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55%* of Brands Have Not Secured Their Twitter Handle

Samantha Noble

by Samantha Noble on 20th November 2012

* Now that I have your attention, the ‘stat’ in the title is correct for the purpose of this post. It is based on the 125 brands who came top in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For in 2012. Read on to find out more….

Over the past four years, Twitter has become one of the key social networks for many businesses around the world. Brands that are yet to secure their spot on the platform are behind the times in many industries. Of course, there are certain types of businesses that may not feel social media is right for them but this is not the case for most.

What continues to surprise me is the number of brands that have not secured their brand name on Twitter. What surprises me even more is that those that have a presence on Twitter do not always register (in my opinion) the most appropriate Twitter handle for their brand.

How many times have you sent a tweet including the @TwitterHandle for a company assuming you are tweeting the brand? For me this happens a lot. A personal example that sticks in my mind is when I sent a tweet to @Moonpig asking where the card I ordered had got to.

As you can see in the screenshot below, @Moonpig isn’t owned by the company. It is actually just a normal man who now claims that he made a mistake several years ago using his children’s nickname as his Twitter handle and regrets it every Christmas and Valentines!

If you want to tweet the company Moonpig, you need to send the message to @MoonpigUK which obviously confuses many of their customers.

The next thing that surprises me is the number of websites I visit that don’t have a link to their Twitter account but they do link to their other social properties. McDonald’s are a huge worldwide brand and although they have a huge following (789,853 followers) on Twitter, they only link to their Facebook page from their website.

Other companies have a presence on Twitter and are actively using it but on their website, they don’t link to any social properties at all. With Google looking more and more at signals sent from social media, we need to be making it as easy as possible for them to understand the relationship between a brand and their social property.

For this post, I pulled together lots of data to highlight some of my concerns in more detail. I took the list of winners from the Sunday Times Top Companies to Work for in 2012 from the following categories:

  • Best Big Companies (25 in total)
  • Best Companies (100 in total)

If you would like to view the lists, have a look on the Sunday Times website here. You will need to switch between the tabs to see the data that I have pulled.

The Process

In order to get the data I was looking for, this is the process that I followed. If you want to view the raw data, it has been saved as a Google Doc here.

  1. Added all the company names from the 125 businesses to a spreadsheet
  2. Included their Location and Sector
  3. Manually reviewed their Twitter strategy looking at the following:
    1. What is their current Twitter name?
    2. What do I think their ideal Twitter name should be?
    3. Is their ideal Twitter name being used?
    4. Have they secured their actual brand name on Twitter?
    5. How many followers do they have?
    6. Is the Twitter account linked from their main company website?

Presence on Twitter

The first thing I looked at was how many of the 125 brands analysed actually had an account on Twitter. As you can see from the below, 11% (14) of the brands are yet to make an appearance on Twitter.

The data in this post was extracted from Twitter on 13th and 14th November so follower numbers may have increased/decreased since then.

There will always be some sectors that don’t believe social media is right for them. Looking at the 14 brands that are not active on Twitter, we can see that the Professional sector followed by Retail, Hospitality and Financial make up the bulk of this.

Secured Actual Name on Twitter

After understanding how many brands were active on Twitter, I then looked at how many had claimed their actual brand name on Twitter. Some brands have multiple Twitter Accounts for their company set up for different countries, services or products which is fine in my opinion but they should also secure their main brand name as a top level account too.

Virgin are a great example of this as they have lots of different products but they still have the top level Twitter account for their main brand.

The graph below shows you the split of brands who have and haven’t secured their actual name on Twitter.

I was extremely surprised that over 55% of the brands (69) analysed have not secured their actual brand name as a Twitter handle.

Of the 69 accounts that had not been claimed by a brand, further analysis shows that 27% of the ideal Twitter names are just sat there, not registered. This is a huge risk for brands as anyone can go along and register them!

Looking at the accounts that have been registered by someone else, 27% are not actually being used so there is a good opportunity for the brand to get in touch and try to get the account back.

There will be some circumstances where you can obtain your Twitter name back through contacting Twitter directly. Their Trademark Policy is clear and outlines all the different situations so it is worth a read.

I also wondered whether there would be a clear correlation between the sectors that have and haven’t secured their main brand name on Twitter. As you can see, the Professional sector stands out by a long mile with over 20 brands not having secured their actual Twitter name.

Linked from Main Website

It is all very well having a Twitter account and using it but if your customers can’t find it easily, you will not be helping interaction and engagement. As I mentioned at the start of this post, social signals are playing a part in SEO and having a link from your main website through to your Twitter account helps the search engines to marry your business up with your social properties.

Some of the brands I analysed did not have a link to their Twitter account but they did have a button that if clicked automatically gets you to follow them. Personally, I really don’t like this. If you have a link to Twitter on your website, it needs to link to the account rather than force people to follow you.

