How to Secure an Unused Twitter Account

With millions of registered users on Twitter finding a great user account name is becoming harder and harder to do. So many names are taken and many of them are either ‘parked’ (saved by someone for some point in the future), unused, abandoned or dormant.

So what do you do when you really want a Twitter account but the account is inactive?

unused-twitter-account.png
Image by Drugo

I was recently confronted with this issue when setting up this very blog. While I registered TwiTip.com early in 2008 with the hopes of starting a Twitter Tips site – I never considered registering @TwiTip as a user name here on Twitter. When it came to launching this site it dawned on me that it would be useful (and logical) to get the Twitter user name.

The problem is that it was already registered and had been for months. The frustrating part was that it was completely inactive – not a single tweet had been made. They hadn’t followed anyone and didn’t have any followers. This meant that direct messaging them wasn’t possible (you have to be mutual followers of one another to do this).

As I began to research if there was a way to get Twitter to hand over unused Twitter accounts I soon found out that there were many people with the same problem as me. There were also quite a few different opinions on whether it was possible to get these types of accounts released.

How to Secure an Unused Twitter Account

The good news is that there are a variety of ways to get an unused Twitter account. Lets start with the official response from Twitter.

A few days back I asked CEO of Twitter Evan Williams (@ev) for Twitters response to this problem. Do they release unused user accounts? Here’s his response:

“In our view, it does no one any good to take a Twitter username and not use it. So we do free up unused accounts on occasion.

(For example, we’re freeing up the unused @algore, so Al can use it instead of al_gore.) We have a rough guideline of 9 months of non-use.

However, it depends on the historic use of the account. Also, we don’t delete inactive accounts, we only rename them to free up usernames, so there is no data lost.

To inquire about the availability of a name, contact Twitter support.”

OK – so it is possible – but it can take 9 months and it is only a ‘rough guideline’. Also – Twitter support can be a little slow to respond – I did email them about my predicament but after a few days with no response I began to wonder if there was another way.

Note: if you want to find out how long a Twitter account has been registered simply type ‘WHOIS username’ into the update field on Twitter and you’ll get the information brought up on the screen like this:

whois-problogger.png

What other methods do people have at their disposal?

The way that I secured TwiTip was to do two things. These won’t always work – but they are worth trying.

1. Follow the account name and then @reply to them

When you follow someone it is likely that they will be sent an email to notify them of their new follower. This relies upon them not switching the ‘notification of new follows’ option off – but considering that it is left on by default there’s a reasonable chance that they’ll at least be notified of them having a follower. The hope is that they’ll then login to their account to work out who it is and why they followed.

2. Ask your followers for help

Shoot out a request to your followers to see if anyone knows who owns the account. You might just get lucky.

3. Check the URL for the user name

It may be that you own the corresponding .com URL for the user name – but there is a chance that the person with the usename owns it. See if the URL is registered. If it is contact the owner of the URL to see if they own the username. If the site is registered but not in use do a WHOIS of the URL to find the owner contact details.

Also check other URLs similar to the username.com. This might sound a little too much – but as it turned out in my case – the person who owned @TwiTip had registered it because it was similar to another URL that they’d registered (they had registered a number of similar Twitter accounts).

Add Your Suggestions

I’m sure others of you will have other experiences of securing unused Twitter accounts and I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences.

PS – How my Story Ends – My story ends happily enough. I tried options #1 and #2 above and it was #1 that seems to have paid off. The person who had the account also had @Twittip (double ‘t’) as well as www.twittip.com and was happy to release them to me as a trade for a little of my time (consulting).

Comments

  • November 13, 2008

    Daren good tips, for real, unfortunaly i wondt know hwat will happend whit a person if none of doze tips funtions, will be really disapointed whit ontil twitter admin answer the mail.

    You give a really good thip to know if use names are allrady exist WHOIS i did know that it could funtion in twitter. thank you good post.

