I started on Twitter with a couple of friends the week it came out of Beta, and we had no idea just how big this would get a few years down the line. Back then I happily hid behind the nom de plume of 'Lactose the Intollerent' so that I could voice my opinion while being a part of a large news organization and with out the fear of repecussions. Times, however, have changed.
Now I work in social media and, frankly, my name is my brand. Hindesight is a marvelous thing, and it's unlikely back then we'd have gone for the names we did if we'd have know what Twitter was to become. Consequently I've decided to risk changing my username to my real name, and take close stock of the consequences.
Here is how I changed my Twitter name (hopefully) without losing any followers.
First, I checked my name was available. Important one this... ...bingo, all was clear.
Second, I made the name change. You can change your Twitter name at any time on the ’settings’ page at Twitter.com. Piece of cake. Bob's ya uncle. Yada, yada.
Third, I create a new account with my old Twitter name. I added a pic, chanced the background, added a URL to the new @nikhewitt twitter account, and posted a single tweet telling folks my name had changed. I also had to change the graphic on my background which, luckily, I'd saved as a PSD when I did it.
Forth, I let folks know through my old account, now @nikhewitt, that the name had changed but they needed to do nothing about it. I just did this for 'belt and braces' really, so they don't see something they don't recognise popping up in their stream.
Fifth, I ran around quickly changing the resorces I know used the old name/RSS stream, like the widget on the blog, FriendFeed, a few Ning sites, any links I could think of, PodBean etc. I'm sure there's a few stragglers, but I'll pick them up when I notice them and there's nothing important. Disco.
Including writing this post, the whole thing probably took about an hour.
Doing it this way I won’t lose any of my followers (touch wood) and they’ll all see the name change as their Twitter clients refresh. I did, however, miss a couple of @replys direcly after the switch. Most Twitter apps won’t update existing tweets with a new name until they are restarted, it seems. As a result a couple of @replys went to the old account. This was literally just for 20 minutes though, but if you're doing this yourself be sure to monitor your old account for a bit so you can catch missed replies and update your follower of the name change.