If you’re rebranding now, or if you’re starting a new company, you probably want to register a Twitter handle to support that new entity. The problem is, you’re late to the party. By this point, you’ve waited too long. The handle you want is probably taken. How can you make sure you get the handle you really want?
Step 1: Check to see if the handle is actually taken and owned by someone active.
Okay, so this isn’t actually the first of our five steps. It’s more like a preliminary step, a bit of preparation if you will. If the handle you want is available, your job is done. Good for you! Register it, set a strong password and get to work.
Why is setting a strong password important? It’s not completely unknown for someone to hack and hijack an account. The example in the link isn’t quite “guess the password and change it” territory, but it’s still a possibility. The last thing you need is a compromised account right when you’re working up to something great.
It’s at this point that you should set some realistic expectations. If you’re shooting for a Twitter handle with anything less than five or six characters, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Many of the holders of these domains either actively use them, or routinely receive exorbitant offers to sell. If they haven’t sold by now, you’re probably not going to convince them.
Your steps will differ if the current holder of the count is active or not.
Step 1: Snag the Inactive Account
If the account is inactive, what you should do is file a claim with Twitter themselves. Stick to the factual. Your business name is DesiredName. The Twitter handle @DesiredName is registered but has been inactive for X amount of time. Your customers and followers often attempt to send messages to the inactive account, meaning that the inactive account is misrepresenting your business.
This is not a guaranteed plan, but it’s a possibility. Twitter might release the name to you. This only has a decent chance of working if your business name or real name is the same as the desired name, and the desired Twitter handle has been inactive for a very long time. If there is a mismatch or the handle is active, you’re out of luck on this route.
Step 2: Deal With the Active User
If the account is active, your first step is to try to be nice. Approach the owner via their listed email or a direct message and ask them if they’d be willing to part with the handle. If so, all they need to do is change their handle away from the one you want. Once they do that, you’re free to register the name or change a current account into that name.
This path has a few possible outcomes.
- The user is nice and realizes they don’t want or need the account, and gives it over to you. This is obviously the best result, and ends the process.
- The user ignores your messages completely. You have no real way of knowing if they received them or if they’re willfully ignoring them.
- The user shoots back with a price tag or a query as to how much you’re willing to pay.
Step 3: Negotiate
In the event that the holder of the account is willing to negotiate a price, you can work to do exactly that. You should know how much you want to spend, but you should also never offer that much up front. Offer something lower, perhaps significantly lower, if they demand an offer. If possible, ask them how much they would take for it. Many people undervalue their assets, or at least the importance of those assets. Where you may be willing to pay $15,000, they may be satisfied to receive $500 for it.
Typically a normal user will ask for a smaller fee. If they ask for something large, you may be dealing with an experienced squatter. These people are liable to take you for every penny you can give them, and they may not be wholly satisfied with turning the handle over. You don’t want to pay for it and then have it stolen out from under you, after all.
At this point, the best result is a closed deal. They accept your offer or you agree to their request, payment is sent, the username is released and you obtain it.
Step 4: Get Aggressive Against Squatters
If, as near as you can tell, the holder of the account is a squatter, you have a few ways to possibly deal with them. Obviously, you don’t want to pay the exorbitant amount of money they want. It’s information superhighway robbery.
This step is very much like dealing with an inactive account. You can, however, file a trademark violation report. This is difficult, and you do need to legitimately own the trademark to the name, and it can’t be a common name otherwise. You can’t exactly trademark the name Bob, and you’re not going to get @Bob by doing so.
In the unlikely event that the owner of the account is actually impersonating your business, by the way, you can deal with them in the same way. Clear intent to impersonate, like using your logo, is a sure thing.
You can also report the account as owned by a squatter. This won’t get the account turned over to you, unfortunately. The most likely outcome is that it will be suspended and removed. Then, after anywhere from 30 to 90 days or more, Twitter will perform a bulk release of usernames that includes your target. Once it is available, you can then pick it up.
How the heck do you know when it becomes available? In this case, you’re going to need a third party service. Tweetclaims is a cheap option, though of course you need to be on point to register when the alert comes through, lest you lose the name to another squatter.
Step 5: Think Outside the Box
There are other solutions. What if, instead of buying the account, you bought the person? That’s more or less what CNN did to acquire the CNNBRK account, which was very popular at the time and was already performing a service related to CNN.
CNN didn’t want to cut ties or anger the people who liked CNNBRK. Instead of trying to buy the domain outright, or initiating some kind of legal action, CNN approached the owner of the account with an offer. They hired the owner on as a business consultant, retaining his services and imposing quality control without disrupting anything.