Choosing a domain name is difficult. I agonised over choosing the name for this blog, and even then I managed to choose one that wasn’t quite right. Still, it works, and it’s too late to go back to the drawing board now. Had I been paying for the privilege too, I’d probably be much less circumspect.
Ideally, your domain name should be unique, keyword-friendly, easy to remember and as short as possible. If you’re starting a new website, that’s already enough to ask for. But with the growth of social media, you also have to take potential social network identities into account. Using Twitter, I have noticed a number of websites that I read on a regular basis that have Twitter usernames that are either very long, or not quite the same as the domain names that are listed. As most of them have been around longer than Twitter, they didn’t have the chance to think about whether their domain names would also fit with the new social network. But anyone thinking of launching a new domain now, it’s something else to consider when making the choice.
Obviously you come up with a couple of possibilities when choosing a domain. After all, your ideal domain may not be available, so you will have a couple of backup choices that you would be just as happy to use. But are they also social network-friendly? Granted, you don’t have to have the same username across all your social networks, you could always just provide a link to your website wherever you had the opportunity. But having the same ID across all your web presences would look more professional and seem more coherent, something very important if your online strategy is more social than static.
As far as the internet is concerned, your domain name is the first introduction to your brand. The same applies when you use the name on social networks, so a little extra research is needed. While most domain registrars will offer a lookup service to check on availability, until now social networks have involved a rather laborious process of checking username availability for each network you consider signing up with. Luckily, you can now check multiple networks in one go by using NameChk (I wonder what their original choice for a domain name was?). This handy service will check the availability of your desired username across 132 different social networks, from the most popular to relatively obscure ones that I had never heard of before. True, it won’t sign you up for them, but it is very useful for finding out if one of your go-to social networks is already hosting your virtual doppelgänger.
Not every business will need a 360º online presence, with a website and social media presence. But increasingly, even those businesses who have very little to do with the internet are finding that greater online engagement with their customers can be a useful means of sending out marketing messages, generating sales and monitoring consumer feedback. So continue choosing your domain name with care, but make sure that once you’ve settled on a kick-ass URL, the name can also translate to social media.
Update: Another username checking service you may find useful is KnowEm, which claims to check more than 340 social networks for the username of your choice. Again, it doesn’t do the signing up for you automatically, but it does offer paid services for individuals and companies for managing your online brand identity. If you want to be super-sure that nobody else can get their hands on the domain and username you want for yourself, this might be the way to go.
[Image by James Cridland]