Brand Protection Lessons from the Ello Social Network

Ten years ago when social media was far from mainstream it was not rare for usernames like "cocacola" and "apple" to be registered by users unconnected with these companies. Sometimes the names were registered by squatters, hoping to sell their name to the owner of the brand. In other cases the name was registered by either fans or adversaries of the brand, deliberately taking advantage of the confusion. Occasionally they were registered by private users who just liked the name and had no other intentions.

Fast forward to today and you might expect that everyone in digital communication has learnt the lesson. Registering your company and brand names on new social media channels has become just a routine part of brand protection activity. Doing this when a new social site or app is created means that you are more likely to get there before someone else. This blocks potential squatters, but more importantly it avoids confusion when someone else is posting apparently in your name.

But even today there are many companies and organizations who are not as careful as they might be. Checking a few random brand names on the up and coming Ello social network I found that there are some who, like me, were careful to register an account with their brand name. Many of these are obviously intended for brand protection because the account has no activity and in some cases not even a profile picture. Eurostar, for example, has already taken @eurostar but not yet completed the profile.

If nothing else this demonstrates that Eurostar learned the lesson from the 2009 PR crisis when four trains were blocked in the tunnel between France and England but when people turned to the @eurostar Twitter account for news they found that it belonged to a student. Once the company was featured as a case in a crisis PR lecture I taught at the American University of Paris; now it is best in class, a story I described in Online Brand Protection: Why You Need to Register Your Brand on Social Sites

But in some cases other people got their first. The username @cococola, for example, has been taken for a fan account. This might sound like a positive outcome because a fan group is presumably positive to your brand, but the downside is that their postings might not be in line with your messages and some people could mistake it for an official company account.

A much more unfortunate situation is when the username is taken by someone who is unrelated to the company, which has happened to Spotify, where the @spotify name has been taken by a user apparently unrelated to the company, demonstrating that even leading Internet companies don't always think of brand protection.

World leaders, or at least their PR team, have also not been quick to protect their brands on Ello. The username @barackobama has been taken by an unrelated user, forcing the real Barack Obama to use the clunky alternative @barackobamaofficial. Meanwhile Pope Francis's "@pontifex" username has been taken by someone who has simply reserved it for the Pope, though it is not clear if they are doing this as a favor or because they hope to make some money.

Brand protection is not terribly difficult. It takes just five minutes and zero expense to register a brand on a new social site or app.Finding emergent sites is also not terribly difficult because there are so many people writing about them. Some of this effort is wasted because many sites fail, but since it hard to predict the next Twitter, Instagram or WhatsApp it is much safer to register at least a brand protection account everywhere. And while you are registering the account take a few more seconds to upload an avatar, add a link and a brief description.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about brand protection, social media or other communication topics you can email me at or call 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81. You can also find me through my website and, of course, I have an account on Ello at


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