Monday, December 9, 2013

What to Do When Your Twitter Handle is Taken But Isn't in Use

What’s in a name when it comes to a brand new business? A good start-up name, as mentioned a piece on Forbes about the right way to name a start-up, is something that we have an emotional response to. They’re easy to spell and pronounce, memorable, and tie in with the business too. In the world of trademarks, these names are also fanciful and arbitrary which means they’re distinctive. However, the unspoken component for a business’ name today is that not only must a business make sure the name is available to use and file for a trademark once they know it is, but that its Twitter handle hasn’t been taken yet.

Some start-ups, especially ones with extremely unusual names, get to reap in the benefits of sliding into their social outlets with ease. Others with more common names may face their handle already taken by someone else. This can be either an egg avatar user with one follower or an actual person already tweeting with an established following. Beyond the business though is the big brand that is finally taking the plunge to get tweeting, only to discover that not only may their handle be gone but someone else may be attempting to impersonate them too.
It’s a 140 character crisis, but I’m here to help out! For these three scenarios, here are some helpful guidelines of how all trademarked big businesses and small start-ups alike should respond in these situations.
1) “My handle has been taken over by an egg!”
They’ve only tweeted once, have two followers, no bio, and an egg for their avatar – meet the dormant Twitter user. Many of these may be spam so this is the time to file a complaint with Twitter directly, since you do have a trademarked name at this point and as a business, it’s good to have your brand name syncing up across the social media platform board. Twitter’s inactive username policy states that accounts that are inactive for long periods of time may be permanently removed, so check the egg to see when their last update was, if they even have one at all. For the yet to be trademarked start-up, you may want to opt for adding in a number or underscore if it helps to secure a different handle for you in the short term.
2) “My handle has been taken over by someone who isn’t me!”
Maybe you secured a trademark for your business that wasn’t necessarily the most fanciful mark in the world, but still managed to be available. Or you want to tweet from a personal account but have a fairly generic name. The person (or brand) that does have the handle you need is an active tweeter with a following of their own. What comes next?
For a business handle, a report of trademark policy violation may be filed with the explanation that the other company holding it could confuse or mislead others, especially since your business holds a trademark for the name and theirs doesn’t. As for new start-up CEOs or company founders, they may want to contact the account holder directly to see whether they would be willing to let you have the handle or switch their handle over to a different name. This can be tricky ground to tread so approach and handle with care.
3) “My handle has been taken over by someone who isn’t me but is pretending to be!”
It’s time to file a report against the account for impersonation, especially if this is done purposefully. Luckily, businesses and start-ups have the option of receiving a small blue check mark to signify that their profile is a verified account i.e. that’s really us tweeting! Further authentication for the account can be found in filling out the Twitter bio, adding a link to your official website, and capping it all off with a picture or the logo of your brand.
One other area to be mindful of, especially as your brand increases in popularity online, is that Twitter does allow fan and commentary accounts to be created. They are not allowed to use the actual brand’s name (neither as their handle nor username), use any of their copyright-protected images, and must state within their bio that they are a parody, fan, or unofficial account without attempting to get other Twitter users to think they’re real. If you notice that a fake account isn’t following these directions, report it to Twitter right away so that they can reach out to the user and request the proper changes to be made.

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