For journalists constantly on the prowl for new ways to brand themselves, the Facebook gods have an answer, one that may turn out to be the ultimate name game. Previously, 'Facebookers' were simply assigned a random number as the URL of their personal page. But no longer.
With the advent of Facebook "usernames", Facebookers will have the opportunity to create a specific URL for themselves. Usernames will be available at http://facebook.com/username as of Saturday, June 13 at 12:01 am EST.
Facebook usernames make it easier for people to find and connect with others on the social network by simply entering a username as part of the URL in a search engine's browser-- good news for journalists as they can now promote themselves with a particular URL that is less of an eyesore than the soon to be outdated cacophony of characters on business cards and other marketing material.
As some Western news outlets struggle in the economic downturn, star journalists of these outlets could leverage the popularity of Facebook by marketing their own name brand through personalized URLs. For example, online audiences relate with names they can trust to immediately give them the news they're seeking, the reason why human-powered news aggregators such as the Drudge Report have had so much success. Similarly, with the rise of citizen journalism, professional journalists are resorting to creative ways to hold their ground amidst the sea of amateur news writers and bloggers.
Select businesses and entities (like the New York Times) already have designated usernames. Top notch 'pro-jos' and other public celebrities -- whose Facebook pages (different from "Facebook profiles") have a minimum of 1000 or more fans -- Facebook employees and highly valued Facebook clients will have priority over the masses. Non-celebrity journalists or people with common names like John Smith, on the other hand, had better move quickly. The Baynewser recommends staying in (and awake) Friday night, for once the clock strikes 12:01 am EST there will be a mad dash of folks trying to secure a name for themselves.
"Of course, be prepared for the system to crash when 10 million other Facebook users try to grab theirs at the same time," Baynewser warns.