With the astonishing 80% rise of the Netflix stock this month, it caused me to recall some of the growing pains and bad decisions that Netflix encountered along the way.

Before our business evolved into Text Link Ads, one of the first names we settled on was Positioned 1. I actually think the name has aged well in the SEO world 11 years later. At that point, we simply went onto GoDaddy and searched for what seemed like days to find a domain that we could get our hands on for $9.99 without paying an intermediary, but still displayed the message we were striving for. These days, securing a URL is not the only piece you should be considering.

If you are starting a business, considering rebranding, or even adding a brand to your company, it is now a necessity to go above and beyond the URL to also take a look at the social media handles, especially Twitter, to match your new domain. Overlooking that aspect can cause your users confusion and even force you to jump through hoops or pay to get access to those social accounts.

Netflix is pretty well-known for their faux pas that took place toward the end of 2011. In what seemed to be a hasty, not very well thought out move, Netflix tried to rebrand their streaming services to the name of Qwikster. The thought process (if there was one) was to split the physical DVD offering from the digital streaming piece. As Blockbuster has slowly died, Netflix wanted to get in front of that obstacle by splitting the services. This idea was panned for many reasons: the brand recognition of the Netflix name, the requirement for Netflix users to create two separate accounts, two separate credit cards statements, and the fact that the name sounds like a cheesy dot com bubble days start up, similar to Flooz.

Even with all of that, the icing on the cake for this debacle may have been the fact that the Twitter handle of @qwikster was already taken.  It wasn’t just being used by a noble citizen, it was controlled by a teenager named Jason Castillo, whose avatar was none other than everyone’s favorite Sesame Street character Elmo seemingly enjoying a little marijuana (doesn’t Elmo have enough to deal with right now!) Needless, to say, that wasn’t something Netflix exactly wanted to be associated with.

Neflix quickly abandoned the whole Qwikster fiasco within 30 days. A snippet of the apology from Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings, is below:

I messed up. I owe everyone an explanation.

It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming, and the price changes. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology. I’ll try to explain how this happened.

(Not sure as to High Elmo’s take on the situation, but rumor has it, he is moving to Washington after the passing of recent legislation.)

There are a few ways you can get your hands on the Twitter handle you are interested in if it has already been taken. I suggest the following steps:

  1. Check the frequency of posts. If the handle is being used sparingly, it leads to a much better opportunity and you have much better leverage to contact Twitter to take ownership.
  2. Reach out to the owner of the account to see if something can be worked out. Please note Twitter clearly states it is against their terms and conditions to buy and sell Twitter accounts, so we wouldn’t suggest that directly, but maybe there is a different way for both parties to be ok with the ownership change.
  3. Start a viral campaign asking for retweets to get your handle back. It sounds farfetched, and it is, but it actually worked for the old PBS show Reading Rainbow. That said, I would much prefer step #4.
  4. If you feel the person is squatting on your brand name, you can take action through Twitter. Twitter has become much more involved with this issue over the past year, and they lay out in simple terms as to how to get your rightful account in your possession.

Even if you do have access to the Twitter handle you are interested in, you should be sure to take precaution to change the password frequently to be sure it is not hacked. There have been numerous documented stories of Twitter accounts being hacked and then sold on the black market, resulting in having to jump through hoops to get it back.

In the end, it makes sense to be very thorough when selecting a name or domain to brand, as the hassle of attaining ownership of the Twitter account should always be made before moving forward.