Exposing and Protecting a Brand on Social Media

Digital channels, including social media and mobile apps, continue to play an increasingly dominant role in people’s personal and business lives. Company marketing strategies are being adjusted to take full advantage of social media, but what about the potential disadvantages that these channels could pose to a brand?

In this digital era, everyone is becoming social media savvy and businesses can no longer afford to overlook threats such as brand impersonation, brand fraud and counterfeit goods. The digital channels are rapidly evolving and with marketing ROI at risk, marketing executives must make social and mobile essential components of their brand protection strategy.

The many benefits of social media are already being exploited by organizations looking to increase opportunities to engage with audiences, keep abreast of emerging trends, conduct real-time market research and identify and address changing customer needs. As a result, companies are dedicating more budget to online marketing endeavours and to developing concrete social media strategies that support them. In fact, a study by Forrester found that U.S. digital marketing spend will near $120 billion by 2021.*

Alongside the growing budgets and use of digital marketing methods, there are several potential pitfalls that should also be taking priority in company social media strategies. Businesses have to monitor the social media sphere for any brand protection-related issues, whether it is account spoofing, counterfeit goods or brand impersonation.

Both a pro and con of social media is the way it presents itself as showing customers an organization’s human side. This may offer businesses opportunities to personalize their brand, however it also means that many customers take brands’ social media accounts at face value. With social media and digital marketing forming such an important part of organizations’ brand building strategies, it is therefore crucial that any risks are identified and assessed.

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 number of best practice approaches can be incorporated into a company’s social media strategy to help preserve customer trust and the health of a brand. Companies should proactively register brands as usernames across leading and new social media sites, bearing in mind that with the growth of social media, special interest and emerging sites could crop up at any time. For those sites that don’t have a verification process, a company’s official website can include icons, information and links that lead to its social media presence.

Perhaps the most important element is effective monitoring of the channels, there are tools available in the market that can assist in automatically searching social media for unauthorised use of brands and trademarks. Once any scammers, impersonators or counterfeiters have been identified, the appropriate action will need to be taken.

It is clear that social media can be used as the ultimate marketing tool. However with the level of potential risks involved, and the digital space evolving rapidly, the most successful businesses will be those that incorporate brand protection into their social media strategies.


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