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?
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:
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).