In the old days … that is, before the web and more recently social media … choosing the name for your business was a simple matter. If your name was Bob and you were a plumber’s apprentice, there finally came a time for you to spread your wings and go off on your own. Now in charge of your own destiny, you set off for the local print shop to buy your first business cards and maybe some flyers and post cards. “Bob’s Plumbing Service”, you proudly said to the typesetter … “Serving the Metro Area Since …. well, today”.
The story repeats itself a million times worldwide. Naming conventions based on heritage, location, cute iterations (we love the myriad combinations of “Shear” when it comes to hair cutters), rhyme, industry or size. Historically, this was never much of a problem, in fact sometimes it was downright funny.
Examples of humorous names abound; Juan More Taco, A Den of Antiquity, Wok Around the Clock and Mickey Mao’s. But none of these businesses face the problem that arises today when a “commonly named” business tries to brand itself online or in the social space. Businesses with names longer than fifteen characters can forget about owning their brand on Twitter, and if you are thinking at all about (and you most definitely should be) extending your brand online, remember the web is global … so there is always a chance that one of the other 6.9 billion people on the planet might have already registered your name.
So what’s a new business to do? Well for a truly new business, as in one that is still in the planning stages, it is fairly simple. Research. Research, before you name your new business. Find out if the name is available online, on Twitter, on Facebook. Be sure the dot com is available if you have your heart set on that most popular of URL extensions, rather than dot biz, dot net, or dot tv. Plan on naming for ease of recall and intuitive keyboarding, for instance if your name is to be BiState, don’t get cute and call it BuyState, unless you plan on spelling it every time you mention it, and buying both domain names so that someone doesn’t squat on it or worse, link it to a pornographic site.
For an established business, the challenge is much greater. Some true giants of industry have been caught embarrassingly unaware by the fact that somebody already owned their name. McDonald’s had to buy their domain name away from an individual, and Hyundai, GM and Kellogg were not fast enough to claim their names in the social space. In fact, some of the smartest marketers in business do not own their own names on Twitter. Surprisingly, Bank of America, Walt Disney, Sears, Macy’s, Walmart and Nike, Comcast and Volkswagen all blew it when it came to preparing for the social media wave. Even Burger King, Master Card and Berkshire Hathaway, a company owned by one of the smartest and wealthiest businessmen in the world, Warren Buffet do not own their own Twitter handles.
For business owners today, there are a few options. Some have actually (marketing shudder here …) changed or shortened their existing names, or added numbers like the Kansas City Chiefs with @KC_Chiefs1. Others have opted to incorporate a part or all of their USP or tag line or a convolution of their name that makes sense. So Bob’s Plumbing Service, while too long for Twitter, may settle for @PlumbBob, or @DripsNoMore.
So while http://www.juanmoretaco.com is available as a URL and as the @juanmoretaco Twitter handle (hurry if you want them), http://www.BobsPlumbingService.com is not. They are Proudly Serving the Columbia, SC Metro by the way. Need help with a naming convention? Seek out a professional. Seriously, this is not something left to amateurs. there are naming laboratories that charge six figures to come up with business names. This is not something the average business needs or can afford, but at least consult with a creative team, or spend time thinking about what makes the most sense, long term for your name or brand across the many social and online channels of today.
And for Pete’s Sake, (@ForPetesSake is gone by the way) … ask your customers to fan you, follow you and interact socially with you, but tell them how. Don’t just generically send them to the social media channel you’re on, give them a direct link to your profile. Search, in social media is not as intuitive as it is in a search engine, without a direct link, they might not even be able to find you. Just one more challenge in the brave new world of online and social marketing.
Paul Evans is the President and CMO of Evans Media Group, a boutique agency located in Overland Park, KS that specializes in traditional marketing, social media marketing, online marketing, and public relations.