The Vanity of Vanity URLsJan 6, 2010 In Web Culture By Karsten Januszewski
Wikipedia defines vanity URLs as follows:
"a URL or domain name, created to point to something to which it is related and indicated in the name of the URL. In many cases this is done by a company to point to a specific product or advertising campaign microsite. In theory, vanity URLs are creatively linked to something, making them easier to remember than a more random link."
The article goes on to point out one of the most common implementations of vanity URLs: social networking sites, where your username becomes the vanity URL.
Social Media and Vanity URLs
These days, a social networking site that doesn’t support Vanity URLs is considered out of the loop. Can you imagine your Twitter URL being http://twitter.com?userid=2035? Um, no.
You have to give props to MySpace on the vanity URL front: they were the vanguard in this arena and really established the idea before anyone else.
Facebook is an interesting one, because unlike the other top social networking sites (MySpace, Twitter, YouTube), creating a Facebook profile doesn’t generate a vanity URL by default; you have to claim it.
Taking Control of Your Brand
How aware are you of the various social networking sites where your vanity URL appears, whether it’s your company’s brand or perhaps just your own “personal” brand? Have you done a proper land grab on Facebook,MySpace,YouTube, and Twitter?
If not, it turns out that Incarnate, a new MIX Online lab, allows you to quickly see how pervasive and consistent your username is across these sites. Incarnate uses microformats to pull avatars from profile pages based on usernames that are keyed off of vanity URLs. So you can research your brand to make sure you’ve claimed the available real estate and see who’s camping out with your username if you haven’t. In watching people use Incarnate, it is interesting to see the reaction of people as they type in their handle and discover someone else’s profile picture appearing.
An entrepreneurial person could use Incarnate to research and claim vanity URLs that haven’t been taken (just like in the days of URL land grabs), and even sell them. It’s not unheard of for a company to pay to acquire a vanity URL on a social networking site. Never let it be said that MIX Online labs don’t offer money making opportunities!
What are your thoughts on vanity URLs? Do you claim them for yourself or for your company? Would you pay to get a vanity URL that someone else has camped out on? How important are vanity URLs to a brand?