In the beginning, there were usernames. Then, there were channel names. Eventually, there was a push for all YouTube users to identify with their real names. And now, it seems like YouTube handles are the latest development in the race to fill in every YouTube creator’s name tag.
In a blog post published earlier this month, YouTube announced that it’s finally rolling out handles:
“Handles join channel names as another way to identify a YouTube channel, but unlike channel names, handles are truly unique to each channel so creators can further establish their distinct presence and brand on YouTube.”
Read on for everything you need to know about YouTube handles, including when and how you’ll be able to get yours.
What’s a YouTube handle?
A YouTube handle is a lot like an Instagram or TikTok username: an @ sign followed by a few letters (and sometimes numbers), without any spaces. Usually, they spell out a word or two. They’re unique monikers that people use to find and recognize specific accounts.
Up until now, a YouTube creator’s channel name — which shows up under their videos — has been the way to identify a creator. Think MrBeast, or PewDiePie. The problem? You can change your channel’s name, and they’re not unique.
Seriously, go search up “PewDiePie” on YouTube. You’ll be surprised to find dozens of channels with the same account name. But with unique handles, searching up “PewDiePie” would bring you to the channel with that exact handle — presumably, the man himself.
YouTube handles are a little bit like the personalized URLs that you can set up when you have 100+ channel subscribers, except everyone can get them. While YouTube handles haven’t been officially rolled out yet, when they are in the coming weeks, they’ll be visible in comments, mentions, Shorts, and more. Think of them as a shortcut for anyone looking to find a specific YouTube channel.
How to reserve your YouTube handle
If you have a YouTube account, then you’ve probably received this email recently:
The email pretty much told you everything there is to know about YouTube handles, but here’s the recap:
- Handles aren’t available just yet.
- They’re being rolled out progressively.
- Who gets them first? That depends on multiple factors. However, active channels with a stronger YouTube presence and more subscribers will likely get them first.
- You’ll get a notification in YouTube Studio when it’s time to pick your handle.
Keep an eye on your YouTube channel for that notification. Note that YouTube has said that they’ll start automatically assigning handles to channels that don’t pick one by November 14, 2022, so that notification should come in sooner rather than later.
What happens when you pick a YouTube handle?
It’s not too clear yet, but what we do know is that your YouTube handle will be the primary way people can find you on the platform — and mention you in comments and video descriptions. So you’ll want to pick something that has at least a passing resemblance to your channel’s name. Make sure your handle is easy to remember.
YouTube will automatically create a matching URL for your handle, which you can use on other platforms to link back to your YouTube channel. For example, if you picked @superawesomecreator for your handle, you’d get this URL: youtube.com/@superawesomecreator.
Don’t worry, any personalized URLs already attached to your YouTube channel will automatically redirect to your handle-based URL.
Should you rush to reserve your YouTube handle?
The answer is absolutely yes.
There’s likely going to be some competition for some of the best handles, so you should try and pick yours as soon as you can. After all, these handles are completely unique. If someone wants to steal your channel’s name, and they’re a bit faster on the draw than you are, they could grab the matching handle and leave you stuck with @superawesomecreator2.
But reserving your own YouTube handle isn’t just about making sure no one else can get their grubby hands on it. There are other reasons why you should pick a good handle for your YouTube channel:
It can help strengthen your unique brand
As a creator, your brand is your livelihood. The fewer people can create names that are overly similar to your own, the more distinct your brand becomes. Handles are a great tool for building your brand and being recognized.
Handles will soon be everywhere on YouTube
So far, YouTube has announced that handles will be seen in Shorts, in comments, and in mentions. Basically, all the ways in which you want to get noticed on the platform.
You’ll get one anyway
If you don’t pick your own handle, YouTube will pick one for you. And who knows if they’ll get it right?
Get a handle on it
TL;DR: YouTube handles are coming in the next few weeks, and one will get picked for you automatically by November 14 if you don’t do it yourself. They’ll be unique, unlike channel names. Unsurprisingly, bigger channels will be able to get them first. It’s still early to say what kind of impact handles will have on your creator journey, but you’ll still want to keep an eye out on the notification that invites you to choose yours.