How we did it: Securing an occupied Twitter handle

It can be tough to be a new brand these days. Locking down namespace online is a huge part of a brand build – but much like potential mates, all the good ones seem to be taken.

We ran into that when we started building the brand for the soon-to-launch TBD. It’s a popular acronym, as everyone knows, so securing that namespace in social media was quite challenging. Though we’ve been tweeting for nearly two months as @TBDDC, this week we finally acquired @TBD. This is how it went down.

We wanted @TBD from the start, but it was occupied by a private, dormant account with zeroes across the board – no followers, no follows and no tweets.

Obviously, the first step in this scenario is to try to contact the handle owner. From my own account, I requested to follow this user to see if they were checking their notifications. Either they weren’t checking or I was rejected, because I never heard back.

I also sent the user a couple of @ replies to see if they were even checking those. No response.

It was time to turn to Twitter.

When you want to take this next step, it’s important to note Twitter’s policies in relation to your situation.

The policies are different depending on whether or not the account is active, whether the user is actively impersonating your brand and whether or not you have a registered trademark on your name.

If someone is actively using the handle you want in accordance with the rules, there’s little Twitter can do, even if you have a trademark on the name.

From Twitter:

Where there is a clear intent to mislead others through the unauthorized use of a trademark, Twitter will suspend the account and notify the account holder.

When an account appears to be confusing users, but is not purposefully passing itself off as the brand/company/product, the account holder will be notified and given an opportunity to clear up any potential confusion, per the guidelines listed below.

Contacting the user directly is really your only hope to getting the name in this instance.

If you want to acquire the handle of an inactive account, as we did, it really helps to have a registered trademark on the name. We did not have our trademark registration info right away, but I still submitted  a ticket request to have the name released.

Once we got our trademark registration information, I filed another ticket, this time under the trademark policy. This time I filled out the required trademark info. To do this, our Twitter account had to be linked to an email address from our domain (an important thing to note if you have a business or blog without a URL yet). This was the final thing that pushed it over the top and got us @TBD.

If you don’t have a trademark registration, you may still have a chance, though note this important point in Twitter’s inactive username policy:

We are currently working to release all inactive usernames in bulk, but we do not have a set time frame for when this will take place. If a username you would like has been claimed by an account that seems inactive, you should consider selecting an available variation for your use on Twitter.

Even so, it wouldn’t hurt to submit a ticket request from your account to report the inactive name.

When and if you get a username opened up, you can easily change your Twitter handle to the new one without affecting your followers, lists or settings. You can do this from the Account tab of your account Settings.  In our case, Twitter rolled @TBDDC over to @TBD for us.

When you change your Twitter handle, you have to be vocal about the change. If you can do it before the changeover, tell your followers what’s coming. After the change, they’ll receive your tweets at the new handle, but they may not realize the difference and may send replies and DMs to your old handle. Tweet about the change and encourage retweets. It might not hurt to briefly re-secure your old handle and put up a message there about the new account.

Note: If you get a second handle for this purpose, be  good citizen and don’t name-squat. After a couple of weeks or so, if you aren’t going to use this account for something else, delete it and re-open the name.

But even if you don’t get the handle you want, you shouldn’t let it stop you from jumping into social media.   It wasn’t a deterrent for TBD – we were able to build a lot of buzz on @TBDDC before we got the new name (and we were prepared to have that name be permanent).

If you can’t get the username of your brand, think of a way to make your own version. Shorten it, add an adjective or adverb, tack on a location or do something entirely out-of-the-box. It really isn’t all in a name. It all depends on how you use the medium and how well you can promote it elsewhere.

  • http://www.umcle.com Tim Baran

    Glad you got your desired username, but few want to or will go through the trademark application process. I tried many times over the course of months to get one of three dormant usernames — to no avail. Twitter seems to have no interest in releasing the tons of inactive usernames since it will negatively impact the number of users. Disappointing.

  • http://twitter.com/mjenkins mjenkins

    Sorry it hasn’t worked out for you. I know a few people who have been able to secure inactive handles without a trademark, though I’m sure each situation is different, depending on the inactive account in question. Good luck.

  • http://twitter.com/mjenkins mjenkins

    Sorry it hasn't worked out for you. I know a few people who have been able to secure inactive handles without a trademark, though I'm sure each situation is different, depending on the inactive account in question. Good luck.

  • http://alexisgrant.com Alexis Grant

    Remembered this post from a while back and returned now that I need it! Question: Do you know what qualifies as an “inactive” Twitter handle? Never used? Not used in a year or two?

    • http://manjamedia.com Mandy Jenkins

      Never used definitely, but they may consider one that hasn’t been used in a year or two. It’s probably all case-by-case.