Small Business Website $1,599
855-565-7895, 520-543-4480

On one otherwise ordinary Friday night, I sat in front of my computer, eyes darting between the clock and computer monitor. It was an anxiety akin to waiting for my favorite band’s concert tickets to go on sale. What was the cause of my nocturnal angst? At midnight on June 13th, 2009 (yes, I know how long ago that seems now), Facebook would release the ability to create vanity URLs for all member profiles.

The clock changed to 11:59pm, and I furiously refreshed my Facebook home page. My heart nearly skipped a beat when “Now you can have a username for your Facebook profile” finally popped up on the screen. Having googled my name countless times over the years, I was 99.99% positive there was no other “me” (at least not in North America or active on the World Wide Web). But still, the drive to be the one and only—officially staking my claim on a piece of internet history—kept me glued to my seat that night.

While this whole experience may seem trivial (especially for those of us who remember the early days of AOL when usernames often included superfluous adjectives to make the owner sound more attractive online than he or she was in real life), the ability to control the social networks affiliated with your brand is a crucial part of reputation management.

Choose a username

Whether on Facebook or elsewhere, select a username as close to your business name as possible: promoting exposure and consistency for your brand across multiple channels. Usernames hold a lot of influence over search engine optimization (SEO), affecting your rank in search results on Google and other search engines. If your first choice is not available (darn!), consider adding a keyword important to your SEO strategy.

Enlist the help of the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website to ensure your name was not previously registered by another company. Many social networking sites, including Facebook, will prompt you to confirm you are not knowingly violating anyone else’s intellectual property rights when choosing a vanity URL or username.

Keep the name on the shorter side, if possible. Not only will this help fit your URL onto business cards, etc., but it is also beneficial for a Twitter account. Since Twitter limits tweets to a truncated character count, the more characters in your name, the shorter the message if someone wants to retweet or reply to you.

Check for availability

Utilize a free online tool such as KnowEm or NameChk to verify the availability of your desired username. These programs will check your preferred choice against several social networks and clue you into whether they are available or taken.

Some of these tools will also indicate if your desired username does not meet the social network’s length requirement. KnowEm, specifically, also lists variations of domain names featuring the desired username and their availability.

Although this sounds like a time-consuming process, it will save you a lot of frustration down the road. (Trust me…I’ve learned the hard way!)

Stake your claim

When you finally settle on a username (and slight variations, if necessary), it’s time to start registering! Begin with the most important social networks, which will obviously vary depending on your specific business/brand. The big boys of course are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If you have time (I suggest you make some…hint, hint), also sign up for YouTube, Flickr, Foursquare, and a blogging platform (WordPress, Blogger, tumblr, Typepad, etc.).

Helpful hint: create an e-mail specifically for managing your social media accounts ( to consolidate the large volume of confirmation e-mails you will receive.

When it boils down to it, the best practice is to leave no stone unturned (ahem, no vanity URL unclaimed). Even if you never visit the site again, this will help prevent infringement down the road—a small price to pay to protect the investment you’ve already made in your brand.



This will close in 0 seconds