Of all the data, I think this surprised me the most. 45% of the brands do not link to their Twitter account from the website! Making a simple amend to the code allows you to embed social media buttons very easily and engagement will increase as a result.

Taking a look at the sectors that link to their Twitter account from their main site, we can see that the Professional sector dominates followed by Retail.


In summary, although I only looked at 125 brands from the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work 2012 for list, it is clear that some brands are still a long way behind others when it comes to social media.

Twitter clearly state in their terms that ‘usernames are provided on a first-come, first-served basis and they may not be reserved’ so those that are yet to register and secure their name need to act fast. Even if your business is not wanting to use social media, securing your brand name will protect the asset in the future as once someone has got hold of the Twitter handle, it can be extremely challenging to get it back.

List of Companies Analysed

Finally, here is the list of the companies analysed. To view all the data, please visit the Google Doc here.

  • Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
  • Abel & Cole
  • Accenture UK Ltd
  • Adecco UK
  • Admiral Group plc
  • Adobe Systems
  • Allianz Global Assistance
  • Altro Group PLC
  • American Express UK
  • AXA
  • Baker & McKenzie LLP
  • BAM Nuttall Ltd
  • Barrhead Travel Service Ltd
  • Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH)
  • Beaverbrooks the Jewellers Ltd
  • Bibby Financial Services
  • Big Yellow Group PLC
  • BMT Group
  • BMW UK
  • Boehringer Ingelheim
  • Boots Opticians
  • Boots UK
  • Botanic Inns Limited
  • Bourne Leisure Ltd
  • Bravissimo
  • British Gas
  • Brooks Macdonald
  • Brookwood Partnership Limited
  • Busaba Eathai
  • Capco
  • Catermasters
  • Coloplast Ltd
  • Companion Care
  • Connect Catering
  • Creditsafe Business Solutions Ltd.
  • Deloitte
  • Denplan Limited
  • DRL Limited / Appliances Online
  • dunnhumby
  • Edelman
  • Flight Centre (UK) Limited
  • Fossil UK
  • Gerald Eve LLP
  • Goldman Sachs International
  • Grass Roots
  • Hilti GB Limited
  • Hilton Hotels, UK
  • Holiday Extras
  • Homebase Limited
  • Huntress Group
  • Hydrogen Group
  • Iceland Frozen Foods Ltd
  • ING Direct
  • Ingeus UK Ltd
  • InterContinental Hotels Group
  • Inventive Leisure
  • iris
  • Janssen UK
  • Jefferies International Ltd.
  • Johnston Carmichael
  • Just Retirement
  • Kantar Worldpanel
  • Kiln Group
  • KPMG
  • Kwik-Fit Insurance Ltd
  • L’Occitane en Provence
  • Legal & General
  • Leo Burnett
  • Lewis Silkin
  • Lindum Group Ltd
  • Living Ventures Ltd
  • Loop Customer Management Ltd
  • Marathon Oil U.K. LLC
  • Marriott Hotels International Ltd
  • Matchtech Group
  • McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd
  • MEC
  • MediaCom
  • Medtronic Limited
  • Metaswitch
  • Mills & Reeve LLP
  • Mindshare
  • Mishcon de Reya
  • Motivcom plc
  • Mott MacDonald Limited
  • NDS UK
  • Neal`s Yard Remedies Ltd
  • Office Angels
  • Page Group
  • Penna Plc
  • Pertemps People Development Group
  • Pertemps Recruitment Partnership Ltd
  • Pets at Home
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
  • Rackspace
  • Randstad Construction, Property & Engineering
  • Randstad Staffing
  • Red Carnation Hotels
  • Reed Smith
  • Robert Half International
  • RSA
  • SAS
  • Search Consultancy
  • Signet Trading Ltd
  • Skipton Financial Services
  • Starcom Mediavest Group
  • Stryker UK Limited
  • Swansway Garages
  • Sytner Group
  • The Childbase Partnership
  • The Engine Group
  • The Midcounties Co-operative
  • The Net-a-Porter Group Limited
  • The Perfume Shop
  • The Savoy, a Fairmont Managed Hotel
  • Think Money Group
  • Totemic Limited
  • UKRD Group Limited
  • Virgin Money
  • Volvo Construction Equipment
  • W L Gore & Associates (UK) Ltd
  • Weber Shandwick
  • White Stuff
  • Withers LLP
  • Zurich
Samantha Noble

Samantha Noble

Samantha Noble is the Marketing Director at Koozai; having worked within the marketing industry for over nine years, Sam has a plethora of marketing knowledge. With a strong understanding of digital marketing techniques, Sam will be covering all aspects of search and the industry in general.

