How to Salvage a Taken Twitter Name

If you were an early adopter of the Twitter platform, chances are you were rewarded with the username of your choice. However as Twitter's popularity grew, handles or profile names that don't use numbers or strange spellings have become increasingly harder to come by.

It's bad enough that Twitter limits your creativity in this area to 15 characters, but these days it seems like when you finally settle on a username, it's probably not available. While that's an annoying enough on it's own, the frustration grows exponentially when you discover the account is dormant.

Durr Match Media

This was precisely the situation we encountered when trying to register a Twitter account for Direct Match Media. Unfortunately, the full business name is one character too long to be used as a username. The next obvious choice was @DirectMatch but unfortunately that was taken by someone who'd tweeted all of one time roughly two years ago.

Did I mention how frustrating that is?

Thankfully, there are options available should you find yourself having to resort to a less-than-optimal Twitter name such as our former handle of @DirMatchMedia (no matter how hard I tried to keep myself from doing so, I ALWAYS read it as "durr match media").

Twitter's Trademark & Impersonation Policies

Fellow SEO, Joe Hall tweeted several months ago that he'd successfully acquired the Twitter handle for his company 22 Media. When I asked him how he pulled it off, Joe pointed me to Twitter's official Trademark policy.

If you own the corresponding trademark for the Twitter name you're trying to get, it's a pretty straight forward process. Simply fill out the form, provide the requested documentation, and a Twitter rep will get back to you.

For the rest of us who haven't registered our business names as trademarks, Twitter has an impersonation policy which also mentioned "misuse" of the account. Now THAT was something I felt I could justify, I mean not using a Twitter account certainly qualifies as misuse right?

Anyway, I clicked on the link, selected the corresponding options you see in the image below, and filled out the requested information. On Joe's advice, I mentioned that Direct Match Media is corporation registered and in good standing with the state of Illinois (to hopefully lend some legitimacy to my claim on the name) and explained that I was seeking to use the account for business purposes.

A couple of days later I received an email from Twitter asking which account name I'd like to swap out for the requested name. One day after my response (typed as fast as my overly-excited geek fingers could manage), Direct Match Media had the new and improved Twitter handle of @DirectMatch!

Will It Work For You?

If you're seeking to acquire a Twitter name for your business and the current account holder has let the account become dormant, I suspect a process similar to ours will work for you. If you want the name for personal reasons, I suspect you'll have a tougher time convincing the powers that be, but it might still be worth a shot.

If you try to claim a taken Twitter name using this process, we'd love to hear how it goes. Or, if you've acquired or failed to acquire a name using different methods, we'd love to hear those as well.

Or, you could always tweet us at the new and improved account name of @DirectMatch!

image source:ntr23

Comments

  1. says

    I have used this process for two clients successfully. One thing to keep in mind though: If the account name that you are after is used actively, you will have a hard time getting it…

  2. Ben Cook says

    Michael, thanks for sharing. Yeah I would imagine active accounts will probably require a trademark or a blatant impersonation of the company.

    My guess is Twitter views in active accounts as having been squatted on and if someone can present a legitimate case for gaining ownership, they’ll make it happen.

  3. says

    It worked! I followed the advice in your post and Twitter gave us the @whitespark account from an inactive user who had only tweeted a few times back in 2008. Awesome! Thanks!

  4. Ben Cook says

    Glad to hear it Darren!

    It’s like getting your hands on a great domain name you’ve been coveting for years. :D

  5. says

    We’ve run into this a few times as well. As you said, sometimes it’s very easier – send a copy of the trademark paper work and viola! it’s yours. However, as you mentioned – when going after a “personal” name, even if the other account is inactive – I still get the canned response the Twitter isn’t releasing inactive accounts just yet.

    I also tried once with a client who did have a legitimate trademark for their company name but so did the private person who was actively using the account so we were unable to retrieve it for them.

    I will be trying two new accounts this week so I’ll let you know how they turn out – thanks for the great article!

  6. says

    Sorry, this does NOT work. I have tried a couple of times to acquire @Seshu as the word SESHU is trademarked. If you have any other solutions please let me know. Right now I am using Twitter as @PicSeshu (works well for what I do as a photographer but I would still like to get access to @Seshu which is a locked/dormant account.)

  7. Ben Cook says

    @Seshu, I’m sorry you’re not having success but the process undoubtedly does work. It worked for me, and multiple other people I’ve spoken with as well as a couple of people in this comment thread.

  8. says

    I used this yesterday for a non-trademarked name that hadn’t been updated in 18 months and this morning had an email from Twitter saying they had deleted the account for inactivity and it was available to register. To quote Ben, I “typed as fast as my overly-excited geek fingers could manage”. Cheers!

  9. says

    I took your suggestion yesterday – our business is an LLC (in business for over 25 years) with a website, but no trademark (yet). Twitter responded within a couple of hours, and because the account owner had only done one tweet in 2009, they closed the account and we nabbed it! Thanks so much – this makes a huge difference with search engines, and with our customers as well. Very psyched.

