Every team is focused on building its reach on social by posting engaging content. But many teams might be missing a larger audience. It has nothing to do with content.

Put yourself in the place of a recruit or fan who doesn’t know your team’s handle. Now use the most logical term for your team to search Twitter’s notoriously fickle search.

What comes up? Ideally, your handle is exactly what the masses would guess it to be. For this feature, we’ll examine the official handles from college football teams in the Power 5 plus major independents.

Nine teams enjoy short names and employ the most logical handles. In addition, the titles of the accounts replicate the handle. They come up immediately in Twitter’s search:

@AuburnFootball
@BYUfootball
@CalFootball
@DukeFootball
@LSUfootball
@OregonFootball
@TCUfootball
@TexasFootball
@UCLAfootball

These six teams use their full name and abbreviate football. The title of their accounts use the team name and the full word “football”. They also come up right away in Twitter’s search:

@ClemsonFB
@GeorgiaTechFB
@NavyFB
@OhioStateFB
@OleMissFB
@TexasTechFB

An underscore adds a measure of complexity. However, these two teams spell out their short names and use full account titles so they also come up quickly in Twitter’s search:

@Pitt_FB
@Utah_Football

Four teams employ various abbreviations of “football” but cover their bases with full account titles:

@AlabamaFTBL
@ArizonaFBall
@PennStateFball
@StanfordFball

Eleven teams abbreviate their name, often using a widely-known acronym or alternative term for the team. Again, use of the full team name in the account title boosts them in Twitter’s search:

@BUfootball
@CuseFootball
@FootballUGA
@KU_Football
@NDfootball
@OU_Football
@Rfootball
@UKFootball
@UVA_Football
@VandyFootball
@WakeFB

These eight teams use a widely-known acronym or alternative term but don’t employ the full team name in the account title. Twitter’s search fails to suggest the official account using the full team name:

@FSUfootball
@KstateFB
@MizzouFootball
@MSU_Football
@VT_Football
@UW_Football
@WVUfootball

Ten teams make it a bit more difficult by opting for some form of their nickname with “football”. However, these teams use a standard team name in their account titles so they pop up in Twitter’s search:

@AggieFootball
@BeaverFootball
@BoilerFootball
@GopherFootball
@HoosierFootball
@PackFootball
@TerpsFootball
@Vol_Football
@BadgerFootball

These nine teams also opt for using nicknames but do not employ a full team name in their account title. They do not show up in Twitter’s search. These are more challenging to guess:

@CanesFootball
@CowboyFB
@CycloneFB
@GatorsFB
@GamecockFB
@HawkeyeFootball
@IlliniFootball
@RazorbackFB
@RunRalphieRun
@TarheelFootball

For various reasons, these five teams use more obscure team handles but they do come up in Twitter’s search using a logical team name.

Army’s re-brand emphasizing West Point adds “WP” and an underscore to team handles across the department. Mississippi State’s branding campaign uses “HailState” to begin team account handles. Michigan (UMich) and Louisville (UofL) employ a similar strategy.

Nebraska has one the cleanest department handles (@Huskers) in college athletics but uses a more complicated football handle. As is usually the case, there’s history.

@ArmyWP_Football
@HailStateFB
@HuskerFBNation
@UofLFootball
@UMichFootball

These three teams are the most difficult to discover on Twitter. Arizona State, Northwestern and Washington State have relatively¬†convoluted football handles. They also don’t use team names in the account titles. Northwestern is currently using multiple “W’s” as a promo in the name.

Unless you know exactly what to type, it’s more challenging to find these or tag on Twitter:

@FootballASU
@NUFBfamily
@WSUcougFB

We’ve specifically utilized Twitter’s internal search in this feature but Instagram and Facebook are similar. We often use Google’s more robust search engine to remind of us handles. It’s a stretch to expect recruits and casual fans do the same.

We understand the team’s preferred handle might have been claimed by someone else long ago. Current handles can also be entrenched with years of use, appearing on facilities, recruiting mailers and more. A change would be disruptive.

We believe that an improved team handle the majority of people can guess is worth a short disruption in the long run. If you’re interested in claiming your team’s name as a handle, we’ve assembled these steps for Twitter.

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Claiming an Existing Twitter Handle

1. Register a throw-away email address through Gmail. If you’re going to change more than one handle, you’ll need a unique email for each. Record all your logins and passwords somewhere secure.

2. Get your team’s trademark/licensing paperwork including the trademark registration number.

3. Go through the Twitter trademark reporting process online:
https://support.twitter.com/forms/trademark

4. If your form is completed correctly, you should hear back from Twitter asking if you want to occupy the handle. You do and you want to move everything over from your current handle.

5. Twitter will do this seamlessly and your followers won’t notice a thing.

6. As soon as Twitter moves your followers to your new handle, use your throw-away email address to immediately register the old handle you just vacated. Safely back in your hands, you can then update your info there to forward visitors to your new handle.

Don’t leave your old handle as a dead-end. Definitely don’t allow your abandoned handle to fall into the hands of a rival team (you have to love the Army-Navy rivalry).

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Thanks to the athletics staff working hard behind the scenes to connect fans with the teams they love.

Jason R. Matheson