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Brand protection – How to survive and thrive on social media

Simon Whitehouse, senior director of EMEA sales at brand protection software specialist, MarkMonitor, explains how to prevent brand misuse online.

In the early days of social media, the focus for marketeers was to promote their brand online, rather than protect it.

The platforms available were viewed as the perfect opportunity for companies to build brand awareness and engage directly with consumers to showcase specific products and services. However, during the prolific growth of social media in recent years, many companies have had to review their digital marketing strategies to evolve to account for the exponential number of users, the emergence of multiple new niche platforms and the increased threats to their brand.

Understanding the reality of the risks facing today’s businesses operating in this sphere is a vital part of protecting a brand online.

One of the biggest risks to brands is impersonation; imitators can misappropriate items such as copyrighted images, photos or trademarked brand names or slogans and use them to communicate with customers. Results can be highly damaging to the brand in terms of credibility and customer trust. Social media can also be used to mislead consumers through fraud or counterfeiting. Methods include setting up fake pages or profiles with the unauthorised use of copyrighted materials and/or trademarks in order to appear legitimate.

Top brand protection tips

A solid strategy that can successfully combat instances of brand misuse or misappropriation is vital. There are a number of best practice approaches that can be incorporated into a business’s overall brand protection strategy to help preserve customer trust.

Register

Whether it’s a blog, microblog or social network page, the brand should be proactively registered across both leading and emerging social media sites. Some social media platforms allow a company to prove its legitimacy through adding a ‘verified’ label to pages. If the platform does not offer a way to show pages are bona fide, the company’s main website should include information and links to its social media presence.

In addition, while a company may already have registered and/or recovered all of a brand’s vanity URLs, an organisation should also pay attention to emerging, special interest or lesser-known social media sites.

Search

Businesses can adopt tools to automatically monitor social media for impersonation and the misuse of brands and trademarks. Scammers can easily impersonate a brand – the key is to prevent those with ill intent from fooling consumers into thinking they are engaging with a brand, when they’re actually interacting with an imposter. New sites crop up all the time so this needs to be an ongoing process and provide constant vigilance to discourage repeat offenders as well as opportunists.

Act

Once any misuse or abuse of a brand is identified, appropriate action must be taken. This can vary, depending on the circumstances, and can include a number of approaches. Organisations could contact the scammer or impersonator directly to understand their motives and explain how this activity is in violation of their brand guidelines. Alternatively, brands may need to catalogue the activity and report the impersonator or scammer to the relevant social media site so that it can enforce its terms of service.

Social media may be an ideal modern marketing tool but companies need to bear in mind that alongside the perks there are pitfalls. All social media sites want to provide safe environments for their users, but they cannot monitor and catch every instance of brand infringement. Companies need to stop these problems in their tracks – to protect its relationships with friends, fans and followers, the overall health of a brand and subsequently, their revenue.

MarkMonitor is an American software company, which develops software intended to protect corporate brands from Internet counterfeiting, fraud, piracy and cybersquatting

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