You’ve done it! After failed attempts, sleepless nights, fruitless meetings and gallons of coffee, you’ve finally come up with your golden ticket—a business concept that you’re proud of and ready to broadcast to the world. You have your brand name, your pitch, logo, mission statement, and all the je ne sais quoi needed to get your brand/product off the ground, now it’s time to build an online following, right?
Now is the time to encourage viewers to learn more about your product/service. One of the best ways to accomplish this vital step is executed with a strategic social media plan. In a perfect world, you can create a Facebook/Instagram/Twitter account with your brand name (i.e. Snickers. Facebook: www.facebook.com/snickers; Twitter: @SNICKERS). But what happens when your coveted social media handle isn’t available and is already owned by some 13-year-old kid in Nebraska? No offense to 13-year-old kids in Nebraska.
If you run into this problem, you have a few different options as a brand depending on a few variables including whether or not you have a registered trademark. If you do have a registered trademark, your outlook is optimistic. If you do not have a registered trademark, however, your situation is looking dismal, and you may want to start thinking of a new social media handle.
Your Name is Trademarked—High Five!
If you do have a registered trademark, social media platforms typically make it easy to report the offending account/username. The legal definition of a trademark means an account, whether it’s a public or personal account, is using a “company or business name, logo, or other trademark-protected materials in a manner that may mislead or confuse others with regard to its brand or business affiliation.” If the offending account is misusing your trademark-protected material, the social media platform is authorized to delete the account and release the username. If the offending account’s usage is unintentional, however, the waters get a little murky. For example, if your brand name is the same as the user’s last name, the social media provider is much less likely to intervene and take action.
No Trademark? Mo’ Problems
If you don’t have a registered trademark, social media networks are not obligated to intervene whatsoever. Instagram’s inactive account policy advises anyone interested in taking over inactive accounts, but do NOT have their coveted account name registered as a trademark, to seek an alternative username. Twitter’s rules are nearly a carbon copy of Instagram’s. Long story short, don’t get your hopes up if you don’t have a trademark.
Reach Out Directly
An alternative means of acquiring a social media handle that’s in someone else’s possession is to reach out to the account owner directly. Most social media platforms provide avenues in which you can send a direct message. This may be the most effective, and often the fastest way to resolve your issue. Ideally, the user will see that they have a new message, respond promptly, and happily transfer ownership of the account. In the real world, however, your username may be owned by a “username squatter” who is holding onto your coveted handle in hopes of acquiring money for the transfer of ownership. Certain social media platforms, like Twitter, explicitly discourages the buying and selling of accounts. If you do run across an individual trying to sell you a username, do not comply. Instead, report the individual and hope that the social media platform deletes the fraudulent account, at which point you can snatch it up!
What’s in a Name?
To summarize, don’t fret if the social media handle you’re going for is taken. Try to take the necessary steps to acquire ownership of the existing account, but don’t kick yourself if you can’t. Choose another handle, and run with it. If your product/service is as great as you think it is, your handle won’t matter. What’s in a name, anyway? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. And a Hawke by any other name is just as fly (shameless Hawke plug).