eric whelan

PJ Harvey or PJ Harvey? Getting mixed up on Twitter

Whenever I’m training is social media I always stress the importance of using a name online as close to your actual name as possible, especially on Twitter. I was quite lucky in that I was able to get my real name, @ericwhelan, but I did have another Eric Whelan message me last summer grumbling that I had “stolen their username”. In actual fact, I  wrote a post last summer about Twitter name sitting and how I didn’t really see an issue with it.

Last night, PJ Harvey won her second Mercury Award. As expected, the twitterverse took to the web to congratulate, to moan and to discuss. And who better to include in the conversation but PJ Harvey, right? Well, the only issue is, PJ Harvey’s twitter name (which has lay dormant for over two years, is @PJHarveyUK as opposed to @PJHarvey, as most assumed.  Cue thousands of messages going to Phil Harvey, a software developer from Newcastle.

Irritating, yes, but that should realistically be where the story ends. A few irritaiting messages but it will die off in a few days. But that’s not where it ended. Cue Welsh band Los Campesinos:

This message was retweeted by dozens of followers, reaching thousands and thousands of people, despite the fact that the account did genuinely belong to someone with a proper reason for using the name.

Eventually, Los Campesinos backed down.

Were Los Campesinos joking? Possibly, and Phil’s responses to the thousands of people messaging him were, at times, hilarious. But it still proves why it is so important to grab your username while you can. If the actual PJ Harvey were using this username (and, for that matter, ever tweeted) this would be such a fantastic opportunity for her team to grab potentially thousands of new fans. A quick message back to point them to where they could buy the album, tour dates etc. It really seems like a hugely missed opportunity. If this were an organisation or a museum, for instance, this kind of mistake could cause a devastating loss in potential custom.

It also backs up my earlier post, where I argued that there’s not really a problem in sitting on a username, even if you’re not ready to commit to a particular social media application. You never know where you’ll be in a year and what applications will be the next big thing, so it’s worth being prepared.

Situations like this blow over easily, but while it’s happening it could really make your organisation look like they haven’t thought out their social media strategy well enough to forsee any problems like this. One of Phil’s first tweets, posted minutes after the Mercury winner was announced, illustrates perfectly the response it could cause in your organisation.