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The One Big Thing: Facebook Vanity URLs

The One Big Thing you need to know about this week is Facebook’s new vanity URLs feature.

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Facebook is unveiling its new feature this evening and you’ll need to be at your computer, logged into Facebook at 10:59 PM CST tonight, to claim your name.

The vanity URLs allow you to create a readable URL for your Facebook profile or page rather than the ID number that is currently used. Example: The URL for my personal profile at Facebook looks like this: http://facebook.com/profile.php?id=793363355. With the new feature in place, I can now change my profile URL to look like this: http://facebook.com/daviderickson.

The Importance Of Facebook Vanity URLs

If you wanted someone you met in person to connect with you on Facebook, you’d have to ask them to search for you in Facebook, send them an email with the link, or refer them to another online presence where you might have a link to your Facebook profile; your Twitter account, for example.

Now, you can just give them a Web address that is easy to remember. Now it makes sense to include your Facebook URL on your business card and other printed collateral.

Most significantly, however, is what the new vanity URLs will do for your search visibility. One major criteria by which search engines determine where to rank a given Web page for a particular search is Keywords within URLs.

My new Facebook profile, then, will be far more likely to rank highly in search results when someone searches for me by name. The same should be true for Facebook Pages.

The Facebook Land Grab

According to Facebook’s blog post about the URLs, the vanity URLs will be made available on a first come, first served basis. That means you need to claim your name before any of your namesakes around the world do.

Facebook calls these vanity URLs “usernames.”

I suggest you think about your ideal username and then have several alternatives in order of preferability in case your choices have already been taken.

These are the requirements for Facebook profile usernames:

  • Only alphanumeric characters and periods are allowed
  • Usernames must be at least 5 characters long
  • Facebook does not say if there is a maximum length, though I imagine there is
  • Usernames are not case sensitive
  • You cannot edit your username after you’ve confirmed it, so be very careful
  • You cannot transfer your username to another account
  • You are allowed one username per profile
  • New users, those who joined Facebook  after 3 p.m. (EDT) on Tuesday, June 9, 2009, will need to wait until Sunday, June 28, 2009 to claim a username

Facebook has a username help page here.

Vanity URLs For Facebook Pages

Facebook usernames also will be available for existing Facebook pages but not for groups or events.

In addition to the stipulations for the personal profiles, the requirements for obtaining a vanity URL for Facebook pages are as follows:

  • You must be an administrator of the Facebook page in order to register the URL for that page
  • Registration begins at the same time as for personal profiles
  • Your page must be live on Facebook prior to May 31, 2009
  • Your page must have a minimum 1,000 fans as of May 31, 2009
  • You can choose one username per page for each page you administer
  • You are not allowed to use generic words such as “flower” and “pizza.”

Facebook has processes in place for disputes over usernames; the links for these follow:

My Page Doesn’t Qualify For Facebook Registration, What Do I Do?

Sit tight. Those who don’t meet the criteria for obtaining a username for their page (primarily, created prior to 5/31/09 and having at least 1000 fans at that time) will be able to try and obtain their usernames on June 28, 2009.

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About David Erickson

David Erickson is principal of e-Strategy Media, a digital marketing consultancy based in Minnesota. David has extensive experience in digital marketing and is often used as an expert source by media and asked to speak on the topic before organizations and to sit on panel discussions.

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