Friday, September 10, 2010

Social Media brandjacking

I've mentioned the topic of online brandjacking quite a bit in the past and have covered topics such as domains and cyber squatting, brand trademarks in PPC campaigns and Google Sidewiki.
But with the growing use of Social Media, occurrences of Social Media Brandjacking have also increased.

So what do I mean by Social Media Brandjacking?

1. Handle squatting
This is when brands have their names or products taken by someone who pretends to be them. This happens a fair bit on Twitter, where it has picked up the term "Twitter Jacking". Its a growing trend where opportunists have freely stolen the names of companies, celebrities or even fictional characters.
Looking back, I believe this activity gained mainstream attention in Summer 2008, where someone called 'Janet', supposedly a spokesperson for the oil company firm Exxon, posted messages at http://twitter.com/ExxonMobilCorp (now a protected account). And more recently, as if BP didn’t have enough problems with a certain oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico, the Twitter account @BPGlobalPR started gaining far more followers than the real BP PR team!
Note: The account is now a voice for Anti-BP sentiment, with over 190,000 followers.

2. Brand fans have created an online presence in Social Media (usually Facebook)
So your chief exec finally walks past your office desk and says "I think we need a Facebook site for our brand x". Whilst this is undoubtedly a move in the right direction, you know that a Facebook page has already been set up by well-meaning fans of the brand and they are already posting their opinions and comments there.This is a more difficult situation to manage and its often not intentional social media brandjacking... so if it happens to you, tread carefully, very carefully!
(Hint: Sometimes its better to watch, slowly participate and provide assistance when required)
This does therefore once-again raise the interesting question about who actually owns the brand and who should curate the content that appears on social networks.

3. Brand detractors / critics have created an online presence in Social Media
Its relatively easy to set up a Facebook Page for any company if they haven't done so already (although hopefully most should have by now). If this page has postings or comments that have obvious false information or things that are harmful to your brand then you *may* have a case for taking action as claiming this is a scam or an infringing on your intellectual property.
Its also pretty easy now for brand critics to attack a brand on social media sites by constant negative commenting or posting alternative content. For further information I recommend reading Jeremiah Owyang's posting: Prepare Your Company For Social Media Attacks

One thing is for sure, brandjacking on social media sites is an activity that is likely to increase as more and more people sign up to these networks.

Is you company prepared?
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