What’s Your Vanity URL?

You can customize the link people use to get to your Facebook page or profile. It’s called a vanity URL which is a custom link that takes people directly to you on Facebook. This makes it much easier to communicate your Facebook presence in other materials both online and offline.

When you first set up your Facebook presence, you’ll get an URL that looks something like this:


Just in case it’s hard to read, here’s the long link to reach Booth Bullies on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Booth-Bullies-Entertainment/127454587324489

You can share that but it’s a long, messy URL that can be easily messed up when people copy and paste it. It’s also pretty much impossible to typeset and no one will remember if you promote it on a business card, banners, flyers or other print materials.

By setting the vanity URL, you’ll get something like:

My vanity URL reads, http://www.facebook.com/BeachcomberCommunications.

In fact, Facebook recently bought fb.com so I could put www.fb.com/BeachcomberCommunications on my materials to make it even shorter. Either way, its much easier to typeset and much easier to remember the custom version.

To set your vanity URL, check to see if you have 25 fans (the minimum required to get a vanity URL) and then go to www.facebook.com/Username. Be cautious as you can set the username for both your Profile and any Pages you administer from this page.


As you can see, my profile vanity URL was set as www.facebook.com/CrockerAngela. Once an URL is set, it can’t be changed so pick it wisely. All the pages you administer will appear in the drop down menu and you can select the page you want to name. If you only have one page, that’s all that will appear in the menu.

Before setting the URL, Facebook will check to make sure it’s available. If it’s not, you’ll need to try another option – that’s how I ended up with “CrockerAngela”. Facebook will ask you to confirm and reconfirm before setting your vanity URL forever. Please check your spelling and spacing carefully!

While the vanity URL is set forever, you can change the name of your page while you have less than 100 “likes”. That’s how I changed the name of my page from “Beachcomber Communications” to “Beachcomber Communications with Angela Crocker”.  You can do this from the Basic Information tab when you “edit page”.

Crisis Communication

Today, I’m facilitating a discussion for the Alliance Marketing Council (AMC), a group of marketing professionals who work for or with members of Vancouver’s Alliance for Arts & Culture. Our topic is the role that communications professionals play in times of crisis. Rebecca Coleman, Chair of the AMC, asked me to facilitate the session following last week’s post-hockey game riot. The unexpected can always happen but are we prepared?

by Cathy Browne (http://www.flickr.com/photos/cathybrowne/)

While I don’t consider myself a “Crisis Communications Expert”, I’ve certainly been orchestrating and participating in communications plans for a couple of decades and I’ve got some thoughts to share. I invite you to add your own experience and recommendations in the comments.

Consider what a crisis might mean for your organization. Is it a digital security breach of customer’s sensitive information or a customer who suffers a fatal heart attack in store? Perhaps you’ll have to cope with a major event like an earthquake or, sadly, something equivalent to the rioting that happened in Vancouver after Game 7. Whatever you imagine is only the beginning. You must be prepared to adapt to the crisis that actually happens.

Preparation is key as you won’t have time to make a plan once disaster strikes. Make sure everyone in your organization knows who’s on the Crisis Communication team and who is authorized to act as official spokesperson. Ideally the spokesperson and their understudies have had some formal media training to know how to deliver difficult news in a calm and informative manner.

Another aspect of this is the all important contact list. We’re no longer in a era where folks have a single phone number. Where can they be reached by phone? On cel? On Twitter? Through Facebook? In a crisis, the team onsite must try every means of reaching those who can respond in an official capacity. All these forms of communication can feel like unnecessary redundancy but communication systems can break down. Telephone lines and Internet connections can be severed. Cel towers can be overloaded. Who knows, in the worse incidents we may have to resort to morse code by lantern light!

Next comes the mental shift of modern communication. Organizations can no longer rely on strategies to “manage the message” through official statements and press conferences. Today, everyone in the building has the potential to be a reporter through their smart phone. You can’t control what people share on Twitter and Facebook but you must make certain that your company has an official voice through every possible channel.

With real time coverage from multiple points of view enhanced by photos and video perception becomes a tricky part of the equation. Was that a rioter pulling someone’s arm aggressively or an innocent bystander tugging the same individual out of harm’s way?

Social media gives authority to the Citizen Reporter who can share whatever’s happening around them. But at what point does that evolve into Citizen Surveillance (a topic eloquently considered by Alexandra Samuel) or worse devolve into a corps of Citizen Vigilantes hell bent on justice. What happens to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty? Or the integrity of evidence?

With so many potential voices reporting a crisis, it’s important for the organization embroiled in the event to be proactive in announcing, updating and responding to facts related to the event. Sometimes this can mean prioritizing the audience – who do you communicate to and when? Are the citizens directly affected by the crisis your top priority or is it more important to get the message out through mass media and social media? What about your stakeholders? And your efforts to coordinate with emergency services?

It’s also important to know what information is most important to convey. Risks to the health and safety of others should be top priority (say from a gas leak) as opposed to reporting the estimated time of resumption of normal operations. Knowing in advance the priority sequence for communication will mean each message is delivered more quickly.

In this era of social media, we are no longer able to control the message leaving our businesses but we can prepare to communicate effectively in a crisis. Are you prepared?

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Make your message clear

When using social media, it’s important to be globally aware in your use of language.  There are regional differences, dialects and local slang that can be interpreted in more than one way depending where you are. In particular, I encourage you to follow these 3 simple rules:
  1. Avoid idioms.
  2. Write out dates.
  3. Don’t use abbreviations.
Idioms are words and phrases that shouldn’t be taken literally.  When used in everyday language (including blogs, status updates and tweets) they have an alternate meaning. Here are some examples:
  • Nest Egg: Savings set aside for future use.
  • Smell Something Fishy: Detecting that something isn’t right and there might be a reason for it.
  • Keep your chin up: To remain joyful in a tough situation.
Using numbers for dates is an efficient way to communicate but only when the writer and the reader agree on the position of year, month and date.
What’s the expiry date on this Chuck E. Cheese’s coupon? It reads 06/10/11 but that could mean:
  • June 10, 2011
  • October 6, 2011
  • October 11, 2006
  • June 11, 2010
Abbreviations can also be a challenge. Of course, hashtags are a specific type of abbreviation on Twitter but I’m talking about commonly used abbreviations that might flow into everyday language. Things like SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), GMT (Greenwich mean time), and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) are understood by many. But what about PMS – is that a Project Management System or something else?
While it’s important to make every character count when you’re limited to 140 in a tweet or 420 in a Facebook status update, be sure to pause and ask yourself if your message is clear.