  • November 13, 2008

    Great tips Darren.

    BTW How did you get a username with twit in it? I found a leek to get mine, @protwitter, so I hope they won’t ban me. The problem now is that I can’t change the “Name” field to be ProTwitter with capitals because you are not allowed twitter in your name either :(

    Do you know of a way that I could contact twitter and ask for permission to use this as the name and also check if I am allowed to use the name protwitter?

    Thanks for your help!

  • November 13, 2008

    Thanks for the great tips! I’ve actually found a couple of really good Twitter account names that have been registered but never used and was disappointed that I couldn’t find the owners. I’m going to contact Twitter support to see if there is any possibility of getting them.

  • November 13, 2008

    Options #1 and #2 largely depends on luck. Fortunately, he was still using his mail account. Very informative article.

  • November 13, 2008

    Darren,

    Does any of this fall under the Digital Millennium copyright act? Can a trademarked name be taken by anyone? Are we in the same situation as we were in the early 90s where people are reserving trademarks and then trying to resell them to the trademark owners?

  • November 13, 2008

    Darren,
    Are you psychic, or just really tuned in to what the masses need?
    ;)
    This is information (as was your recent post on background images) JUST what I was looking for. Honestly – you’re like my genie in a bottle.
    I had no idea about the WHOIS function, but just used it to find out that the owner of the user name I want registered over 9 months ago and has been completely idle. I just submitted a request to Twitter Support to help me acquire the name for my own use.

    Thanks so much for helping me to optimize my twitter experience!
    Best.

  • November 13, 2008

    But what can you do when someone has your desired twitter username and the only tweet of “Buy me for 20$” ?

    That’s what happened to me after starting work on the Twitulater project last week.

  • November 13, 2008

    Whoh, now Twitter support will be flooded by emails :P

  • November 13, 2008

    If the only tweet is “buy me for $20″ I’d consider that money well spent for a twitter user name you desire! The only better option is for someone to release it for a bit of your time. (Way to go Darren!)

  • November 13, 2008

    Great post! I have had my eye on a much shorter Twitter name, and now I at least know it’s possible to get it. I’m going to see what I can do and I’ll report back. Hopefully Twitter support doesn’t get too bogged down by our requests! :D

  • November 13, 2008

    Ok,
    I’m going to twitter now to try and secure a few names. I hadn’t thought of someone else getting my name before.

  • November 13, 2008

    Great Tip! Now I need to post to a twitter account I have that I am not using! Dont want to lose it!

  • November 13, 2008

    Glad to see you got your new Twitter account Darren. The only other thing I could think of if there’s no URL is to Google the twitter name to see if that person has accounts registered elsewhere, and possibly contact info related to those other accounts.

  • November 13, 2008

    Glad to see your persistence paid off.

    I had to add an underscore to my name to get the first name, last initial. I should have tried stalking the original Lindsay to see if they were using the account. ;)

  • November 13, 2008

    Re: Comment 5, it absolutely falls under the DMCA, Twitter states in its terms of service that they observe all relevant copyright laws, and specifically mentions the DMCA. They also have another clause that reserves their right to deny service to anyone for any reason whatsoever, so even if an act on Twitter didn’t fall under that, if they perceived it might, they can do whatever they wish.

  • November 13, 2008

    In my situation, I have a Twitter account that I logged into once every few weeks. With my account less than six months old, I no longer was able to log in. I tried setting a new password through Twitter support as well as set up a new account to no avail. Emailing Twitter gets no response. I still get emails saying “so and so is now following you,” but yet I still can’t log in to my account. I have no idea what the problem is or how to solve it. It’s been going on for two months now.

  • November 13, 2008

    Is Twitterank a phishing scam? Darren, could you use your contacts to confirm or refute this?

  • November 14, 2008

    It would seem good to have your account registered when you first try to start up a site, or a new form of branding yourself. Its like a domain name, even when you have an idea, 10 dollars will get you a saved name for a year, thus giving you time to decide what you really want to do.