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  • James Carson 20th November 2012

    Great post -

    I had some issue securing @fhm which had been squatted. Eventually I got it because it was a registered trademark… Was pretty easy once I had the legalities sorted.

    Reply to this comment

    • Samantha Noble

      Samantha Noble 20th November 2012

      Thanks James. It really does amaze me how many companies haven’t secured their brand, especially those that are really well-known organisations.

      Having a trademark definitely helps you to get the Twitter handle back but think of all the companies that don’t have their brand trademarked. They are onto a losing battle!

      Reply to this comment

  • Amir Abbas 20th November 2012

    Excellent write up.

    The other day, I had a discussion on Google+ whether Individuals/Brands/Companies should secure every Social Network name and vanity URL if available.

    The discussion started after I announce a fun experiment between Google+ Pages and Facebook Pages. So, my view was one should secure every Social Network name as early as possible.
    With that said, if you have presence and you don’t invest your time or totally neglect your presence, don’t you think it’s better to stay away, no presence is better than a neglected presence..

    Don’t you think it becomes more annoying for your users/customers. e.g: You mention the tweet to @moonpig: What if, @moonpig has presence on Twitter and didn’t reply to your tweet, don’t you think that would be too annoying for you..

    Your thoughts..

    Reply to this comment

    • Samantha Noble

      Samantha Noble 20th November 2012

      Thanks for your comment Amir, glad you liked the write up.

      My opinion is that you should secure all the social properties for your brand. If someone else registered an account which was your brand name and started promoting content that you would never want associated with your brand, that is even more damaging. People will not always draw a correlation and know that it is not you, they will automatically assume that it is you.

      There are hundreds of social platforms available now and this will continue to grow over the years. A lot of them are not known and are unused but think back to Pinterest. A couple of years ago, it wasn’t a well known platform and today, it is widely used across a number of sectors. If you hadn’t secured your brand name and then wanted to start using the platform, you would need to register a different name.

      In the @moonpig example, if I was working for Moonpig I would try too techniques:
      1) Contact the owner and see if they would release it
      2) If the brand was trademarked, see if I could go down that route
      3) Monitor all the tweets sent to @Moonpig and if they were meant for @MoonpigUK, reply to them and bring the customer back to their main account

      For platforms like Twitter, if you are a serious business you would want to engage with your customers so I would always recommend ensuring that you reply to all tweets even if you don’t use the account often. Twitter send alert when you get an @ message so it is easy to keep on top of.

      That’s just my thoughts anyway. Hope that helps.

      Reply to this comment

  • Rick Noel 24th November 2012

    Awesome post with many great points and actionable items Samantha (@Koozai_Sam :-). We picked our company name @eBizROI as our Twitter handle, which we use on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and all other social profiles where available ;-). Many users will assume the company handle is the company/brand name resulting in many a lost mentions when users are tweeting a companies content and their handle is other than the company/brand name. Thanks for sharing :-)

    Reply to this comment

    • Samantha Noble

      Samantha Noble 28th November 2012

      Always good to have your business name as your Twitter handle I think. Like you say, it causes lots of missed mentions if you don’t and you have to track mentions for your company name if you don’t so best to secure it from the start.

      Having the same handle across all social media platforms definitely helps with consistency and limits brand confusion for customers.

      Thanks for your comment and glad you enjoyed the post.

      Reply to this comment

  • David Levenson 27th November 2012

    Great post! Company sites should make a point to provide social media buttons on every page, that’s what they’re there for. I wonder what the outcome is of the companies whose account names have been registered by others but the company realizes how important the name is and wants to seize it. Is it worth it for them to have a bidding war (with themselves) like we see with domain name purchases? Or is that why so many companies have an alternate name as their account name.

    Reply to this comment

    • Samantha Noble

      Samantha Noble 28th November 2012

      Thanks for your comment David.

      Very good point you raise about what a brand should do if someone else has their Twitter handle. For me personally, I would say that a brand should try everything they can to get it back from the other user. In most of the cases in the post above, the majority of claimed handles aren’t even being used so I would definitely try and get it back. If you have your brand trademarked it can really help you with this.

      In some cases, I have also seen brands showing a Twitter button on every page of their site but it is the automatic follow button instead of a link through to the profile, which drives me crazy!

      Glad you enjoyed the post.

      Reply to this comment

      • David Levenson 28th November 2012

        Samantha, you’re absolutely right, the ‘auto follow’ button barely engages the viewer and they’ll typically forget they followed in the first place. The button should direct the viewer to the company profile which will incite interaction.
        It’s almost as bad as when a company has a great asset on their site (infographic/informative content) and don’t have the proper social media buttons to promote it. There should be 2 different social media action buttons: 1 to share the individual page and 1 that’s fixed in the site’s template to follow the company.
        Ok, catching my breath now!

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