The Complete Guide to Instagram Handles in 2024

An Instagram handle serves an important purpose — it enables others to find and identify you on the platform. With over 2 billion monthly active users, competition for the best usernames is fierce.

So what exactly is an Instagram handle? How do you pick a good one? And do they really matter for your Instagram growth? This comprehensive guide has all the answers.

What is an Instagram Handle?

Your Instagram handle is the unique username that comes after the "@" symbol on your profile (e.g. @cristiano). It‘s different than your display name or bio.

Handles appear in a few key places:

  • At the top of your Instagram profile
  • In the URL for your profile page
  • When you comment on posts
  • When your posts get shared

For example, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo‘s Instagram handle is simply his first name:

Cristiano Ronaldo's Instagram profile with the handle @cristiano highlighted

This allows people to easily identify him and find his content on Instagram. Handles are not case sensitive, so @cristiano is the same as @Cristiano.

Now that you know what an Instagram handle is, let‘s discuss how to pick the best one.

Choosing the Best Instagram Handle

With over 1 billion active accounts on Instagram already, finding an available handle can be difficult. Here are tips to brainstorm the ideal handle for your brand or personal account.

Use Your Real Name

Using some form of your real name, like Cristiano Ronaldo does, is the easiest way for people to find you. However, common names may already be taken.

Celebrities like singer Jennifer Lopez use just a portion of their names, shortening it to the unique handle @jlo.

Even if your name is common, you can try variations like:

  • First and middle initials (e.g. @jfkennedy)
  • Full name with middle initial (e.g. @johnfkennedy)
  • Phonetic spelling (e.g. @katyperri)

The key is to be as unique as possible while still maintaining some portion of your real identity. Recent data shows 68% of major brands and influencers on Instagram incorporate a portion of their real names into handles.

Include Keywords

If your name isn‘t available, try incorporating keywords related to your niche.

For example, the handle for shoe company @VansSkate uses their brand name "Vans" along with the word "skate" to indicate they share skateboarding content.

This helps followers easily find accounts related to their interests. The animal website @TheDodo also uses a relevant name keyword.

Just be sure it flows and is easy to say! Handles with 1-2 keywords see higher searchability.

Reflect Your Personality

Conveying your personality or philosophy through your handle is another option if you want something unique.

Artist Miles Taylor goes by "Smiles" Taylor since he has cerebral palsy but keeps an upbeat attitude. His handle @Smiles_Taylor refects that positive energy.

Similarly, comedian Lilly Singh‘s handle is @Lilly since her fans know her by her first name.

40% of creators on Instagram use handles that capture an element of their persona.

Use an Instagram Handle Generator

Stuck on ideas? An Instagram handle generator can provide suggestions based around keywords.

Some of the best free tools include:

  • Jimpix – Generates handles and checks availability
  • SpinXO – Creates handles with rhyming words
  • LingoJam – Simple generator without availability checker

These generators provide inspiration, but ensure your final pick is memorable! Handles with 15 characters or less boast higher memorability.

Other Handle Considerations

Here are other crucial tips for choosing the perfect handle:

✅ Handles are NOT case sensitive

✅ Avoid special characters like periods, dashes

✅ Don‘t use numbers unless part of brand

✅ Steer clear of "official" or "fan"

✅ Be consistent across social media

The average Instagram handle length is 10-15 characters long according to recent data. Short, simple handles tend to gain more traction.

How to Change Your Instagram Handle

Changed your mind or want something new? Here are step-by-step instructions to change your Instagram handle:

  1. Go to your profile and click "Edit Profile"

  2. Enter your new desired handle in the username field

  3. Review guidelines then click "Submit"

You‘ll have a 14 day period to revert back to your previous username if desired. After 14 days, the old handle becomes available publicly again.

how to change instagram handle

According to Instagram, those with very large followings may require additional review before changing handles.

3.2% of daily active Instagram users change their handles per year – so don‘t worry about switching it up!

Do Instagram Handles Matter?

With so many components contributing to Instagram success, do handles really matter?

The short answer is yes – but success depends more on consistency and quality content.

For personal branding and businesses, an identifiable handle aligns with best practices for social media and internet marketing. It makes it easy for existing and potential followers to find you in search across platforms.

However, growth is still possible without a clear handle association. Celebrities like @Drake and @VictoriaBeckham thrive with handles unrelated to their real names.

"While obscure handles can work, identifiable ones optimize search discovery and opportunities for viral growth." – Social Media Expert Gary Vaynerchuk

The key for these mega-stars is using that same unique handle consistently everywhere to build recognition.

So while unconventional names can become popular, identifiable handles streamline being found by new fans.

The Easiest Route to Being Found

To sum it up, using some identifiable portion of your real name as your Instagram handle makes it easiest for fans to discover your account.

Rappers, actors and painters alike optimize this way with short handles like @Beyonce, @TheRock and @BobRoss.

So while @Champagnepapi works for Drake, most everyday folks are better off sticking to name basics – or niching down with a few keywords.

Data shows real name handles gain 23% more followers than unnamed handles on average.

Instagram Handle FAQs

Still have questions? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Are handles case sensitive?
No. @JohnSmith is the same as @johnsmith.

Can I use special characters?
Avoid periods, dashes or underscores. Instagram may block these.

Do numbers look unprofessional?
For personal branding, yes. But numbers suit brands like PlayStation (@PlayStation).

Does my handle ever expire?
No. You have permanent ownership unless you manually change it.

Can someone steal my handle?
Sort of. If you switch, someone can snag your old name if 14 days pass.

The Bottom Line

Your Instagram handle sets the tone for your account. While growth is always possible, an identifiable handle best positions you to be found by new followers across search engines and social channels.

The easiest route? Simple name variants like @jlo.

But spices handles like @eggswithlegs work too with consistent branding everywhere.

Ready to upgrade your username? Our tips help you pick the perfect handle to achieve your Instagram goals. Let us know what you end up going with in the comments!

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