In October, the video platform announced its roll-out of YouTube handles. With this feature, it finally follows the example of other major social media platforms.
But what exactly are handles? How do they differ from channel names and custom URLs? And how can you choose one for your channel?
Here’s the full run-down.
Introducing Handles: Your New Unique YouTube Identifier
The biggest selling point of YouTube handles is that they will provide a unique identifier for your channel.
Currently, multiple YouTube channels can share a name. Viewers searching for a particular channel can be left guessing which is the right one in the search results.
In contrast, handles are unique – think @yourchannel_1. They are therefore a bullet-proof identifier for your YouTube channel. (We’ll talk about how to pick a good one a bit farther down!)
The main difference between YouTube handles and custom channel URLs is that there’s no barrier to choosing a handle. In the past, you’ve had to reach 100 subscribers before you could choose a custom URL for your channel.
This is not the case for handles. Every user on the platform – even if they just use it to watch and comment on videos – can get a unique handle.
There is one exception: Supervised users won’t be able to get a handle. This applies to children under 13 whose YouTube experience is managed by their parents.
According to YouTube’s announcement video, handles appear in the Shorts tab, in search results, and in comments. You can also mention and tag other accounts using their handles.
Can You Choose Your Handle?
So, handles sound pretty useful. But how do you get one for your channel?
Currently, YouTube is rolling out handles bit by bit. There are several billion users on the platform, and letting everyone choose their handle at the same time would be impossible.
Instead, YouTube is sending out email notifications to users when they are able to choose their handle. When it’s your turn, you’ll also get a notification in YouTube Studio.
When it comes to choosing handles, popular channels have priority. The more active you are on the platform, the more subscribers you have and the more engagement your channel gets, the sooner you’ll be able to pick your unique handle.
If you already have a unique URL for your channel, this will automatically become your handle. You can, however, adjust it later on if you want to.
No matter if you have a unique URL or not, though, you’ll be assigned a handle by November 14. If you haven’t chosen one already, YouTube will base your assigned handle on your channel name.
New users will be prompted to choose a YouTube handle the first time they contribute to the platform – either by uploading a video or commenting on one.
How to Choose a Good YouTube Handle
As a creator, choosing the right handle for your channel can be a challenge. It should represent what your content is all about and who you are as a YouTuber.
There are some limitations. YouTube handles need to be between 3 and 30 characters long. They can contain upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, as well as underscores, hyphens, and periods.
A few more rules: You can’t choose handles that look like URLs or phone numbers, though. Plus, your handle needs to adhere to YouTube’s Community Guidelines. That means it can’t include violent, sexualized, or offensive terms, or anything that looks spammy. Furthermore, selling or transferring YouTube handles is against the platform’s guidelines.
If you already have handles on other platforms like Instagram and Twitter, choosing your YouTube handle is a breeze. To help your fans find you across social networks, picking identical handles is the best strategy.
The only catch? There is no way to claim a handle if it is already being used by someone else. In that case, you need to make modifications to your target handle. Introduce numbers, underscores, or play with capitalization. Another strategy often used on other social networks is to add prefixes. For example, if “@jane_foster” is already taken, try one of these:
Can You Change Your YouTube Handle?
Once you’ve picked – or were assigned – your YouTube handle, it is absolutely possible to change it. You can do so in YouTube Studio and in the apps.
To get you up to speed, we’ve written a whole new guide about how to change your YouTube handle and channel name!
When you get or change your handle, you don’t need to worry about updating URLs. They will automatically redirect to your new handle. However, you should update other social media bios and your website to reflect your new handle.
A final note on handles and verification: Changing your channel handle won’t affect your verification status. If you have a verification badge, you’ll be able to keep it even if your handle changes.
However, if you change the name of your channel, you need to reapply for verification. This is YouTube’s safeguard against scammers trying to impersonate channels.
Here’s @DustyPorter showing us how to check if you can claim your handle yet, and how to change it if you want to.
Conclusion: Embracing YouTube Handles
By introducing handles, YouTube is finally catching up to a system that works well on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, a few years after implementing hashtags.
Your handle will be your unique identifier on the platform, making it easier for creators to establish their presence and their brand.
To get ahead of the curve, keep an eye on your inbox and YouTube Studio notification so that you can claim your unique handle asap and implement it across your online presence.
Yes. As long as nobody else is using the same handle, you are free to pick. Handles can contain alphanumeric characters, underscores, hyphens, and periods. They must be 3 to 30 characters long and must adhere to YouTube’s community guidelines.
Choosing a handle for your YouTube channel is free. Selling or transferring existing handles is against YouTube’s guidelines and can lead to penalties.
Anyone can choose their YouTube handle. Unlike with custom URLs in the past, there is no subscriber threshold you have to pass.
If someone else is using the handle you want already, you have to make modifications. Add numbers, underscores, or variable capitalization. There is no way of claiming a handle someone else is using.