Having been keen on getting our hands on the @Leighton Twitter handle for a number of years, our Brand & Communications Manager Tom Chaplin explains how we finally succeeded this week and why it was worth it.

Desperately Seeking @Leighton

What’s in a brand name? Recognition, understanding, relevance? Of course. So, what’s in a twitter handle? Well, pretty much the same. In the digital age, companies are found, rated, understood, shared, as well as praised and criticised in equal measure via social media. Your twitter handle can play a vital role in your social media strategy, reputation and the engagement your brand achieves with fellows users.

Leighton have been on twitter since 2010. Despite being a business to business organisation with a few very well served clients, rather than multiple customers, we have seen plenty of value in managing our presence online effectively. Increasingly, as we have grown we have used the social network to reach out to potential clients, employees, collaborators and specialists.

In 2010, the natural choice for our Twitter handle was taken. Someone else had set up an account with the user name @Leighton in May 2007, just a few months after Twitter was incorporated in the States. By way of perspective – at that time twitter was averaging just 5000 tweets per day, whereas today the network’s users are churning out half a billion tweets a day.

What Does A Twitter Handle Mean to Us?

In his very first tweet, @Leighton said he was checking out Twitter and then didn’t tweet from the account ever again. Previously, colleagues here had made attempts to contact the owner via the account to see if an arrangement could be made for the transfer of the handle but we’d had no joy. The account going dormant suggested he might not be accessing or receiving any notifications for the account. With no further information available via the bio, we came to a dead end.

Twitter Handle Detective Work

Fast forward to November 2014 and a routine review of our social media accounts by myself and Leighton’s new SEO Specialist Dan Smith again highlighted the lack of brand continuity between Twitter and the other social networks we are using. On Facebook and Linkedin, the two other networks we prioritise, we were known simply as Leighton. But on Twitter we were still referred to as @LeightonDotCom – a somewhat clumsy and unsatisfying nod to our company web address. For a digital company like ours it just didn’t cut it. We both knew instinctively that we had to act.

Determined to find a solution, we went into full on detective mode and – this time round – had more joy. Further digging based on the image and first name of the @Leighton user now revealed a Linkedin account, a Facebook account and a new, active Twitter account for Leighton Williams, the managing director of a flourishing independent Estate Agents in South Wales.

Pulling Leighton’s email address from his company’s website, I sent him a simple message explaining our situation and asked after the availabilty of the @Leighton handle. After joking about the need for a seven figure payment to secure the handle, Leighton couldn’t have been more helpful. He immediately said we were free to have it and tried to access the account in order to shut it down so we could claim the handle. A lack of access to the primary email address on the account though meant he was locked out – with no way of getting round Twitter’s security policy. We were back to square one. So close, yet so far.

Approaching Twitter to claim the Handle

Undeterred, we pored over Twitter’s T&Cs and rejected all the options including registering a trademark infringement with Twitter (clearly Leighton, despite his name, wasn’t pretending to be us). We did however discover Twitter’s Inactive Accounts Policy and found our way forward. Twitter says “to keep your account active, be sure to log in and tweet within 6 months of your last update.” Failing to do so, they say, may lead to an account being permanently removed.

We exhausted our contacts for a friend or colleague who knew someone (anyone!) at Twitter, and through a fellow digital marketer we came into contact with a Twitter employee who worked within their Sports Department who was prepared to help. He quickly confirmed that Leighton Williams’ original @Leighton account was in their eyes inactive. A request was placed with their accounts team to close the account and reassign the @Leighton handle to us, and within three days the handle we had coveted was ours!

So, what does this mean for us? We have successfully strengthened our digital assets with just the change of a Twitter handle and now present a crystal clear, unified message to our current and prospective clients, contacts and followers on Twitter. No more explanations, no more awkward appearance: Leighton the brand is quite simply @Leighton. Result!

Leighton Williams is the Managing Director of Alison George Estate Agents. By way of a thank you to Leighton for his generous assistance in this process we have made a donation to the charity of his choice, the Make a Wish Foundation.