Will your brand be Twit-jacked?


Beware: a painful phenomenon from the Web 1.0 world is creeping into Twitter and other social media platforms. Opportunists of the same stripe that reserved Coke.com for themselves in the cowboy days of 1993 (hoping to make millions, of course) are beginning to try similar tricks with Twitter, Facebook and other Web 2.0 identities.

The twit-jacking phenomenon hasn’t moved as quickly as most people feared. Sure, there have been some incidents–about a year ago, for example, one questionable fellow tied up the Twitter versions of CNBC, MSNBC, Newsweek and Business Week–but I haven’t heard anything about a large-scale attack. I think you can be pretty sure it’s coming, though. Domain squatters may not be geniuses, but they’ll catch on soon enough.

Why? Publicity is peaking. Twitter (and fellow social media platforms) are reaching the critical mass of mainstream media coverage which attracts the predators in every business community. Once the coverage reaches them, they’ll be registering social media IDs like mad.

In the mean time, I’m recommending to my clients that they to a social media naming audit (write to me if you’d like our form for doing this) to make sure their core brand is protected on all of the major platforms. It’s worth probably analyzing and leveraging a few of the lesser ones, as well, as you want to hedge your bets.

I also suggest that clients do what they’re probably already doing in the Web 1.0 space, which is to reserve multiple spellings of their corporate name, keywords they consider important to their mission and personal names of their corporate executives. Be thorough, and be thoughtful; and remember that nobody though something crazy like an “URL” would make much of a difference in 1994. We’re at that point again.

Besides, it never hurts to think how your brand is positioned today’s hottest emerging media, and if you’re lucky, you may develop new ideas to reach these audiences as you dig through their layers of social participation. If nothing else, though, you’ll have protected yourself against Twit-jacking for the near future. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.


P.S. This Network World editor has his own interesting take on the subject, including some interesting details on the extent to which Twit-jacking is already picking up steam

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8 responses to “Will your brand be Twit-jacked?

  1. Anne,
    Great advice. Our company found that two of our key branded names were jacked. I simply emailed Twitter and they got them back for us. Very simple process. I’m hoping it won’t be as bad as domain squatting because it’s such a different medium. But if it continues to grow, the dark ones will find clever ways.

  2. Steve, great to hear that Twitter made it so easy for you to get your company’s branded names back. As you note, however, Twitter probably won’t be able to keep up with such requests forever. I imagine the legal system will have to step in soon.


  3. Of course, best is to prevent and register right now all of the identities of the brands itself. This way, there’s no stand by time between the appeal and the delivery of the identity to the rightful owner.

  4. Rui,
    I agree, but even that is more complicated than it sounds. For one thing “register” has a new meaning in this environment, given the differerent ways to HAVE an identity on a social bookmarking site, social media platform, Twitter/communications vehicle etc.

    Also, things may get really hairy when legal issues arise; what if someone challenges your right to the marks or brands you’re registered? Right now, my best guess is that existing domain law wouldn’t apply directly. It will get ugly, don’t you think?


  5. Hey Anne,

    Just recently started reading your blog and am really enjoying it. Great insights today on learining from 1.0 mistakes. You’re preaching to the choir here – keep it coming!

  6. Hey Anne,
    I’m not sure if my original post got through or not… but related article on Wired now… at:

  7. Hey, add me to your blog list!

  8. Just making a correction to your quote in the Wired piece:
    “But to his surprise, said Fake Al, some people took his site seriously. (For what it’s worth, nearly 900 people now follow him on Twitter.) The site turned into social experiment demonstrating that “there are individuals who do not apply any critical thinking whatsoever to anything they [write], even when others call attention to the facts.”

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