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Importance of brand reputation in the digital age

You need an online strategy to counter any attempts from fraudsters trying to hijack your brand on social media, says Charlie Abrahams, senior vice president at MarkMonitor

The prevalence of online social media has been both a blessing and a curse for brands. On the plus side, it allows them to launch products, run promotions and take advantage of seasonal trends in new, creative ways, while simultaneously engaging with their loyal customers on a more personal level.

The disadvantage, however, is the potential of brand infringement. Whether you already have an established online following or you’re just starting to build a presence, there’s a very real possibility of online scammers, impersonators and counterfeiters attempting to damage the reputation of your brand through various social media channels.

To mitigate the risks to a business operating online, a well-thought-out brand protection strategy needs to be in place. By having this, a brand can ensure they are capable of tackling the numerous infringement scenarios, while preventing any loss in revenue and reputational damage.

One of the most common instances of infringement takes the form of brand hijacking

One of the most common instances of infringement takes the form of brand hijacking or “brandjacking”. Fraudsters use misappropriated copyrighted logos and slogans in an attempt to benefit from a legitimate company’s brand equity, or deliberately damage it through confusion and deceit. To reverse the damage caused, you need to identify the effect of brandjackers on your social media accounts and your brand.

UNDERMINING ENGAGEMENT

Impersonators with malicious aims get between your brand and your customers to advance their own purposes. No matter how they do it, the intent is to fool consumers and your customers into thinking an offer or message is legitimate.

Sometimes, someone with malicious intent simply wants to damage a brand. In such a case, the person may spread misleading or dangerous information, such as a false stock tip or a lie about a product recall. Regardless of the method employed, this person is focused on causing harm, often by casting doubts on the brand’s viability or credibility.

MISLEADING CONSUMERS

Scammers and impersonators also set up fake pages or profiles with the unauthorised use of copyrighted materials and/or trademarks to give off an aura of legitimacy. In a digital twist on an age-old problem, counterfeiters promote e-commerce sites by selling fake goods through spoofed social media accounts. By posting links on their fake profiles or fake pages featuring your brand’s logo and legitimate product photos, they may mislead consumers into purchasing counterfeit wares.

Whether a high-priced fashion accessory or an everyday necessity such as batteries, no product is off limits and no brand is exempt from counterfeiters.

IMPORTANCE OF A STRATEGY

A brand protection strategy essentially means that you’re covered and ready to counter any attempted acts of brand infringement should they ever happen. Without a strategy, businesses are likely to either make snap decisions that might harm the brand or spend precious time considering the multiple options available, by which time the damage has been done.

Despite this, many companies underestimate the importance of including a brand protection element within their social media strategy. Indeed, a survey by Social Media Marketing University found more than half of brands don’t have a strategy in place to manage social media complaints.

PROTECTING YOUR BRAND

The best thing that any company can do is to make their accounts “official”. Facebook and Twitter both have tools to help to verify your legitimacy, and customers will be able to identify this by searching for the blue ticks next to your account name. For other platforms that don’t offer a way to show your pages are bona fide, make sure your company’s main website includes information about and links to your presence on social media.

It’s also important to monitor for impersonation and misuse of brands and trademarks continuously. This is simple to do on social media. It only takes a minute to find a logo and apply it as a profile picture, for example. So you need to watch for signs that impersonators are tampering with your brand and trying to lead consumers astray.

If the case is more serious, you might need to take further appropriate action. You can either try contacting the individual and explaining how his or her activity is in violation of your brand guidelines, or you can report the activity to the relevant social media site.

Far too often, brands don’t always consider the dangers of operating on social media and fall prey to fraudsters looking to capitalise on this. Therefore, it’s absolutely critical that every brand has a comprehensive strategy in place that covers all aspects of their online presence.

For more information please visit www.markmonitor.com

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