Online professional brands are incredibly important assets that you need to control. As the baseball playoffs continue today, fans will flock to www.MLB.com. However, many may now know that the website was once the property of law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius.
While this particular situation was apparently resolved without any payout, it highlights the importance of locking down key online real estate, which no longer just includes domain names, but also involves Facebook pages and Twitter handles.
The dynamic nature of the Internet is such that even if you only post a simple website, you need to do some due diligence and anticipate both user behavior and future needs. Your website and online properties are increasingly the best conduits for conveying your company’s message. Bear in mind, 65 percent of U.S. adults are now using social media, so surely someone is searching for your company.
Cybersquatting and Typosquatting
Cybersquatting is the practice of registering domain names with the intent of forcing a payout from a party whose intellectual property or brand are directly or indirectly associated with the url. A related practice is typosquatting wherein a site is registered with a url address that is one or two letters off from another site in hopes of misdirecting users or again forcing an organization to purchase the domain.
Each and every business should register all potential deviations of their URL address. These are valuable properties that you need to control. You can then redirect users who make a typo or who guess an address that is not your company’s official url to the correct homepage.
For example, www.Coke.com redirects to www.Coca-Cola.com. As such, XXYlawyers.com or XYZlaw.com could redirect to XYZlawfirm.com. The cost in doing so is small and the process easy. Compare this to the cost of having a rogue individual redirecting clients to false or misleading information.
While .com is the dominant suffix, .net and .org are the most prominent in a dizzying array of additional web suffixes. You may want to consider snapping up.net and .org and redirect them to your main website. The White House, which is http://www.whitehouse.gov, once had to deal with the pesky issue of http://www.whitehouse.com ,which for a number of years was a pornographic website. Yikes!
Social Media Squatters
The practice of cybersquatting is also occurring on social media websites. As rapid adoption of social media continues, more companies are planting their virtual flags on Twitter and Facebook. Even if your organization is not ready to make the jump to an active Twitter feed or Facebook page, it should reserve spaces on these social media networks.
Reserving multiple Twitter handles is free and a sound defensive strategy for both future branding entrees and for public relations efforts. The fictional XYZ law Firm could reserve handles such as @xyzlaw, @xyzlawyers, @xzylawfirm and even @xyzsucks. (It is always a good idea to protect against potential disgruntled individuals.)
The firm could also register Facebook pages of different names so as to own that real estate. However, be aware that you need 25 “likes” to secure a Facebook URL that is shortened, such as facebook.com/xyzlawfirm.
Even if you don’t populate these pages, it is good to own the real estate and the brand extensions.
- Have you registered all website variations of your company’s name?
- Have you investigated purchasing .org or .net suffixes?
- Have you thought about and registered potential typos that could misdirect users?
- Have you registered domain names that could damage your brand? (i.e. XYZlawsucks.com)
- Have you registered Twitter handles for your company and brands?
- Have you registered a YouTube handle for your company?
- Have you considered creating a Facebook page and working to get a shortened URL?
Insurance policies can’t cover everything, but they can provide you with peace of mind with respect to many potential disasters. Creating a well-thought out and strategic online plan, complete with strategic real estate buys, can help your business tremendously and provide you with similar peace of mind. Taking the time to be strategic in crafting branding and communications plans is critical.