Social Media

Posted by Ryan Sullivan, Natural Search Specialist


Yesterday Facebook announced an upcoming change to the way it will display profile and page URLs.  Starting at 12:01 AM EDT Saturday, June 13th, Facebook users and page administrators will be able to login to the Facebook username page and stake their claim on a more fitting URL than the current medley of numbers that identifies them now.  This change is aimed at making it easier for friends and family to identify a specific individual or company amongst the sea of people and businesses currently using Facebook, and will be especially helpful for those of us with more common names.

<a a="A" claim="claim" current="current" fitting="fitting" href="" identifies="identifies" medley="medley" more="more" now.

<a a="A" claim="claim" current="current" fitting="fitting" href="" identifies="identifies" medley="medley" more="more" now.


 Image taken from


This is also great news for marketers that want to increase their company’s presence on the search engine results pages (SERPs) for brand related searches.  Recently the search marketing world was abuzz with the sudden rise of Twitter pages in the search results for companies that chose their profile names and account usernames wisely. 


Three benefits of having a dominant presence in the SERPs are:


1.     Reputation management – Crowd out negative listings using your brand terms

2.     Competitive edge – Less space for competitors to rank for product comparison pages

3.     Reduce channel conflict – Make sure your brand sticks out among product resellers, as you are the authority for your brand


      For example, searching for Michael Phelps on Google yields first page results that show his Facebook page (with a vanity URL given to him by Facebook) and his Wikipedia listing.  Having off-domain pages in a brand's Web portfolio allows for greater domination of the SERPs.  With the upcoming change to the way Facebook handles URLs for its content pages, marketers that choose to implement a vanity URL with their brand name could expect to see greater lift for their Facebook page in the SERPs like Phelps; adding one more listing to help dominate the first results page. 


Tips for Marketers


1.     Select your brand name, and separate individual words with a period when possible (“.“). 

This is a fairly common, but often overlooked, optimization technique when setting up URLs.  Search engines favor delimited text in URLs, and sandwiching all the brand terms together would possibly hurt your chances for SERP dominance.  Hyphens are the common industry best practice, but Facebook has only specified the period as a valid delimiter at this point in time.


The obvious caveat to this recommendation is if your brand name is made up of multiple concatenated terms.  In that case, forgoing delimiters may be a viable option, but always keep searchers and search engines in mind.  If people still end up separating each word in their queries when looking for your brand online, it may be wise to use the delimiters.


2.     Avoid catch phrases or product associations, and stick with your primary brand for each page you own. 

Some might be compelled to stuff in keywords, but remember, social media pages are about YOU and YOUR BRAND.  This doesn’t mean that if you are a company like NIKE, and have a special Facebook page for NIKE Golf, you shouldn’t use “” in the URL for that product page.  In this case NIKE should use “nike” for the generic NIKE page, and “” for the NIKE Golf page, but don’t mix and match like “”


Facebook has mentioned that generic terms like “pizza” and “flowers” cannot be claimed as usernames, but it seems like that only applies for singular terms.  Pizza Hut obviously has a legitimate claim to the vanity URL “pizza.hut”, which is likely why this wouldn’t be a problem.

3.     Make a calculated decision when choosing your vanity URL.

Given the rise in popularity of social media sites, and the need to make a quick buck, people don’t only squat on domains these days.  As pointed out in a recent Performics’ blog post about Twitter brand squatting, claim your brand on Twitter before someone else does, popular names and brands are being scooped up by brand charlatans left and right.  This may instill a sense of panic in all the brand managers out there, but fortunately Facebook is taking several steps to guard against brand hijacking.



B.    Your Facebook page must have been live on Facebook prior to May 31, 2009.

C.    Your Facebook page must have had at least 1,000 fans as of May 31, 2009.

D.    If someone is infringing on your IP rights you can take action by filling out the IP infringement form.

E.    If you want to prevent someone from registering a username associated with your trademarked terms you can fill out the username rights form.

F.    You cannot transfer usernames to another account, and when an account is deactivated no one else can register that name in the future.


In light of these restrictions, Performics recommends you are extremely careful when setting your vanity URL.  If you are unsure of how you want to approach it, fill out the username rights form linked to above for all the trademarks you own, and carefully plan out your naming strategy.  A mistake could be very costly and even if Facebook were to make exceptions to the rules, it would only add time and unnecessary energy into administration that could have been used to publish great social content.


Unsolved and Lingering Policy Issues


1.     Some brands don’t quite have 1000+ fans, but still have a legitimate claim to a vanity URL.

At some point Facebook may start a formal application process for these cases and it seems like the steps are in place to prevent a mess of squatting when they open up the gates.  Performics recommends at least filling out the username rights form ASAP to claim your brand.  Facebook would likely look to these approved trademarks first when making exceptions to the current policy.


2.     Wait, we haven’t even launched our Facebook page yet, but have it in the works!

Again, there may be some formal application process down the road.  In the meantime, fill out the username rights form to claim your trademarks.


3.     Some groups meet the age and fan criteria, but are not actually the “real” (insert brand here).

This may seem like a big issue, but can be easily prepared for by filling out the username rights form.  If you discover that someone has used your trademarks in their URL, or on a page, fill out the IP infringement form linked to in the previous Tips for Marketers section.  In situations where a fan has set up a page for a brand, Facebook has been accommodating in transferring that fan page to the brand owner per the owner’s request.


If you haven’t started thinking about a comprehensive social media strategy using Facebook, or any other social media platform, you should at least take a survey of your brand on the platforms.  This Facebook change gives every brand manager and marketer out there are good reason to investigate the question, “Who is managing your brand image in the social space?” If you don’t know the answer to that question, start seeking it now.


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