Lots of twitter users will know by know about what’s happened to the @girlgeeks handle, which until very recently belonged to Morna Simpson, co-ordinator of a girl geeks network in Scotland. It now belongs to a company called Girl Geeks, who have registered the term as a trademark, and made a successful case to twitter that they should therefore have the handle.
I’ve followed Morna’s tweets pretty much since joining twitter, and although I’ve never met her, I’ve found her to be a good twitter friend. So I’m disappointed that twitter transferred her name to another user without consulting her or opening a dialogue between the two parties.
The rights and wrongs of this action have been debated across twitter and in a few blog posts today, but I wanted to explore the wider implications for the rest of us – what does twitter’s action mean for social media management and for online reputation management?
The lessons for social media management – choose your twitter handle carefully
Any twitter user can adopt any twitter handle they like, as long as it’s available. But there are a few tips which will help you choose an effective and safe one, both in light of what works best on twitter and of today’s events.
- Choose a twitter handle that is about you. Your handle (i.e. the @xxxxx name people see when they follow you) is your brand on twitter. It should be recognisable as you or your business. Make sure you use something which people can connect to you.
- Choose an appropriate handle. If you’re tweeting to promote your business or organisation, your handle should be sensible and not jokey or obscene (there are plenty out there!). If the phrase you want is taken, think of something less that’s similar and appropriate, but try to avoid just adding numbers to a handle that’s taken by someone else – that doesn’t do much for your twitter brand.
- Check no-one else has registered your handle as a trademark. In the case of @girlgeeks, the new owners registered the trademark after Morna had already been using the handle for some time, so there’s no way she could have anticipated what happened. But it’s worth checking, just in case (link).
- Make regular use of your twitter account – post tweets, follow people, do what you can to build a following. If your account is dormant for some time and another user wants your handle, it will be difficult to argue that you should keep it. It’s not like domain names – you can’t just bag a handle and then sit on it.
- Don’t choose a handle which should logically belong to someone else, especially to a company. It may be tempting to use a well-known brand name in your handle as that might get you attention, but the owner of that brand name will have a strong case for asking twitter to transfer the handle to them is they don’t like what you’re doing with it.
- Take the same amount of care with managing your twitter handle and identify whatever type of organisation you represent. In the @girlgeeks case, twitter seems to have prioritised the online identify of a company with the term registered to it over a community organisation which ‘owned’ the term in many of its followers’ eyes. But whether you’re tweeting for yourself, or for a company, government body, charity or community group, your twitter identify is important if you’re suing it as a serious marketing tool.
The lessons for online reputation management – beware of negative perceptions of you spreading across social media
- Be careful not to anger your competitors. The two organisations in this case aren’t competitors in the strictest sense – only one is a business – but they are in completion for the ‘girl geeks’ brand across twitter and other social media. They will both be trying to build a similar audience, and Morna’s audience now knows about what’s happened to her old handle and may have made judgements about Girl Geeks based on this. I read one comment to a blog post advising people to block the new owner of @girlgeeks – not good news for them.
- When you’re set up on twitter, actively manage your account from the off. Set up your profile properly, with a photo and a well thought-out description, and start tweeting and following people. I looked at the @girlgeeks account earlier today and it looked like a dormant account. Given the conversation that’s been taking place today, the owners need to start using twitter to manage their reputation very quickly.
- Consider the communities that will be interested in your product or service, or who have similar interests to the community you represent. There are many crossovers between different groups and organisations, whether those are run by businesses or volunteers. Being part of those overlapping communities will enhance your online (and offline) reputation.
What do you think? Do you follow any of the girl geek networks? Will this make any difference to who you follow in future? Or has it made you rethink how you manage your own online brand on twitter and elsewhere?