Posted November 9, 2009 10:31 am by with 12 comments

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Twitter iconIf you were the folks at Twitter and you are talking about offering commercial level services that are going to eventually generate the mythical revenue that everyone is yapping about wouldn’t hate to hear about enterprise unrest among the ranks? The issue of Twitter account squatting is nothing new. There has also been little mention of it in the news as of late. I actually made the mistake to think that maybe Twitter took control and really started to crack down on the practice.

Apparently not. AdAge is reporting that Twitter is in the process of ticking off more than a few of the hands that might feed them in the future. Of course, Twitter may now be in the position to tell anyone, paying now or possibly later, for their services that they will just have to wait until Twitter is good and ready. While the argument exists that they are truly that powerful it would be a shame that if they used that power as an excuse to ignore the needs of corporate clients.

AdAge reports

On Twitter’s @Hyundai page, there is a collection of 140-character blasts in English and Korean about oysters, cellphones and the Yankees. Clicking on a profile photo reveals a collage of scantily clad ladies bearing cleavage and more, and a caption saying, “Have a Lustful Day.”

This kind of stuff leaves the folks at Hyundai Motor America less than thrilled

After having contacted the social-media site’s headquarters repeatedly to evict the squatter without success, the frustrated automaker has gone so far as to contemplate legal action. “They simply haven’t responded to requests,” said Chris Hosford, VP-corporate communications at Hyundai Motor America. “Our brand name is extremely important to us. … We’re very disappointed that Twitter has shown no interest in protecting brand names.” Unable to use the handle, the company has resorted to sending out official company tweets from @HyundaiNews.

Ughh. The L word. No not that one you sick person but L for “legal”. Last thing any start up needs is the fun and games of legal issues to get in the way of putting together a better service and offering.

The article talks in greater detail about how celebrities have been afforded special badges but the corporate side of the ledger (you remember, the one that could make money) is left to fend for themselves for now. Twitter’s policies are there but there is no guarantee of remedy in a timely fashion so some companies are left to get creative. Of course, one could argue that a big brand being late to the game and not securing these names years ago is on the company. There are two sides to every coin, after all.

So what is Twitter doing, if anything?

Twitter’s head of commercial products, Anamitra Banerji, said, “We understand brands’ frustration when it comes to account verification. We are working on ways to make the process easier and faster …. Given the volume of requests we receive, sometimes it might take a little while to close requests but we are trying to improve that too.” The social-media service, he said, is “[working] with business owners extensively to ensure that they own their trademarks/brand names on Twitter as our terms of service doesn’t allow name-squatting or impersonation.”

Ahh yes. The old volume of requests complaint. That one might have worked when Twitter was the little start up that could but the recent influx of investment takes the air right out of that argument. HIRE SOME PEOPLE, TWITTER!

So it’s interesting to see that not everyone is bent out of shape on this issue

Not all marketers are ruffled, though. Pfizer doesn’t own the handle @Pfizer, and a mystery tweeter is regularity tweeting updates about the company. Ray Kerins, VP-worldwide communications at Pfizer, told Ad Age that the company isn’t planning to take any action. “We are obviously watching any site that discusses our company or our products,” Mr. Kerins said. “We’re going to continue to watch. These social communities are actually very self-policing.”

Wow, now there is either great confidence in the ability of people to keep the street clean or a level of naiveté that will end up badly when the next brand firestorm comes up for Pfizer and the fake account is at the center of it. Maybe the folks who make Viagra are suffering from one of those side effects than impair judgment. Just a thought.

What’s your experience with getting Twitter to help in these situations? Should Twitter care? Happy Monday Pilgrims, let’s hear it!

  • On the Pfizer: My gut says that the reason they aren’t taking control is because if they did, they’d be able to tweet LESS than the current guy is tweeting, due to regulatory / legal issues. They probably did a cost/benefit on it and realized it was costing them nothing, and getting them a bunch to have someone 3rd party do the account without supervision or Pfizer’s direct involvement.
    .-= Jeremy Wright´s last undefined ..If you register your site for free at =-.

  • This is a multi-faceted issue. First, there’s the already offered “official” label that brands could potentially get. Then there’s the issue of whether or not they can go after rogue accounts which opens a whole different can of worms.

    Given that Twitter is not, yet, in fact, a profitable company, I can’t see how they’d hire entire teams of people to address this specific issue. While Twitter might get away with shutting down patently abusive accounts at this point, I’d bet that they couldn’t scale this up without running into trouble.

