By Mark Babbitt
You're an entrepreneur with a great idea for a business. You can't wait to launch your startup! But there's a problem, one that has become increasingly common in a world that relies so much on digital communication: You went to secure a domain name, Twitter handle, Facebook page, etc., and the domains you want are already taken by another company.
You could struggle for months trying to find just the right name. You could settle for a domain name you don't really like. Or you could consider any number of abbreviations or work-arounds (including the dreaded dash or underscore: e.g., MB_Associates.com).
But nothing feels right. Nothing sounds as good as the original name you created for the business you care so much about.
So what to do?
The "not-com" solution
Let's say you're starting a social media agency to help small- to medium-sized businesses in New York City create buzz for their products or services. Your first choice for a business name is "Social Beat."
A quick search, however, shows that the domain SocialBeat.com is already taken. Your heart sinks. Hoping for the best, you get creative and, after a little research, discover that the current owner of SocialBeat.com will sell the domain for a minimum bid of $25,000.
$25,000?! Definitely not a price your start-up can afford.
But then you discover that there are some great "not-com" options available, which could transform your business online into:
- And so on ...
Now you're onto something. You not only get to leverage your original business name -- but you stand out in the process.
The social media advantage
You decide to move forward with SocialBeat.buzz and secure the domain.
Being a smart entrepreneur, you know that your next step is to secure the name on social media. So you begin the sometimes frustrating process of making sure the name isn't already taken. And that's when you discover that not-coms domains have another advantage.
As you expected, @SocialBeat is taken on Twitter. Same with Facebook, Pinterest and Google+. But @SocialBeatBuzz (as well as @SocialBeatNYC and@SocialBeatMedia, if you had decided to go with one of those) are available.
It turns out that your not-com domain name helps set you apart from the competition while enabling you to maintain consistent branding across multiple platforms. And in a matter of moments, you're the proud owner of a uniquely branded Facebook page; a LinkedIn company page and a LinkedIn Group; accounts on Google+, Pinterest and Instagram; and even Tumblr, Flickr and Vine.
And in each case, the branding was not available using SocialBeat -- but it was available as SocialBeatBuzz.
This scenario plays itself out daily. Entrepreneurs and business owners grow frustrated over the lack of choices and the high prices charged by brokers for already-taken domain names.
But the smartest of the bunch, those founders and owners who understand the role a good business name plays on social media, have discovered that not-coms -- from 'dot-CEO' (.ceo) to 'dot-cool' (.cool) -- help to establish a great online brand. Just as important, these entrepreneurs are setting themselves apart from the competition.
To learn more about this new frontier in Internet naming, check out growing list of "not-com" domains.
Mark Babbitt is the CEO and Founder of YouTern, a blogger, a "Top 100 Leadership Speaker" (Inc.) and co-author of A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive.