It’s election season again! Chock full of silliness and horror, for sure, but there’s always something to be learned by those who watch the goings-on with an open mind. The first such lesson this time around is a key point that you’ve heard before but may have dismissed: Buy any and all web domains based on your accounting firm’s name immediately, even if you don’t need them. While you’re at it, claim the relevant Twitter handles and accounts on other social media sites – again, even if you’re not ready (or even planning) to use them.
Why on earth should you devote resources, even if minimal, to secure these potential assets when you might never want to use them? Why not just wait until you need them before spending the time and money to purchase the domains? The answer is simple: Lock them down now because if you don’t, someone else might do it first. And that can lead to big trouble, as quite a few 2016 presidential candidates can attest.
Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz, for example, will be happy to tell you that it’s important to secure relevant web domains early. Neither one did so, and now people who go to the web addresses they assume represent the candidates are informed how many workers Carly laid off at HP and advised to support President Obama and immigrant reform, respectively. Paul Ryan.com lands web surfers at an online guitar store, which isn’t quite as destructive but certainly doesn’t help the candidate win his battle for dominance, either.
Hillary Clinton would probably also advise you to go ahead and buy those domain names, considering that HillaryClinton.org allegedly delivers malware. You aren’t particularly likely to pick up any dangerous viruses while looking for Jeb Bush’s campaign site, but you might pick up a little unexpected perspective – JebBushForPresident.com leads to a site that’s owned by a gay couple and features discussions of LGBTQ issues and the ongoing quest for equal rights.
It doesn’t cost very much to buy the rights to a domain name, or even a few of them, but neglecting to do so can be very costly indeed. Tons of URLs that might interest the major candidates are currently owned by domain squatters hoping to earn big bucks by selling them back to the campaigns. The asking price for ElectHillary.com is $295,000 and ReElectHillary.com is available at $275,000. JebBush.com is currently being offered for $250K.
In other cases, savvy and possibly illegal moves by the opposition can cause problems. Last year, many would-be supporters were tricked into donating money that worked to combat the very candidates they supported (as explained in the small print that, apparently, nobody reads). Clever Republican operatives had set up NRCC fundraising sites that incorporated the Democratic congressional candidates’ names, pictures and campaign colors.
While it’s true that your accounting firm probably isn’t on the verge of running for office, you face the same level of risk from unsecured web domain names and social media accounts. Claiming these domain and profile names ensures that they are under your control and not in the hands of profiteers or others who might create trouble, from confusion in the marketplace to fraud or hacking done in your name.
The security you’ll gain by having the names locked down is definitely worth the time and the few dollars you’ll spend to register each name, and the annual fee to maintain ownership. Head to GoDaddy, HostGator or any other reputable domain name registrar right now and buy the rights to your firm’s name along with its common variations, including initials and any other versions you might want to use down the line.
At the same time, claim your firm’s name for accounts on all the social media platforms, whether you plan to use them or not. You could decide to use them later but either way, at least they’re secure.
Take the time to register sites that include your name and all its permutations. Doing so is far, far less costly than dealing with the potential expense and collateral damage caused by confusion, pranksters or malicious mischief. Think of it as buying ‘name insurance’ and consider it a necessary expense.