Thursday, January 20, 2011

Help! Someone hijacked my brand in social media!

According to a new McKinsey report, Beyond paid media: Marketing’s new vocabulary, there are two vocab words marketing execs should have added to their media business plans this year - sold and hijacked media. While sold media is simply a company selling media space on their own media (for example Ellen DeGeneres’s social community hosting ads), hijacked media is much more difficult to prevent and control, and can ultimately lead to the tarnishing of a corporate, product, or personal brand.
Some examples of hijacked media include:
  • Someone registering for a social media account using one of your brands
  •  A social media account being broken into and unapproved content released by the individual
  • A spin off (positive or negative) of a regular media campaign going viral

One of the most legendary brand hijackings of 2010 occurred during the Gulf Oil Spill crisis when the @BPGlobal PR account appeared on Twitter, sending sarcastic tweets and quickly amassing more followers than the real McCoy. While the folks at BP did not find this hoax very amusing, the hoax account came across to outsiders as more legitimate judging by its appearance alone.

So as a marketer, corporate lawyer, or brand protector, what rights do you have if someone is camping on your brand on the web? On the three most popular and interactive social media sites, your rights are fairly well protected:

  •        Facebook: In terms of businesses, the rights to administrators on a ‘Page’, aka the pages with the ‘like’ buttons, are limited to “authorized representatives”. If you go to create your page and someone is impersonating your company/brand, to report the problem you’ll need to fill in the form that appears when you are denied. In terms of personal impersonation, select the ‘Report/Block this person’ option on the hoax profile, then the ‘Fake Profile’ option, and add ‘Impersonating me or someone else’ as the reason. 
  •        Twitter: Like Facebook, while impersonation is illegal, parody accounts are permitted, however they must abide by the specific Twitter guidelines for these types of accounts and those in violation can be reported/terminated by filing a report here. Specifically, parody accounts cannot use the exact name of the company, product, or person and cannot be made with the clear intent to confuse or mislead.  What struck me as surprising though is the fact in the BP case mentioned above, the imposter account was asked to change its description to make it clear it was not really BP saying thing such as “The only harmful chemicals in our dispersant are the ones you inhale, silly” and “Honestly, why are we still talking about the spill? Twilight comes out next week! Come join us in line, but the account owner refused to change and today the page reflects its original content as when it was launched May 19th.
  •        YouTube: Similar to Facebook, YouTube channels cannot impersonate a person, business, or brand. However, unlike Facebook, creating a username that is someone else’s’ trademark is allowed, as long as it is not publishing content related to the owned trademark. Violations of this can be filed here.
So while hijacked media poses a serious threat, your rights are fairly well protected, however the ultimate decision lies in the hands of the site and regaining control may be a difficult/time consuming process.  

Next week I’ll take a look at easy ways to prevent brand hijacking so be sure to check back! 

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Thank you for visiting and for your comment! -Allison