Today’s social media landscape is a panorama of platforms vying for the holy grail of monthly active users (MAUs). Some of the biggest, most familiar names with the biggest MAUs are Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, and WeChat. Then, there’s TikTok, Douyin, Telegram, and Snapchat.
And, of course, now X marks the spot of the former social media icon, Twitter. Love it or hate it (what the platform was or has become), the name Twitter perfectly evoked feelings of excitement and short bursts of information, or tweets, which easily morphed into widespread verb usage: “She tweeted.” And of course there was the whole bird metaphor to leverage.
However, there’s a long list of other social media platform names that are also capturing MAUs worldwide. Some are familiar because they’re gaining traction, and others are new to the social scene. Spoiler alert: Zinzin is partial to the newly-launched Pebble. We like that it’s a “kinder, safer, more fun” social media experience. And, by the way, we named it! (More on that later.)
Social Media Namescape
As part of our naming process for each client, we create a Competitive Namescape. It’s basically a landscape-mapping of names that currently exist within an industry.
For example, here’s a curious mix of naming clusters where vowel-dropping and “creative” spelling reign supreme:
Names like that don’t happen by accident
Names like ones on the list above happen when companies fear failure without an exact-match .com domain. But acting from fear overlooks a brutal reality: most soundalike brands with these kinds of names will fail anyway, despite having that coveted exact-match .com domain.
Just because you can register SoshalSmoshal.com right now and make that your brand doesn’t mean you should!
And now, Pebble
Zinzin presented the name Pebble as a response to our client’s clear vision and brand positioning: to be authentic and humble, bringing a refreshing experience, even magic moments of delight through connection and conversation with real people. It’s a renewed vision for social media as an oasis without the toxic stew of bots, misinformation, and hate speech.
Here’s a snippet from our Pebble case study:
The Ripple Effect
Pebble maps to the concepts of small, humble, and part of the natural environment as the result of natural processes. Each pebble is unique and has been smoothed by the action of water, signifying the passage of time.
However, when tossed in a pond, even a little pebble makes ripples that expand ever outward, a metaphor for the potential of each and every individual using this platform to create far-reaching effects on culture and society.
A pebble is also something simple and familiar the world over. Whether you toss it or hold it in your hand for luck, a pebble is never singular or alone. It’s forever part of a greater collection or gathering.
We think Pebble and its founders are pretty great. If you’re looking for a new, less cringe social media experience, you should definitely check it out. This isn’t an official promotion; we’re just big fans.
Social media naming round-up: last, but not least
Ideally, social media is about connecting real people through real conversations. So, this is a market sector where real, human language should carry more weight. However, as the list above shows, most social media brands seem to have abandoned real words in favor of whatever mashup or odd string of alphanumeric characters will land them that coveted exact-match .com domain.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. There are (or were) some social media brands that have strong names made of real words. Brands that understand it’s not enough to have a name that technically has meaning — it must also be meaningful. Brands like:
Is it possible to create great brands from invented or experiential mashup names?
Yes, but it’s more difficult. Brands that go this route have to be laser-focused on the cadence of the name to make sure that the sound of the name when heard and spoken will easily lodge into peoples’ brains. This helps to make up for whatever deeper meaning it lacks. Some brand names that pull this off include: Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Reddit, Meetup, Nextdoor, Substack, Netflix, and Youtube.
Parting thoughts & naming advice
Social media sites need to own the conversation
The greatest brands are emotionally engaging, thought-provoking, absolutely original, and tend to upend industries. They are not soundalikes, struggling to get a word in edgewise. Rather, they own the conversation in their market.
This kind of dominance is what product developers aspire to, but the naming of a revolutionary product or company often gets short shrift. Don’t let that happen to you. A name can and should dominate an industry as much as a company or product. So, aim high.
Stay true to your brand positioning
An authentic brand is true to itself. It knows what it stands for, embodied by its brand positioning. Everything it does consistently maps to and supports that positioning. Authenticity, like a great name, is a quality your brand can only demonstrate, not explain. What you fail to demonstrate directly you have to explain, and that’s called advertising.
Prioritize a great brand name over an exact-match domain
Don’t be discouraged by the difficulty of securing a domain name. And don’t let domains dictate your choice of names. It’s far better to have a great brand name with a domain that employs a modifier word or a different TLD (top-level domain) than a weak name with an exact-match .com domain. Thanks to modern search engines and social media, your brand can be easily discovered regardless of its web address.
The name of a brand should always have priority over its domain name. The only potential exception being web-based consumer apps, where the brand and the domain are one. But even for those companies that still insist on an “exact-match,” unmodified domain, the “.com” part of the equation is usually no longer required or even relevant.
For example, the domain name for Pebble is…Pebble.is!
In this case, our client required an exact-match domain name. Fortunately, they did not require a “.com” TLD. Zinzin helped Pebble sort through a number of domain options. Together, we serendipitously learned that “.is” is the country-code TLD for Iceland, and that pebble.is was available for registration.
The beauty of this domain is that it seamlessly reinforces the brand positioning that Pebble is fundamentally about people:
Pebble is…all of us!
One last word of advice
Real words are how humans have communicated with one another for millennia. Zinzin believes in meaningful words that tell stories and convey important information. There’s no reason to ignore this history when naming a company or product brand, especially in the very media space that’s all about real humans being social.