Ever run into a twitter handle that you wanted but was “dead”?
For the sake of our argument lets say “dead” means
- it has an egg photo still
- hasn’t been updated in over 3 years
- linked to a website that is no longer functioning
Twitter also defines these as ones that haven’t been used or logged into in 6 months.
Technically, these “dead” accounts mean you’re screwed. You’re SOL and technically twitter won’t release these and unless you know someone there (like Tynan did), you’re not going to get it (and even if you did, they stopped doing this a long time ago for people).
Sorry – that’s how it is.
However, with a little detective work, you might be able to recover a dead handle on your own.
Note – this takes a little bit of internet sleuthing and detective work, along with a little cash, but you can totally pull this off for yourself.
Here’s how I did it.
Table of Contents
Since then, it’s done well enough to continue pushing it strongly outside of just the email & push into social media landscape.
I was able to get the Facebook profile at fb.com/paleomealplans but the accompanying twitter handle (@paleomealplans) was just sitting there – no tweets – no nothing. Opened in 2012 & the last activity was 2012. Snooze fest.
The website associated with the profile was paleodietmealplans.com – similar in concept to ours – but apparently no longer in use. I wanted to see if I could get the twitter handle since it matched my domain exactly.
This is where it gets fun.
First of all – I confirmed the profile was dead. I tried tweeting to it & DMing it and got nothing. I tried the website in the profile – paleodietmealplans.com – but it wasn’t working either.
It was pretty clear the owner had registered it in 2011 and quickly abandoned it after little success…
I could have given up, but that would have been too easy…
Time to do some digging….
Getting The Domain
The first thing that I did was look up the who.is record on the domain – this is a public record of who owns each domain – so you can contact the owner in case of an issue. Who.is is a good site for this.
Unless the domain is under privacy, it will list their email and you can reach out to them.
My plan was to reach out to the owner and make an offer to buy the domain since it wasn’t in use – and see if he wanted to do a deal.
In this case, I found out something even more interesting – the domain was under deletion.
This is good news!
Basically, if you register a domain but don’t pay the annual renewal fee, the domain will go into a holding pattern of ~75 days and then undergo a deletion process where it’s released to the public for registration again (there’s more on this process here if you want to learn about it in detail). This 100% legal and will happen to any domain that isn’t renewed every year.
I signed up on namejet.com to “backorder” the domain. Basically what happens here is that as soon as the domain is released to the public, you can pay a service like namejet.com to hit their servers & try to register the name for you right away (and beat out anyone else who’s trying to do the same).
Other services like this are:
As it turned out, no one else bid on the name, so I ended up getting it easily (I believe the only fee was a $69 backorder fee).
Score 1 for detective work.
On To Twitter!
Now that I had the domain, I wanted to figure out how to get the twitter handle. I still tried to reach out to the original owner, but never heard anything back.
I decided to see what would happen if I tried to “reset” the password on the account.
An interesting thing happens when you try to reset a password with twitter. They will NOT give you the email the account is under, but it WILL give you some hints.
In my case, twitter basically asked me:
“Do you want to reset the password for in**@p***************ns.com?
Now, in a vacuum of information, this isn’t helpful at all – that could be anything. But, going off a hunch and based on what was listed in the profile – I took a flier that they meant the email was [email protected] – the same domain that was in their profile & the same domain that was now legally mine.
I setup a “catchall” email forwarder to another email (so that any email to anything @ paleodietmealplans.com would forward to my inbox and clicked “reset”. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
Sure enough – I got an email in my inbox from twitter asking me to click here to reset the password:
I reset the password, and I was in.
I went to work actually putting the twitter handle to use – updating the images, deleting old tweets and adding new ones as well as updating the email & passwords to ones that weren’t so easily accessible.
I was pretty happy & this seemed like a win/win. I got a handle that matched our brand online and twitter lost one more dead account & gained an active user.
Disclaimers & Such
I want to point out a couple of things (disclaimers and such):
1) Twitter has a LOT of dead usernames. They should really clean this up – it’s ridiculous that so many good handles are in the graveyard because some person registered it 10 years ago and is doing nothing with them.
2) I owned the domain legally. The person was obviously not using the domain (they let it expire after all) OR the handle (it hadn’t been updated in 5+ years). Even if they were using the domain, the email on the account was legally 100% mine.
3) I owned the exact match for the handle as the domain – something twitter has helped brands do in the past.
4) Remember to not be a jerk. This was on an account that was linked to a domain that was obviously not used and had no intention of being used. Don’t do this to accounts that are actively being used (you shouldn’t be able to unless they drop the domain anyways).
5) Don’t hack people’s emails. If it’s associated with a domain they’ve let expire and you legally own that’s one thing – but don’t get into an email that’s in use.
A few other things you can try
=> If you buy a domain directly from a seller, also check to see if you’re able to include any social media presences in the sale. I bought Impossible.tv from Joel Pilger (now revThink) and I was able to get the @impossibletv twitter on @impossibletv on instagram #boom. Since I bought their online impossible assets, it’s technically not buying and selling a twitter handle specifically.
=> This guy filed a trademark for his first name, got the mark to issue & then submitted a report to twitter. He ended up getting the handle for the cost of a trademark ($250). I don’t endorse that method, but it did work for him. You’ll also have to realize that his name is not a common name & will probably not work if you want to get @john handle as you’re relatively unlikely to get a trademark on a first name.
I was pretty happy to get the matching handle for my Paleo Meal Plans business but it’s frustrating that Twitter (and other social networks) let certain handles get picked up and sit empty – long after they stopped using them (with no re-release policy) even after years of non-use. While they say that non-use for 6+ months allows them to re-assign them, they seldom do. They should fix this and allow a process for re-release to brand & trademark users.
I also don’t know how long this process will still be available once published. It’s an admittedly a very narrow use-case that ended up working out well for me – but if you do find yourself in a situation where you can pick up a domain associated with a twitter handle that matches your brand, give it a shot and let me know if it works.
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