Posts Tagged ‘brandjacking’

Anti-Brandjacking Basics: 10 Profiles To Claim For Your Company

Have you taken the basic steps to prevent people from hijacking your company’s brand? Or have you left the door open to it happening right now?

I’ve been thinking a lot about brandjacking fortunately. Fortunately, I’ve been thinking about it in terms of prevention rather than having to fix it.

Brandjacking is a broad term, the most common connotation of which refers to cybersquatting, which Business Week defines as:

“…the unauthorized use of a trademarked name or phrase in a Web domain pointing to a Web site that isn’t owned by the trademark holder.”

A common manifestation of this in the social media age is third parties claiming your company’s name on any online property. The easiest way to make sure that no-one does this to you: make sure your company claims them itself.

So, if you’re helping your company to take the tiniest baby steps beyond the boundaries of its own website, make sure you recommend it claims its name on these sites (or just do it for them!):

Twitter - the golden child right now. With episodes like “Janet” from Exxon Mobil and the fake Aston Martin account, you’d be a fool not to claim your company and brand identies on here.

Facebook - with the highest number of active users of any social networking site, Facebook is an obvious target for would-be brandjackers (especially in Canada, where Facebook penetration is upwards of 70% in some cities). Add to that the fact that you can now claim a custom URL for Facebook pages with more than 100 fans, and you have a compelling reason to ensure your company has at least a passive presence there.

MySpace - Facebook may have claimed the top spot and Twitter may be more of a media darling right now, but MySpace still has almost 57 million unique US visitors per month according to Compete, and that number has risen in each of the last four months. Don’t discount it just yet.

YouTube – the Google-owned video sharing monster YouTube may be a long way from turning a profit for its parent, but it’s still by far the most popular site for posting videos online. That includes parodies of companies. Well worth claiming.

FriendFeed – this one isn’t a mainstream service, but some of the bigger names in social media are predicting great things for it. I’m not convinced, but that’s no reason not to cover your bases.

WordPress – your domain name portfolio should cover the obvious choices for domains similar to your brand. You should consider adding WordPress profiles to that set. Don’t let someone claim [company name].wordpress.com because you forgot to.

Google – Claiming your company name on Google doesn’t just safeguard your company’s identity on Google’s services; it also provides a useful place to aggregate the bacn email that you will receive from your social media profiles.

Yahoo - No longer the Internet powerhouse it once was, Yahoo still draws enough traffic to make claiming your company name there well worth your while.

Flickr – Facebook may have the world’s most popular photo sharing application, but Flickr is still a big gun, with nearly 22 million unique US visitors in May 2008. Now that you have your Yahoo account, use it to claim your Flickr identity.

Social bookmarking sites – There are plenty of these to consider. For starters, think about claiming your company’s name on Reddit, Delicious, StumbleUpon and Digg.

This is just a starter list, not a comprehensive set. What other sites would you add?

Aston Martin Brandjacked On Twitter

Aston Martin joins a long list of people and organizations to have been brandjacked on Twitter.

A fake account, AstonMartin, has attracted a reasonable (though not huge) following while posing as an official account. My attention was drawn to it when the account retweeted one of my posts about a recall of older car models by General Motors. Re-posting negative messages about competitors didn’t seem to fit the image of a luxury brand that positions itself well above the cars produced by GM. The tone of some responses to other users also seemed somewhat more sarcastic (and wrong – GM doesn’t own Aston Martin) than one would expect.

When asked, the person behind the account would not confirm whether it was an official Aston Martin account, instead directing me to check the account’s profile (which gave the impression that it was official):

Twitter exchange with fake Aston Martin account

My suspicion was furthered when I noticed the account automatically posting links featuring the words “Aston” and “Martin” (an unfortunate coincidence for Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill):

A quick query to Aston Martin’s media line confirmed my suspicion (fellow Torontonian Ben Lucier also inquired). Press Officer Kim Lawrence Palmer replied:

 

Dear Mr. Fleet,

Thank you for your email. I am afraid that this isn’t the real Aston Martin, and I am pursuing Twitter to remove the page. We do however have an official Facebook page here:

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/pages/Aston-Martin/15678718354?ref=ts

Kind regards

Kim

Takeaways

No real damage has been done to the Aston Martin brand, and the response from their public affairs unit indicates they’re moving to shut the account down. In future, though, how can companies avoid brandjacking incidents like this?

Monitor your brand

There are many, many listening tools out there. Monitoring and listening are foundational pieces in a modern web strategy.

Be proactive

Task someone in your organization with claiming your company’s profile name on new services that emerge, so that accounts like this can’t appear.

Set policies

At the moment the identity of the Aston Martin account owner is unknown (and may remain so) – we don’t know if it is someone external to the organization, or an overly keen employee. Regardless, organizations should establish clear policies on what practices are and are not acceptable, so employees have clear boundaries within which to operate.

Consumers beware

Lastly, as social media users and practitioners we need to remember to confirm identities before taking things at face value. Until we have more robust means of confirming identities, make sure you’re certain that a particular profile actually represents a brand – look for contact information you can use to confirm, or links from other corporate properties to the profile.

Your thoughts?