  10. says

    Pretty glad I found this post Ben, what I’m more glad about is that I just secured the Twitter Account for a particular website of mines, so all is cool. I’m due you a beer sometime! :D

  11. Dustin says

    I have been trying to acquire a username that was setup back in June of 2009. The account in question is following one person and also has one account following it (a spam account that also hasn’t been accessed since 2009) However the account has never been tweeted from nor is there a profile picture.
    I have contacted Twitter Support a few times in the past and always get the same automated response.
    When I came across this article, It gave me hope and I resubmitted another ticket immediately using the process above although I selected the “someone is impersonating me” option instead of the “my company is being impersonated” one. Twitter usually gets back with me quickly (generally 0ne day) This time I had to wait for FIVE days until I received a response and was disappointed to see the same automated response in my inbox that reads:
    “Hello,
    We can’t release the username you mentioned at the moment. We are working to release all inactive usernames, but the reported account does not satisfy the conditions for release. Please keep in mind that not all signs of account activity are publicly visible.
    Twitter is transferring usernames of accounts that violate our Trademark Policy.
    In general, adding numbers, underscores, or abbreviations can help you claim a great available username.? Thanks, JuneClippers Twitter Support”

    At this point this is becoming very frustrating and I am beginning to think Twitter support is just a system that only sends out automated replies. I should also mention the username on the account is my name. Which I’m guessing Twitter is viewing as “personal”. However in the line of work that I am in it also doubles as my brand and would be used represent myself for business purposes (which I also explained to them).. With the response they send it seems like they would release it if I filed a trademark request, but I have not trademarked my name.

    If anyone has any other advice they could offer that could help me successfully acquire the username I would really appreciate it!

  12. says

    It’s over a week now my comment is awaiting moderation so I’ll repost it in order to better understand whether Ben Cook is possibly cherry picking comments…
    I only wonder how the owners of the trademarks DIRECT MATCH, and DIRECTMATCH are going to feel when they stumble on this article. It worked out well for you in this case but I wouldn’t exactly call it fair. Would you? Don’t you have idle Twitter accounts that match a domain name you own around a future project? How would it be to wake up one morning and discover it was gone without warning?

  13. Ben Cook says

    John,
    I’m sorry my comment moderation schedule doesn’t live up to your standards, but I’ll still address your comment.

    I absolutely think the criteria Twitter uses is fair. The owners of any trademark are free to pursue their desired handles as they see fit. However, I’ve only ever seen dormant accounts turned over. So if you want to keep an account, use it from time to time. It’s that simple.

    Also, from my own experience Twitter sends emails out alerting users that they’ve not used their accounts in quite some time. I’ve not lost an account yet so I can’t say for certain whether they provide any warning about that but they certainly do about your account falling dormant.

    So again, if you don’t want to risk losing your account, use it. That doesn’t seem like an unreasonable burden.

  14. says

    Sorry Ben, I was probably feeling testy as the result of discovering yet another idle Twitter acct. which would have complimented a domain I found available for a project. The challenge of finding an available domain name AND the matching Twitter handle has become extremely frustrating. Unlike domains, which can be purchased in the aftermarket and whose owners are easily identified, Twitter handles exist in some no man’s land. I imagine Twitter will at some point have to address this formally. Twitter does seem to be sending me the ‘We’ve missed you on Twitter.’ emails more often. Maybe they’re getting ready to bust a move.

  15. Sidist says

    I’ve found myself in the exact situation Dustin is in. The username I’d like is taken by some dude who follows exactly three other people: two of them probably being spam accounts and the other being inactive since 2009. The username I’d like is equal to my regular name, which is equal to the name I use to market myself as a freelancer. Just as Dustin I haven’t trademarked this name, but thought I’d try to lay hold of it anyway.

    First, I tried filing a ticket asking them if this account could be released due to inactivity. To no avail. So next I tried the whole ‘impersonation’ thingy, since that guy is actually using my legal name. And although it worked with some bloggers etcetera, Twitter responded with the following standard copy-paste message:

    “Hello, We can’t release the username you mentioned at the moment. We are working to release all inactive usernames, but the reported account does not satisfy the conditions for release. Please keep in mind that not all signs of account activity are publicly visible. Twitter is transferring usernames of accounts that violate our Trademark Policy. For more information about Twitter’s Trademark Policy, please see: (http://support.twitter.com/entries/18367) In general, adding numbers, underscores, or abbreviations can help you claim a great available username.? Thanks, cbellarun, Twitter Support.”

    Hopefully someone could help me out, and Dustin as well. Does someone know of a way to get to the actual owner of a twitter account? That would make it a lot easier (and probably expensive…).

  16. Ron Wozny says

    Thanks for the advice. This worked perfectly, and took less than a week to get my company’s name secured. I appreciate the help!!

  17. Eric says

    Thanks for the advice! I just submitted the form to claim our company name. I will keep you posted. The current user is dormant.

  18. Steve says

    I’ve just submitted a ticket based on your advice. I appreciate you posting this information. Got my fingers crossed that it just might work. Be Blessed!!!

  19. Alistair says

    Hi guys. Great advice and discussion here.

    I work for a company that has established Twitter accounts for our suite of digital sporting apps. Understandably, we want them to all be uniform and matching one another. We were able to get two that we wanted but the final two had been taken.

    One has not been used for approximately six months, which I assume will not qualify as a ‘dormant’ account (all it did was RT live scores) and the other one is used daily, however it has no avatar, no description and simply appears to be a ‘bot’ that just automatically fired articles out into cyberspace.

    Presumably my chances are slim to none in this instance?

  20. violet13 says

    When they switched your account over to the new one what happened to the old account? Were you able to keep all your followers? What about any @youroldname – did those still point to your original username?

  21. Ben Cook says

    Everything transferred to the new account (followers, mentions, etc) and the old name was available to be claimed.

  22. Tom says

    This doesn’t work. I’ve tried it and I actually own the trademark. The account I’ve requested is completely abandoned too… It should be illegal for them to assist in committing a crime. Trademark infringement. It’s almost as bad as holding the smoking gun themselves. They are the ones ultimately with the power the blame should be on them. It’s completely absurd that you can give them the exact filing number for a trademark and they just ignore you. Good luck with this, they will likely never respond to your request. This entire form and policy on their site is likely a front for “good faith” in order to cover their rear ends in the event of any legal issue. Really disappointing and extremely irresponsible and unprofessional that they can’t even get back to you let alone do the right thing and abide by the laws of the country that they operate in.

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