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 Facebook Usernames

Facebook Usernames

June 15, 2009

Phenomenal publicity was generated by the Facebook user name policy change last week.  There was a flurry of tweets about it on Twitter, and many lawyers raced to advise their clients of the importance of registering their trademarks at Facebook (at least in the sense of notifying Facebook of their registered rights so as to block others registering the name).

It was particularly noteworthy that even INTA took a proactive stance on a ‘private’ matter by emailing all INTA members, a fact that did not go unremarked by Marty Schwimmer of the Trademark Blog

Doubtless all this attention to the Facebook user name change stemmed from the recognition of the growing problem on the internet of people setting up bogus accounts under company names or celebrities’ names.

The difference between Profiles and Pages?

However, in the ensuing rush to reserve names following the deadline of Friday 12th June, I suspect many people confused the function of Facebook Profiles and Facebook Pages, and got it wrong.  They may have used their Profiles to register their business names. I know this because I nearly made the same mistake.

Currently there is quite a lot of confusion around creating company Pages on Facebook as shown by this page.  I suspect now there will be an explosion of Pages being created as more businesses see the opportunities for promoting their brands via Facebook, traditionally regarded as the preserve of purely social networking, and for college kids at that. This video provides a useful insight into how brands can use Facebook to promote themselves.  It also explains that the intrinsic difference between Profiles and Pages is that Profiles are private in nature.  You have to accept friends into your group.  On the other hand, Pages are public, and provide an ideal broadcasting platform for brands.  See for example Coca Cola’s Page.

Choosing usernames

I hesitated between registering my Facebook Profile as Shireen Smith or Azrights.   Having set up a Page for Azrights some time ago, (which is the only way for a company to feature on Facebook) I did not know whether it would be possible to also register the Page, so that it can be known as  Nor did I have time to look into it before the deadline expired.

The fact that once you make your decision it is too late to change your mind did not make the decision any easier. (Why does Facebook adopt such an uncompromising policy I wonder?  If people were willing to pay to change their initial choice, why not let them change?)  Anyway, I chose my own name, a decision I initially regretted.  So, what does choosing a user name mean in practice?

The upshot of registering Shireen Smith as my user name is that anyone looking for me will be able to type into their browser the address  Before there was no shorthand way of giving contacts a way of finding you on Facebook.  Profiles were identified by a string of gobbledygook – letters and numbers.  So, Facebook introduced the change to create a link more suited to business cards or other PR tools. See here

Annoyingly Facebook is not currently allowing any businesses whose Page has fewer than 1000 fans or created after 31 May 2009 to register their username until 28 June.

Azrights Facebook Page was created well before 31 May, and the name is trade marked.  But lacking sufficient fans means we can do nothing right now to secure Azrights as our username.  (Would love to know what Facebook’s thinking is behind this extra layer of delay.)

Is Facebook relevant to business?

The possibilities of using Facebook Pages means Facebook can no longer be ignored by business. Discussing Twitter with my two teenagers, specifically whether they would use it for themselves, I was surprised by their reply.  They both said ‘What is the point of using Twitter when Facebook does everything that Twitter does, except better?’

If this is a popular view, then we had all better incorporate Facebook into our social media marketing mix.