It used to be that you do a decent job of protecting your brand by registering the domain names that incorporate your brand name.

Not anymore. Thanks to social networking sites and other online communities, consumers are increasingly interacting on third party services that have become targets for brand hijackers, impostors and opportunists. Their MO: snap up usernames that are related to major brands (and prominent individuals).

Sometimes it’s done for fun, other times for profit.

Since many of these services display usernames as part of vanity URLs and these services increasingly have SEO implications, which can pose a real problem for brands. Twitter, for example, has seen no shortage of fake accounts, some of which have generated lots of press and fooled even the experts.

While dealing with hijackers and impostors on sites like Twitter and Facebook is usually as simple as sending an email to customer service, the hassle of having to monitor the use of your brand across so many popular sites is no doubt a real pain, as is having to take the time to contact those sites when a problem account is located.

Two new services are aiming to make it easier for brands protect their brands on social media websites.

The first,, allows you to check a username’s availability across 102 different popular social media websites. Simply enter the username and it will poll those sites, displaying at which sites the username is already registered and at which sites it’s still available. The AJAX-driven interface is easy to use but results are a bit slow since it takes a few moments to get responses from all the sites that are checked.

The second, KnowEm, goes a step further. It not only gives you the ability to check a username’s availability across 120 popular sites but, for $64.95, will register the desired username where available and send you the account information. It also offers a subscription package for $9.95/m that will make sure your username gets registered as it adds new sites to its list.

So are these services worth it? It depends. While it’s probably a good idea for major brands to protect their identities on popular social media websites, registering on every site under the sun may be overkill, especially when you consider that there are often lots of variations on brand names and sub-brands that would need to be included in the effort as well.

In the case of KnowEm, the $64.95 price tag seems arbitrary. From what I can tell, the fee is per username and is not adjusted based on the number of sites on which registration is possible. For large brands with ‘enterprise-level‘ identity protection needs, KnowEm probably isn’t going to be appealing. It seems to me that this is a market that could easily be served by existing companies, like NetNames, which already offer online brand protection services.

That said, and KnowEm do have utility and the scourge of username squatting is only likely to get more prevalent as social media sites like Twitter get more popular. That means extra vigilance is in order. Of course we shouldn’t forget the more important subject: what you do with your usernames once you register them.

Photo credit: Paul Keleher via Flickr.