Okay, so you're trying to register an Instagram username, but it says it's unavailable.
I know how frustrated you are because I was in the same boat. But, I knew the username was, in fact, available...
So what gives?
I had two Instagram usernames registered (@bykelseysmith and @modernmartha). I wanted to swap the two usernames.
I changed @bykelseysmith to something different to free it up. I planned to quickly change @modernmartha to @bykelseysmith, but Instagram said the username was unavailable.
Skip ahead to find out why...
The long version
My blog name changed from Modern Martha to Kelsey Smith this summer. I knew for more than a year that I wanted to make this transition, so I reserved my new username on Instagram (@bykelseysmith) in advance with a dummy account.
I've done this previously in my professional career, so I knew this was possible.
I planned to change the username on the dummy account right before the swap so @bykelseysmith would become available, and then quickly change my main profile.
Unfortunately, it told me the Instagram username was not available, even though it clearly was.
I panicked. Did a bot still my username? The answer it seemed was no.
When I searched @bykelseysmith, no one had the username.
So what gives?
Here are a few possible reasons you can't register a username that appears available:
When you change your username, Instagram reserves your old username for 14 days. This is just in case you decide to switch it back.
When you go to "Edit Profile" and tap into the username field, a message reads, "In most cases, you'll be able to change your username back to (blank) for another 14 days."
I previously reserved usernames in the same method I mentioned above and didn't have any issues, but Instagram implemented this 14 day hold early-to-mid 2019.
A commenter suggested that bots can quickly register usernames after they're abandoned. This is actually why Instagram implemented the 14-day hold rule.
According to WeRSM, there was indeed an issue with bots registering usernames immediately after they become available. This 14-day hold feature, though annoying to username swappers, gives users more security with their usernames.
That means though, if you're reserving a username like I did, you'll have to wait 14 days to make your final switch.
Better set a calendar alert.
Recently, I received a comment that said they received the message I shared above, but it said 12 days, not 14. So, which is it?
This article was originally written in October 2019, but as of June 2020, the message on my app still reads 14 days.
The truth is, Instagram changes its app constantly, and they often roll out updates to select groups of users as a test. If you receive a message that says 12 days, trust the app.
So, what happened to me, you ask?
After 14 days, I was able to register my old username on my main account.
I set a calendar alert to remind myself because I didn't want a bot coming in and stealing my thunder. I was incredibly relieved when it worked.
Once my old username (@modernmartha) was freed up, I had to wait another 14 days to register it on my dummy account.
Why did I reserve my old username, you ask?
On my dummy account, now outfitted with my old username, I added a "moved" notice to the profile. This saves you for two reasons:
1: There may still be links floating around the internet to your old username. Since I'm a blogger and a YouTuber, I link my Instagram in every single video I upload.
2: Someone may manually look up your old username, so it's best to have a "redirect" of sorts in place.
I searched to see if Instagram has an anti-squatting policy that makes this against the rules, but I couldn't find any evidence that it is.
Deleting an account removes the username from the pool of available usernames. If someone had that username registered at some point in time but deleted the account, it's possible that username has been taken off the market for good.
This is from Instagram's help website:
If your account was deleted by you or someone with your password, there's no way to restore it. You can create a new account with the same email address you used before, but you may not be able to get the same username.via Instagram Help Center
Though unlikely, it's possible the username you are trying to use has been banned. I haven't read confirmation from Instagram, but this is the word on the street.
If a user is banned for bad activity, their username does not go back into the pool of available names.
I've read that deleted account usernames may also fall into this bucket. Or usernames containing blocked or inappropriate words.
This scenario really stinks because there's no way to confirm if the desired username is banned.
There does not seem to be a resolution if this is the case other than selecting a slightly different username. Try adding periods, numbers, underscores, or abbreviations.
It's In Use
Maybe triple check that username one more time to be sure it's not connected to an active account...
Share your success (or failure) story in the comments, and feel free to leave your Instagram link or username. I'm going to list anything that I think would be helpful to a wider audience below.
- @anestidest said he had an old account and a new account. He changed the username on the old account and then deleted the old account. After 14 days he was able to register the old username on the new account.
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