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HOW TO: Protect Your Nonprofit from Social Media Squatters

September 13, 2009

Like clockwork, every couple of weeks I receive an email from a panicked nonprofit or university asking how they should handle a situation where someone has squatted their URL/username on a social networking site. Most often it is YouTube and/or Twitter. Sometimes these squatters actually have the audacity to ask for money. Here’s my advice on how to handle such situations and how to prevent them from happening in the future:

1) Don’t pay them any money unless having consistent URLs/usernames is very important to your social media strategy. Consistency in URLs is a great thing for branding, but increasingly becoming impossible on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and MySpace.You might have to come up with something different. For example, the Latin America Working Group’s website is They were hoping to reserve,, and, but they were already taken. Instead they went with,, and In their case, folks were not squatting the “lawg” username, rather other individuals grabbed the URLs/username first.

2) Don’t waste your time thinking about suing them. Most squatters create the accounts and then abandon them until a nonprofit gets around to wanting the account (which is usually years later). Unless they are using the accounts to slander your nonprofit, just let it go. I have had zero success over the last few years getting YouTube, MySpace, Facebook or Twitter to release inactive, squatted accounts. I have heard of a few rare cases where they will shut down squatted accounts that are slandering a nonprofit, university, or business.

3) Protect your brand. Be proactive and grab your URL/username of choice on up and coming social media sites. Create a Word document with usernames and login information of all your accounts and add to it as time goes on. At the very least add your logo and your Website link to these new accounts. Below is a list of accounts where I have reserved the “nonprofitorgs” username [when possible]. I would suggest you take a few hours and do the same for your nonprofit. As a best practice, set up a email account just for social media sites and do not create the accounts  under a particular staff’s email address. At some point that staff person will leave, and worst case scenario, they leave disgruntled and take your social networking profiles with them.

1) Twitter ::

2) YouTube ::

3) Facebook ::

4) MySpace ::

5) StumbleUpon ::

6) Delicious ::

7) Digg ::

Eight) FriendFeed ::

9) Bebo ::

10) Hi5 ::

11) Flickr ::

12) WordPress ::

13) TextMarks ::

14) ::

15) Vimeo ::

16) Posterous ::

17) Tinker ::

18) BrightKite ::

19) ::

20) Seesmic ::

21) Reddit ::

22) Mixx ::

23) MocoSpace ::

24) FourSquare ::

25) Google Buzz ::

Are there any others that I am missing? If you think so, please let me know by posting a comment below. Thanks!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2009 4:31 am

    Great piece. I’ll be linking to it in my eNewsletter later next Thursday.

  2. September 15, 2009 5:11 am

    Hi Heather, Great posting on a really important topic. I came across this awesome website which automatically checks for your desired URLs/usernames availability and wanted share it with you and your readers. It is called NameChk its free and very simple to use. All you have to do is put in the URL/username you want and it will tell you if it is available on the site. It checks 72 social sites! I have found it very useful in my work for Berkeley College.

    Here is the link:

    Good luck everybody, and thanks to Heather for all of her great work!

    Michael Iris
    Social Media Coordinator
    Berkeley College of NY & NJ

  3. nonprofitorgs permalink
    September 15, 2009 5:48 am

    That’s right. Thanks Michael. I came across a few months ago and was blown away. Thanks for the contribution!

  4. September 15, 2009 6:32 pm

    Great article and a great find. I have worked with many non-profits in the past and most struggle to even have their website functional.

    If you are a non-profit group, you would do well to follow this blog.

    I couldn’t locate the author – are all these by Heather? (from the About us page)

    I’d also love a track – back to easily post links for some of the non-profits over here in Oz – whaddya reckon?

  5. October 12, 2009 12:31 pm

    Prevention is really key here, being proactive and “getting there first” is the easiest route. Check out – it actually goes out and registers your brand/name across 300 of the top social media sites.

  6. September 7, 2010 8:09 pm

    This blogsite has been very helpful to me since I am the one in charge of all our online stuff in our foundation and we have just set up our twitter and facebook account. But will be adding more social media sites as recommended by your blog. Thank you very much! I was just wondering how come you don’t have any Tumblr. It has become quite popular here in the Philippines. Anyways, hope you’ll take your time to check out what Gawad Kalinga is all about. It has started to gain trust and popularity also internationally. Mostly thru shared stories by volunteers who have experienced GK.

    Twitter: (we had to add HQ since GawadKalinga was “squatted” by an unknown volunteer.)
    Facebook: search for Gawad Kalinga (Official Page)

    Continue to inspire!


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