The Facebook vanity URL gold rush is almost upon us with folks across the world setting their iPhone’s for 12:01 a.m. ET Saturday. Well, actually, that’s for most of us.
While Facebook is promoting that everyone will be able to choose a custom URL for their Facebook account at the same time – to easily direct friends, family, colleagues and business contacts to their Facebook profile – they’re giving URL’s away in advance to media and analysts that cover the company.
Unlike a demo in advance of a public announcement, there isn’t really anything for journalists to try out here, so Facebook is really just throwing influencers a bone. In return, they get to improve the relationship and can bet on more coverage around their already-hyped announcement. Caroline McCarthy at Cnet has her new Facebook URL set to go live www.facebook.com/carolinemccarthy (although she didn’t have much say in what it was), and of course Michael Arrington does as well. While it seems like a sweet PR throw-in, statements from Arrington like this, don’t exactly endear themselves to the 200 million plus people that are still waiting in line:
“I feel sort of bad about posting this, since Facebook is actually doing us a favor. But I also think it’s kind of BS that Facebook is giving some people, employees included, first shot at the names. My guilt only extends so far, though. You suckers wait in line. I’m grabbing my name in advance.”
Many of those people still waiting in line are marketers operating brand pages on Facebook (for who, this announcement is a bigger deal). Consumers have been able to personalize their URL’s for LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and other sites for some time. While Facebook may be important to them as well, it doesn’t have the marketing implications for them that it carries for brands.
I wrote back in March how valuable the new Facebook fan pages would be for marketers. However, the big thing missing at the time was easily identifiable URL’s. Sure, Microsoft had one and Vitaminwater used their vanity URL incredibly effectively with their TV campaign during March Madness, but these companies had existing business relationships with Facebook (investors & ad buyers). Even a company the size of Cisco, which apparently didn’t have that relationship with Facebook, didn’t have a custom URL for their fan page.
That all changes tomorrow at 12:01 a.m. ET, assuming you have more than 1,000 fans following your page (and did so before May 31). From Facebook:
“Your Facebook Page must meet two requirements: it must have been live on Facebook prior to the May 31, 2009 cut-off date and have had a minimum 1,000 fans at that time. This limitation is temporary. All Pages created after May 31, 2009 or that had less than 1,000 fans on that day will be eligible to claim usernames on Sunday, June 28, 2009.”
So while the Facebook fan page managers for Cisco, Salesforce.com and Mint.com can create a vanity URL at 12:01 a.m. ET tomorrow, other brands will have to wait until June 28th. It does seem fair in most senses. Those that have taken advantage of pages for their marketing since March and have a grown a real following are being rewarded in advance.
However – on the other hand – some brands that have been very active, but may not have huge followings (b-b brands rather than b-c brands) are being penalized. Those that are being forced to wait can protect their company against brand infringement by filling out this form, which Facebook is providing.
The companies making the move to an identifiable URL tomorrow with the masses will find it much easier to market their destination within Facebook, which will likely lead to more companies using the interactive experience as their de-facto corporate Website.