Social Media Branding and Vanity URLs

By Todd BertschFeb 24, 2014

Time and time again while using social media I run into the same dilemma: unusable, branded social media accounts. It happens for a variety of reasons such as an employee taking a proactive measure in claiming the account for the good of all brand-kind, only later to forget or delete the email account, username and password associated with it. Or, the company was late to adopt the online channel, leaving the prime, branded URL for others to claim and cling to.

It’s unfortunate and all too common. This leads to one strong message for those companies that currently own only their website domain: claim your social media accounts now.

So you don’t want to be on social media? You may say that now, but with the growing desire of consumers to connect with a company on a more personal level, you’ll see yourself on social media in the next year or so. (Hello, public relations.) Vanity URLs and handles don’t expire, so you’ve got nothing to lose by taking these preemptive measures.

I’m sure you have some questions, which I’m happy to answer.

“What’s the worst that could happen if I don’t claim my account and vanity URL?”

Well, someone else could claim your company name and upload untrue content or share distasteful pieces of information that don’t align with your company, potentially offending those who view it.

Although that won’t happen to in every scenario, there are still other issues you could face if someone else claims your name. Your branding consistency will be forced to shift, which will create an additional need to craft handles, URLs and names that are available, but still in-line with branding.

Additionally, in some industries, (such as online marketing), it makes a reliable authority look as though they aren’t on top of things. Take Search Engine Watch for example.

Search Engine Watch google+ account

“How will claiming these URLs benefit me?”

  1. Search Engine Optimization - Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn rank very well in search engines, especially for brands. These social profiles can help to own the first page of Google for your brand.
  2. Enables Verbal Sharing – How often do you tell a friend to visit the “112934082380 Facebook page”? Never. Creating a vanity URL makes it much easier for your audience to verbally share your page.
  3. Easy to Remember – Verbal sharing leads us to the next benefit, easy-to-remember URLs for visitors to share.
  4. Great For Print Pieces – A vanity URL looks clean when printed on mailers, catalogs, or even on promotional items like shirts and pens.
  5. Brand Recognition – When a visitor lands on your page through a link or social share, they can easily recognize your branded vanity URL, which is reaffirmed with the page title. Remember, if someone hovers over a link elsewhere, they’ll see the URL, not the page title.

“How do I start?”

Compile a list of your current social media accounts. If you’re not sure where they are, or if they exist, search google with, “company name social network name”. If the results do not turn up an account, double check by going into the social network and manually searching for your company name.

If the account does not exist, then this is your time to claim the account and the vanity URL right away. Be sure that you know what your URL needs to be. This could be your exact company name, or a user-friendly version. Lowes Home Improvement, for example, has created an online branding strategy for “Lowes”. Pick one and roll with it. Try not to change them from account to account.

Begin claiming your branded vanity URL on the main networks:

  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Vine
  • G+
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest

Remember the other, less noted social media platforms too, because once upon a time, Twitter was discounted as one of those “other ones”.

  • Flickr
  • Quora
  • Tumblr
  • Foursquare

*An additional note for all companies: those with long official company names will need to have a strategy in place that adheres to the character limit of social URLs and handles.

Need an Example?

Mason’s Creamery, a local hand-crafted ice cream maker in Cleveland, has done an excellent job of claiming their social accounts and vanity URLs. These guys, (actually, guy and gal), made it easy for me to give you an example to follow:


Why are they a good example you may wonder? Easy. They are currently in the process of opening a store in Ohio City, which means if their growth continues, they may open shops in Akron, Canton, or even LA. With each new location, the chance increases that someone will take Mason’s Creamery’s social into their own hands to create the accounts. By taking a proactive approach to claiming these now, they can promote their happenings and flavors online to followers and fans, plus they also have control of these profiles as they expand.

“What if it’s too late?”

Don’t feel bad if it’s happened to you; it also happened to Grey Goose Vodka.

email from YouTube

This is when you rethink the strategy, and create a vanity URL that you can carry throughout your campaign.

“But I have a trademark!”

If you do own the trademark name that has been unrightfully claimed by another party (as in, it does not belong to that person or the company in any way) and that account is acting under the pretense that they are in fact your company, there are legal routes that you can take to prove that you are the rightful owner, but nothing is guaranteed … or timely.

Some of the social networks will work with you to cease the account from another individual with the right trademark information. However, in cases, such as YouTube, once that domain has been used and assigned to a specific username and password, it can no longer be transferred.

Therefore, you will still need a new vanity URL for your channel, and YouTube can redirect the old subscribers to the new channel. So even the legal route won’t get the vanity URL back, (but it can help in stopping brand-stealing trolls.)

Facebook’s current policy is that once you claim a vanity URL it’s yours forever and there is no changing, selling or trading that URL.

So All in All…

Be proactive in your online efforts. Claiming your vanity URL sooner than later will save time and hassle, and will help make online marketing a lot easier. If this seems overwhelming and too much for you to handle, contact Evolve Marketing—we’d love to help you out!

While you’re at it, work with your web developer to make sure you’re using the correct social media icons on your website when linking to the networks of your choice. Make sure that these are the social media networks that you are updating, controlling and for which you have a marketing plan.


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