Does Name Squatting Pay on Facebook?

When Facebook fan pages launched last year, people rushed to lock up the names of large brands in the hopes that they could make a quick buck or get some free promotion. For most people the strategy hasn’t paid off. Fan page squatters are not the only people trying to profit from squatting on Facebook. Yesterday Brad Ward posted that he had found numerous incoming freshman groups were being squatted on as well and the company behind the squatting has the ironic name of “College Prowler”.

Who is College Prowler exactly? Well the company’s Wikipedia page has since been updated with an entry about their “2008 Controversy” based on the Facebook squatting strategy that was revealed yesterday. The CEO wrote a comment yesterday on Brad Ward’s original post stating, “Until about an hour ago, I was unaware that College Prowler was working with another company that may have been using fake aliases to create to these groups. The groups that College Prowler was responsible for creating were set up with real accounts.”

Whether or not the accounts were real or fake, it’s still a common practice among many to try and steal the group names, of other companies or groups in hopes that the group attracts thousands of individuals who the admin can then market to. The model used was clearly a black hat tactic but it’s one that can be extremely successful in getting a brand’s name out. Even the CEO admits that “From a big picture perspective, having a marketing strategy using social networking sites (like Facebook) is something that is necessary to be effective in our business.”

I can’t disagree with him but this is one of those “viral techniques” that might as well be added to some of the Facebook marketing hacks that I previously wrote about. They are aggressive strategies that can pay off in the short-term but in the long-run they will prove to be less effective. Regardless of whether or not this was a good strategy, College Prowler has received a lot of buzz from using this strategy.

The company sells university guides that are created by previous students. Now thanks to their marketing snafu, the company is known by many more people. Do you think this sort of marketing tactic pays off? I’ve heard of many companies hiring “intern armies” who’s job is to go create conversations on Facebook. Has your company used aggressive tactics or do you think these are uncalled for? Does name squatting work on other sites (like Twitter, etc)?