  • November 14, 2008

    Now that I think about it, im gonna go register my other sites @names. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • December 11, 2008

    I am new to twitter and learning more about twitter. I think you have a great site that makes the twitter experience effective and fruitful.

  • January 8, 2009

    Great advice for anyone not sure on how to go about getting a name that fits their biz/personality.

    It is very difficult to finally find a domain name that suits you, let alone a Twitter ID. I was unaware Twitter would work with the public, regarding precreated accounts that are not being utilized.

    Great site – look forward to more Twitter info Darren.

  • January 21, 2009

    Here is the procedure for freeing up squatted or unused Twitter names:
    http://twitter.zendesk.com/forums/26257/entries/18370

  • January 25, 2009

    Update:
    I sent a support ticket to get them to release an old unused Twitter ID (as described in the link from my last comment above) and got the following response:

    Due to high ticket volume, Twitter Support is no longer releasing inactive user names unless in cases of trademark or copyright violation. We are working on releasing all inactive user names in the future, however, we will no longer manually release them on an individual basis.

  • January 26, 2009

    Huge help. Nice article on this topic! Twitter is a great service.

  • June 23, 2009

    I wrote a tool that will tell you when the Twitter name you want is finally deleted so that you can register it: http://www.tweettaker.com/

    Now we just have to wait for them to get better about deleting inactive accounts.

  • June 24, 2009

    @drew: Thanks for Tweettaker.com! That’s great!

  • December 10, 2009

    Yes, thanks to Drew for that tool. I submitted my name and hope it gets freed up soon.

  • December 20, 2009
    Big

    How to contact twitter support via email anyway? i tried to look everywhere at their website but no luck! :)

  • January 19, 2010

    Here is how to reach twitter support: http://twitter.zendesk.com/requests/new

    Unfortunately, twitter support are not helping me out with taking an unused name. Patience is the only solution, and hopefully tweettaker.com will be of any help.

    Here is the repsonse of twitter support:

    Twitter is currently only releasing inactive or suspended usernames in cases of trademark infringement. We do plan on bulk releasing all inactive or suspended usernames at some time in the future, but do not yet have a set timeframe for doing so. We appreciate your patience.

    If you notice that your desired username becomes available in the future, you can rename your account by following these instructions:

    1. Log in to Twitter
    2. Click “Settings” at the top of the page
    3. Under the Account section, edit your username
    4. Save your changes

    For more information on our policies regarding trademarks, please refer to the following support page:

    http://twitter.zendesk.com/forums/26257/entries/18367

    This page contains detailed information about what constitutes trademark infringement, as well as how to report it to Twitter. Be sure to select “Trademark/Brand squatting” from the “Regarding” dropdown menu if you need to submit a new report. We are unable to respond to replies to this email.

    Thanks for contacting Twitter,
    Trust and Safety

  • May 6, 2010
    wes

    I hate to be ignorant, but are you supposed to include the quotes in the Tweet to get the WHOIS info? I tried it without, but nothing happened. I don’t want to tweet a bunch of nonsense by accident.

  • October 1, 2010

    if anyone encounters a twitter account with a message offering the username for sale, you can report it to twitter and they will suspend the account as that is in breach of their terms.

    the fastest way to get to twitter support is via:

    http://bit.ly/twicket

    trademark holders generally get a rapid/good response for account recovery and squatted names are also released subject to inactivty (not all of which is visible to the public)

    their is also a 3rd party service (twitterclaims) that claims (freemium model) to notify you when an account become available, however i have tested it and it does not work.

  • January 2, 2011

    It seems that typing ‘WHOIS username’ does not work anymore …

    Is there any other way to get the Twitter user info?

    Tnx

  • January 2, 2011

    Typing ‘WHOIS username’ does not work anymore … Is there any other way to get the Twitter user info?

    Tnx

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.