you look at in on the app. So for example, if your username is “John Smith” then your handle should appear right at the top of your screen when you look at your profile.

How To Edit Your Instagram Bio (Add Spaces & Line Breaks)

Your handle appears at the top of the screen

When you create your handle, you can pick anything you want, as long as it’s not taken or does not violate the terms of service agreement. A lot of people decide to use their real name as their handle, but you don’t have to and can pick whatever you want. The only restrictions are that it cannot be longer than 30 characters and can’t contain special characters.

If you ever forget your Instagram handle, then finding it is easy. Just pull up the app and look at the name that is at the top of the screen. This is the name that people have to search to find you on Instagram.

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Your handle is not the same as your “display name.” Your Instagram display name is the name that appears directly under your profile picture. This name does not have to be unique and it can have emojis and special characters.

Your display name in under your profile picture

Instagram URL?

You might hear people sometimes say ‘Instagram URL” An Instagram URL is just what is typed into your browser’s address bar to get to your page. In general, your Instagram URL is just the Instagram’s web address + your username added in after a backslash (/).

Your Instagram URL appears in your browser address bar

So say your username was John Smith. Then your Instagram URL might look something like “https://instagram.com/johnsmith/” You can check what your Instagram URL is by looking at what is in the address bar when you have your page opened in your computer browser.

So if you ever want to send your friend a direct link to your Instagram page via text or message, then you can grab your Instagram URL and give it to them. That will allow them to access your page on their desktop browser.

Handle vs. Username

The terms “handle” and “username” are often used interchangeably on the internet but can sometimes mean different things. Sometimes, “username” is used to refer to your handle, and sometimes it doesn’t. In general, a “handle” is a public-facing name that other people know. A username does not have to be a handle, but often is, especially if it’s what the public knows you by.

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On Instagram specifically, “handle” and “username’ are mostly used synonymously. This is because your username is what you are publicly known as on Instagram.

Instagram Handle Meaning

Why is it called “handle”? Why not just Instagram name, or username? The term “handle” actually dates back quite a while to the 70s and CB radios. CB radios were a kind of short-distance radio communicator commonly used by truckers and a whole CB shorthand dictionary developed. CB users would identify themselves by a unique nickname, which came to be known as their “handle.”

As the internet grew, the term “handle” got picked up by internet communities and became a slang term for a person’s username on the web. You can think of a person’s handle as kind of their internet personification.

Handles are really important online, and people take great pains to make sure their handles across platforms can be consistent. There has actually arisen a small black market of people buying and selling Instagram usernames. Buying and selling handles is against the platform’s TOS, but a lot of people do it anyway. This guy has managed to make over $120,000 flipping Instagram handles as a full-time job.

How To Change Your Instagram Handle

People spend a lot of time picking out their handles, but sometimes they end up not liking their choice. Fortunately, changing your handle on Instagram is a lot easier than some platforms (some won’t even let you change your username, ever!).

You can change your Instagram handle whenever you want, as many times as you want. The only restrictions are that your username has to have less than 30 characters and can only contain letters, numbers, periods, and underscores.

Here is a quick how-to on changing your Instagram username:

  • Click on the icon in the bottom right to go to your profile
  • Click on “Edit Profile”
  • Click on the “Username: field and enter your desired handle
  • Hit the blue checkmark in the top right when finished to save your changes

 

Changing Instagram on Computer

If you prefer browsing Instagram on your computer, you can change your username from the browser version. Here is how

  • Log in to your account at “www.Instagram.com”
  • Click your profile picture in the top right corner
  • Click on “Edit Profile” Next to your display name
  • Click on the “Username” field and type your desired name
  • Click submit at the bottom of the page

If you don’t like your new name, you can go back to your old handle within 2 weeks. If you wait longer than that, you can still change it back as long as it hasn’t been taken by anyone else.

What If The Name I Want Isn’t Available?

If you try a name only to find it’s not available, then it is because someone has already taken it. According to Instagram, usernames are given out on a first-come, first-serve basis and you can’t reserve names. So if a name you want is taken, then there is really nothing you can do about it.

If a name you want is taken, there are some options. You can try to make an alternate version of the username with different characters or underscores. You can modify it however you want, as long as it’s unique.

So say the handle you want is “aspaceodyssey” but that name is already taken. You could try something like “a_space_odyssey” or “asp4ceodyssey.” As long as the name is unique, then you can set it as your handle.

You can always try again later. The name you want may become available in the future if the person currently using it changes their handle. Instagram is also constantly removing fake accounts so available names are popping up all the time.

How To Pick An Instagram Handle

So how should you even go about picking an Instagram handle? It depends on what you are using Instagram for. There are a few different kinds of Instagram profiles.

Instagram Handle for Personal Use

Personal profile handles are pretty simple and most of the time are just a variation of a person’s name. Names like @Tom1234 or @Jane_Doe1 are all examples of more-or-less personal Instagram handles. The point of these kinds of names is to make you easily identifiable to family and friends.

Instagram Handle for Influencers

Influencers are considered IG users that have a larger than average following. The point of an influencer’s username is to pick something that captures you and something eye-catching that people will remember.

A good handle name for influencers will be catchy and succinctly capture what it is they do. Here are a couple of good examples we like.

@sincerelyjules is a Latina influencer and fashion blogger whose work has been featured in a lot of popular publications. Her username is catchy, rolls of the tongue, and is the same name as her blog. That kind of consistency across platforms is important for influencing.

@doyoutravel is the handle of travel blogger Jack Morris. Morris blogs while on the road and his handle perfectly captures what his brand is all about. Morris’ profile has managed to rack up over 2.5 million followers in 6 years.

@mr.pokee is the account of a smiling hedgehog. Honestly, he’s not really an influencer; we’re just including him because he’s adorable.

Instagram Handle for Business

Lots of businesses have an Instagram page for promotional purposes. A good Instagram handle for a business needs to contain the company name or some description of their product. Here is a really good example of a business that knows its Instagram branding.

@benandjerrys is the page of the popular Vermont-based ice cream company. The handle is simply the name of the business, nothing fancy or complicated.

The benefit of using your brand name as your handle is that people can search directly for your page using your known business name. That is why it’s important to have your brand name decided on before making an Instagram page. Otherwise, you may have to change your name after racking up a bunch of followers.


What’s your Instagram handle? Got any tips for finding a clever handle? Put your suggestions in the comments below!

Alex Bolano

Alex Bolano is a tech writer based out of St. Louis. He holds a Masters from the University of Missouri-Saint Louis and regularly writes on topics relating to technology, science, and internet culture. He enjoys playing video games and researching the latest trends in science and technology.

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