    There would have to be serious legal procedures established, and that legal process would have to be followed precisely in every situation, given how it involves taking something away from someone who would otherwise be free to have access to the service. That process alone might cost tens or hundreds of thousands to implement (given how lawyers need to write legal procedure and have to do that in conference with other lawyers, look up case-law, review other policies and procedures from companies where there might be similar situations, and on the list of steps goes…).

    Case in point, domain cybersquatting- you can’t just contact the registrar or ICANN directly, and say – “Hey, we own that brand, turn it over…” You actually have to go through an “approved dispute resolution provider”.

    So I’m betting that the cost-exposure ratio at this point is too high for Biz and Ev to justify the expense.
    .-= Alan Bleiweiss´s last blog ..Six Rules for Custom eCommerce SEO =-.

    • @Alan – Definitely a tough spot but if there are rumblings to offer commercial grade services wouldn’t you need all of those mechanisms in place anyway? I think that anything that tarnishes Twitter’s ability to protect brands will hinder their ability to offer commercial level services. Check that, they can offer them but will big players trust them? Food for thought or at least fodder for discussion!
      .-= Frank Reed´s last blog ..Social Media Barking Dogs =-.

  • Dan

    Protecting brands from squatters is one thing. But who’s to say that @hyundai isn’t a personal account? Is Twitter here to serve users in general or brands exclusively? Hyundai Motor Company is their brand. Hyundai is a family name.

    This is more than a philosophical debate for me. My twitter handle is my initials. My initials are also the brand name of a line of skater shoes. Should I lose the user name I have held for two years because that shoe company needs to protect its brand image? Why? It’s my name, too.

    I say no. They can do as Hyundai has done, and go with something like @XXXshoes.

    (Hyundai really should have picked @hyundaimotors, which was available until April of this year (not by them, I’ll assume), and left the poor fella at @hyundai the hell alone.)

  • Any major brand can take any combination of acceptable Twitter account name characters and easily make that the official brand account. It’s not the name that matters — it’s what you do with the account.
    .-= Michael Martinez´s last blog ..Articles I wish I could write every day =-.

  • Pat

    I think Dan’s point is valid – I’d be very upset if a company tried to move on my website or twitter account just because we share a name. That suggests that it may not always obvious what should happen when two or more entities claim the same name.

    I think we can agreed they cybersquatting is opportunistic and should be stamped out but if both the individual in a dispute have a valid claim then the size or reputation of one of them shouldn’t be the deciding issue.

  • Frank,

    Dan & Pat flesh out more of the “why” of so much needing to be involved with the “how-to” of getting a mechanism in place that is scalable in addressing the issue and that ensures they don’t lose millions a year defending their position, or that’s not truly fair to “the little guy”. Although with domain cybersquatting have you seen what it takes to bring a dispute?

    Several different “approved” companies, depending on where in the world it takes place or the type of TLD. Up to $3000 or more in filing fees depending on if you want one arbiter or a panel of arbiters. Countless pages of rules and supplements to rules… so “the little guy” would be near helpless to fight.

    And I bet some “little guy” who happens to have the family name “Hyundai” would also face the same hurdles in a Twitter squatting dispute, with or without Twitter having such a clear-cut procedure.

    Sure, I agree that it makes sense to get a mechanism in place before going commercial. Yet can they do so at this point in their life cycle? Do they have the funds to justify it right now? Or have they even weighed the risk-cost-benefits even?

    Or are they already working on it and not saying so for some internal corporate reason we aren’t aware of? That’s typical of most companies that work internally on a project but don’t announce any details until it’s close to or already at the launch point. And given the legal ramifications of this particular issue, I’d be willing to bet that if they ARE already working on it, they’d probably be advised by lawyers NOT to discuss that fact.

    So maybe we’re all discussing something that’s already in the works. No way to tell at this juncture.
    .-= Alan Bleiweiss´s last blog ..Six Rules for Custom eCommerce SEO =-.

    • Alan – That’s what makes it fun I suppose. Maybe someone from Twitter might actually respond to us and see if they would shed some light on the conversation. Is there anybody out there?
      .-= Frank Reed´s last blog ..Social Media Barking Dogs =-.

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  • Nowadays, there are companies who are competing with each other. Twitter is also a form of a tool to advertise.