No one likes squatters – they overstay their welcome, they don’t return your calls, they leave mess everywhere and more often than not, they smell. But squatters don’t just reside in abandoned properties, they can also be found all over the world wide web in social networks, having deliberately or innocently poached your brand name as their username. The cheek of it!
To be fair, these ‘e-squatters’ may be well-intentioned brand enthusiasts eager to start communities around your brand. Or they may just have chosen your brand name because it has some other connotation to their lives. e.g. someone called ‘Innocent’ on a dating network is more likely to be a fruit cake than a fruit smoothie!
Worst case scenario is that some disgruntled customer or activist adopts your username to undermine your brand, as South West Trains will testify.
Which brings me to an important point. Whilst you’re spending months developing and finessing your award-winning social media plan to engage consumers in social networks, you could find that some Jack Jones has nabbed your brand username from right under your nose!
Admittedly, sometimes this can work to your favour – Coca-cola’s fanpage on Facebook was created by two guys who loved coke and it’s now the biggest fanpage on Facebook with 3.3 million subscribers. However, in the majority of cases the username account is quite likely to be fairly inactive, underperforming or a digression from your brand or social media strategy.
And there lies the problem. Inaction now could result in any future plans you may have to participate in social networks becoming seriously compromised.
Prevention is better than cure
Fortuantely there’s a way of checking whether your usernames are still available across all the networks by visiting checkusernames.com. This site lists all the social networks and indicates where your chosen username is registered already.
For brands who find themselves in a situation where they want to evict Twitter squatters there does appear to be a simple process of contacting Twitter who will try to reclaim your username unders certain conditions. This process is clearly explained in a useful post by TheNextWeb.
However, prevention is usually better than cure. So it’s probably prudent to register and reserve your brand names in some of the main social networks just to keep your options open. You don’t have to keep it publicly active but at least you’ve prevented the potential of some squatter sabotaging your most precious property of all: your brand.