The Marketing Intern

Outside the Box / Inside the Cubicle

Facebook Vanity URLs: Utterly Useless

Posted by The Marketing Intern on June 11, 2009

Damn, Facebook. Lookin' good!

Damn, Facebook. Lookin' good!

This may sound like a bit of a silly thing to blog about — I could just as easily tweet it, I suppose, if I wanted to expend the effort to boil my thoughts down into 140 characters. (By the way,  you can follow me @MarketBug.) To be honest, though, the whole Facebook Vanity URL thing is really getting under my skin, and I think it deserves more attention than a tweet or two can provide.

It’s not that I mind Facebook offering its business clients a way to tidy up their URLs. That’s great and everything, and I get it. What I don’t understand is all the clamor. Everybody wants one of these. But how useful can the vanity URL really be? I’m trying to run through scenarios in my head where a company would absolutely need to have a shortened link to their Facebook page. So let’s assume the following situation and run off some scenarios:

Situation: A company’s CEO gave the keynote speech at a conference, and the company posts the video of this speech on Facebook.

Scenario 1: The company deicdes to send out an email to its clients to direct them to the Facebook page. In this case, an in-line hypertext link reading “Watch the video here!” takes readers directly to the video. The vanity URL is not needed.

Scenario 2: The company decides to alert its followers via twitter. The Facebook vanity URL is still too long, so the company uses a service like bit.ly or tinyurl to shorten it. The vanity URL is not useful.

Scenario 3: The company wants to insert a link onto its webpage or blog to the video. Similar to #1, they either create an inline hypertext like reading “Watch the video here!” or else have a video still, image, Facebook badge, etc. which links to the video. The vanity URL is not useful.

Scenario 4: An existing customer hears by word of mouth that the company’s CEO made a moving keynote speech at the conference, and the customer wants to see it for herself. She punches up her Facebook account, finds the company’s update on her news feed, and clicks to view it. The vanity URL is not useful.

Scenario 5: A prospective customer, who had never heard of the company before the conference, hears the speech at the conference, and a week later wonders if the company has put the video on the website. He goes to the website, sees the link to Facebook, and clicks the link. The vanity URL is not useful.

See where I’m going with this? If a company is making their facebook page a destination, isn’t that kind of missing the point? Sure, it’s all well and good to have a thriving Facebook community. But those businesses with 1000+ fans were able to get those fans without a vanity URL. Why? Because it’s just too darn easy to like to your facebook site, and to dress up the link without having to dress up the URL. And once a person adds himself as a fan, he has the link to the fan site in his dashboard.

The only reason I could think of a company wanting a vanity URL for their facebook site is if they wanted to make that site a destination. I can understand a company wanting to make a blog a destination, or their YouTube channel, but their Facebook page? Aren’t people more likely to go to their own Facebook profile to browse the latest goings-on of their friends and peers before going to a company’s fan page? Maybe I’m just being cynical, but Facebook seems to be engineered to serve selfish needs first (the need to know what’s going on in everyone else’s life, apparently) and as a social networking tool second. If that’s true, then there is absolutely no reason for anyone to ever have any need whatsoever for a vanity URL.

Or am I just missing something?

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