A screengrab of the spreadsheet, with scribbles on it to illustrate how it works

Reserving multiple usernames on social media sites


This whole post actually started life as a comment on the Lujure blog in response to a change that Facebook made around usernames (they call them vanity URLs). The more I thought about the change, the more I realised this whole post might be useful to someone…apologies for the minor diversion…

What does a Facebook Username look like?

A Facebook username (also known as a vanity URL) is a shortcut to a profile or page. They are more “valuable” than Twitter usernames because Facebook is strict about its real name policy and, while there may be many million Andrews on Facebook, there can only be one Facebook.com/Andrew (obviously there is only one twitter.com/Andrew too – but twitter users expect a pseudonym).

Facebook usernames can only contain alphanumeric characters (A-Z, 0-9) or a period (“.”), for example — john.smith55. It is important to note that a period (“.”) does not count as a part of a username; therefore, names like johnsmith55, john.smith55, john.smith.55, etc. all constitute the same username. Usernames also must be at least 5 characters long. Usernames are not case sensitive. Facebook also prevents certain words from being included in usernames. It is not possible to copy a username that someone else has already claimed.

The barrier of entry to Facebook usernames has always been higher than that for Twitter. The pool of usernames is shared across personal accounts and Facebook business pages. While anyone with a verified account could reserve a username for their own personal page (though all the common ones have gone), business pages needed 25 fans before they could reserve a username. I say needed because that sort of changed recently.

The recent change

Recently I got an email on my phone from Lujure about “changes to Facebook”. While the rest of the world got upset about timelines and such, the most important of these to my mind as a business user was the ability to reserve Facebook usernames without 25 followers.

As soon as I got home I started setting up the Facebook Pages that I had been meaning to set up but hadn’t quite got round to (the pages are run by local teams, and I have to give the training before they go live).

The first one I set up, bagged the username no problem. The second one…Facebook tells me I need 25 followers…so I invite a colleague to become an admin on that page…and he bags the username no problem.

So what is Facebooks policy on this?

At time of writing, Facebook seems to allow every user to reserve one personal username, and one business page username. If you have more than one page that you want a username for, you are going to have to reach the magic “25 likes”.

Don’t forget that Facebook usernames cannot be transferred. So be very careful about attaching them to the correct page and, in particular, don’t reserve a username for an individual that you will later want for a page.

Okay…No problem…I’ll just set up lot’s of personal accounts, then claim a username with each!

There are a couple of problems with this strategy. Firstly, it is strictly prohibited in the terms and conditions of Facebook (see section 4.2).

You could try and get round this by setting up a business account, but you aren’t supposed to do this if you already have a personal account.

More practically, both types of account need to be verified before you can use them to claim a username. Verification requires a unique mobile number (the process is that Facebook send you a text with a secret code, and you enter that code in a form). While it is possible to get multiple mobile numbers, it is rather a faff for our purposes.

So what do you suggest?

If you want to set up any subsequent business page usernames, these will need to either be set up by a colleague/spouse/friend with their personal account, or they will need to reach the magic “25” likes before the username can be claimed.

Assuming you have lots of willing friends/colleagues (who are unlikely to want to set up their own business page, at least before Facebook moves the goalposts again) it is relatively easy:

  1. Friend them (assuming you haven’t already)
  2. Go to the page, then invite them to become an admin by clicking on “See All” from your page:
    Where to click to add an admin on Facebook
    then add their name to the “new admin” box
    Add a new admin to the Facebook page
  3. If they are logged in (on a different computer, different browser, or incognito version of the same browser!), they will get a message that they have been added as an administrator.
  4. They can then bag the name for the page by visiting: www.facebook.com/usernames
  5. If they have no interest in remaining an admin, you (or they) can then “unadmin” themselves by going back to the page (using the new vanity URL!) redoing step 2 (to see all admins) then clicking “remove” next to their name.As far as I can tell (based on the one time I tried this with my wife) the vanity URL stays attached to the page. It doesn’t reset your count though (i.e. you colleague can’t then claim another username, despite no longer being an admin for the page she originally named).

Linking pages together by liking one from another.

The only other tip I have for you is around “liking” other pages, (before you ask, page likes don’t count toward the magic 25 likes!).

You might have noticed that Facebook pages can “like” other pages. These show up on the left hand side of the page, usually below the fold:

The pages "liked" by the Pizza Hut page
The easiest way to add these to your pages list of “likes” is to use Facebook as a page:

In the very top right of your Facebook window is a little arrow. Drop it down and select “Use Facebook As Page”:

Use Facebook as Page
You should then see a list of all your pages, with a button marked “switch”. Pressing that button allows you to use Facebook “as” that page:

Use Facebook as Page switcher

You can then surf to the relevant pages, and click “Like” and that page will appear in your pages list of likes.

If there is a particular set of facebook pages you want every page to like, why not list the URLs as clickable links in a Word document (now you have all the vanity URLs you need!) so you can quickly click to each one to like it?

Transferring or Changing Facebook Usernames

Transferring usernames can’t be done. You can’t transfer a username from a person to a page, and you can’t transfer a username from one page to another page. What you can do is take over the whole page by being added as an admin, and then deleting the original owner (if your colleague is leaving the organisation for instance) but that is not really the same thing.

Personal accounts can change their username, but only once (ever!) and the old username is not “returned to the pot” – it is also reserved (though not used) forever. For this reason I advise extreme caution before bagging usernames. Make sure the person in your organisation responsible knows what they are doing!

So that is it.

That was a whistle stop tour of the hints and tips I have picked up for setting up multiple accounts. I hope you found it useful. If you have any others, I’d love to hear them. Add them as a comment below!

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