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IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOUHOW UNAUTHORIZED ACCOUNTS ARE DESTROYINGBRAND REPUTATIONPoint of ViewNovember 2010 1
SOCIAL MEDIA: FRIEND AND FOEThis paper isn’t about the staggering growth of social-networking sites. That has been well documented.By now, we can all agree that social media, which continues to dominate industry headlines, hasbecome a part of consumer culture. This is evidenced by recurring statistics which cite social media’sphenomenal growth among users of all ages.Social media is here to stay and will only become more enhanced via features aimed at improving theexperiences of an increasing user base. As more Internet users migrate to it, the content they produce— user-generated content such as ratings and reviews — will continue to affect brand reputations andinfluence purchase decisions. That’s because social media, a product of Web 2.0, has ushered in afundamental shift in marketing, from businesses controlling the content to consumers now possessingthe power. On the consumers’ side is the power of word-of-mouth advertising that has the potential tospread virally. And that can be both good and bad for businesses.These factors, of course, are causing brands to allocate larger portions of their marketing budgets to aburgeoning area that didn’t previously exist. Even if companies prefer not to actively engage in socialmedia — developing profiles and/or interacting with consumers — there are beneficial ways to utilizethis emerging space. One such way is social monitoring.SOCIAL MONITORING: WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?Consumers are flocking to social media at staggering rates. A major implication of this movement is thatonline participation among existing and potential customers will happen on social sites, whether or notyou’re actively participating.In fact, social marketing marks the first time in history when brands can receive immediate feedback byactively listening to and monitoring consumer conversations, which means it has never been easier toknow what people think. It’s no wonder that more companies are adopting the mantra of “Go where theconsumers are.” But being unavailable on the platforms to which consumers are flocking could result inmissing valuable insights into your: Brand/company. Products/services. Competitors. Industry.Now more than ever, Facebook posts, Yelp reviews, Amazon ratings, blog comments, tweets and moreprovide immediate insights into the minds of consumers, as well as the associated brand sentiment andbuzz. The knowledge gathered from monitoring such user-generated content can help gauge: The general level of customer satisfaction with your brand. Product feedback and the need for product development. Brand issues being discussed on the Web (and how to handle those issues). Opportunities for engagement (i.e., identifying the social platforms used by potential and existing customers). Where brand advocates are gathering or where they could be cultivated. How peer recommendations are affecting purchase decisions. What competitors are doing in the space, as well as what is being said about them. 2
One of the biggest benefits of social monitoring is staying current with negative mentions concerningyour brand. It is important to note that negative ratings and reviews should not feared, as studies haveindicated that unsatisfactory sentiments can actually improve a company’s credibility. After all, if aconsumer only sees positive content during the research/search process (prior to making a purchasedecision), he or she may question the legitimacy of the reviews.It’s true that even negative ratings and reviews from honest consumers can positively influence apurchase decision. Such consumers are merely expressing their opinions on public sites to inform peersregarding their future purchases. Typically, the intent is rooted in education, not maliciousness.Unfortunately, a few bad apples can spoil the whole bunch. With consumers now possessing the powerof content marketing, there is no limit to what can be said and spread about you. And some social-media users will stop at nothing to kill your brand’s reputation.USER-GENERATED CONTENT: MURDER IN THE FIRST DEGREEWe’ve all seen them: unofficial blogs started by disenchanted consumers or disgruntled employees whogo to extremes (even profanity) to publicly spite and slander companies.Or the Twitter and Facebook accounts designed to resemble officially branded pages, complete withscreen names and logos to make other users think such accounts are legit.Or perhaps you were among the millions who viewed the viral video of two Domino’s Pizza employeeswho filmed themselves conducting unpleasant acts to food they were preparing.And the list goes on.In an age when content can be created and shared with quickness and simplicity, fake social accountscan pop up anywhere, with the intent to mislead others through unauthorized use of trademarks,messaging, etc. Whether marketers are eager to dive into the social-media pool or they prefer a hands-off approach to their social-media presence, all brands need to be cautiously aware of potential dangerslurking just below the waters — those looking to destroy and cast dark shadows upon brandreputations. Call them posers, hackers or whatever you want — they’re out there, ready and plotting tokill your brand.Thankfully, social monitoring can act as your preventive recourse.By monitoring the mentions, buzz and sentiments that are circulating the World Wide Web, you’ll have abetter understanding of the good and the bad about your brand. Moreover, social monitoring can tipyou off to unauthorized accounts, profiles and pages that have been created with the evil intent ofdiscrediting your brand.For example, we at TMP Directional Marketing and 15miles recently conducted an online brand analysisfor a particular client, only to discover that a defamatory Twitter account had been created — completewith unauthorized treatment of the trademarked name and logo. While that client was not activelyengaging in social marketing with us, we brought the situation to its attention. This underscores theimportance to engage in social monitoring, regardless if you have an active presence in social media.Why? As stated earlier, conversations in the social space will happen, regardless if you’re payingattention. 3
Regarding this case, Twitter has a strict policy on trademark violations, which is defined as follows: Using a company or business name, logo or other trademark-protected materials in a manner that may mislead or confuse others with regard to its brand or business affiliation may be considered a trademark policy violation.In such cases, brands may report violations to Twitter by submitting online tickets. After careful review,Twitter suspends unauthorized accounts; then, it notifies the account holders. If such an account isdeemed confusing to readers but is not purposefully passing itself off as a trademarked brand, theaccount holder is given an opportunity to clear up any potential confusion, which may result in a newusername.Seem fuzzy or unclear? That’s because there is a fine line between what is permissible and what is not.Employing another’s trademark for purposes that have nothing to do with the products or services forwhich the trademark was granted is not a violation of Twitter’s policy. Because of that, you will see aplethora of so-called “fan accounts” on Twitter, enabling users to generate and share a wide range ofcontent associated with brands, celebrities, athletes and more.If a fan account, for example, does not have trademark rights, it must clearly state that it does notactually represent the respective company or business entity. Twitter gives a few suggestions for settingapart fan accounts from authorized brand accounts: The username should not be the trademarked name. The profile name should neither be the trademarked name of the company nor include the trademarked name in a misleading manner. The biography should include a statement to distinguish it from the actual company (e.g., “Unofficial account of…," "Fan account of…" or "Not affiliated with…"). The account should not use another’s trademark, logo or other copyright-protected image without express permission. The account should not, through private or public communication with other users, try to deceive or mislead others about an identity.CONCLUSIONBrand monitoring and assessment are must-haves in today’s age of user-generated content. That’sbecause gone are the days when companies controlled the distribution of messages through specificmedia channels. Therefore, companies need to be aware of what is being posted about them on blogs,social-networking sites, ratings and reviews portals, and more.Truth be told, the benefits of social monitoring far outweigh the drawbacks. In fact, there aren’t anydrawbacks. The insights into your brand — from overall buzz and competitor sentiments to product-development ideas and customer-service issues — provide a telling picture of how consumers see yourproducts and/or services. By gaining a glimpse into the consumer’s world, you can better connect withyour target audience, engage in conversations and build a community of loyal followers.Furthermore, a social-media assessment can help shape a business’ overall search-engine-marketingstrategy. For example, being clued into consumers’ needs and feelings, as well as how theycommunicate, can shape the content — keyword terms and phrases — you use in pay-per-click 4
campaigns. In terms of organic search, social monitoring provides a glimpse into the keywords to targetfor better brand positioning on search-results pages.Full-service, interactive-marketing firms like ours are able to meet your needs in the social-medialandscape, including: A social-media assessment and report so you know where you stand in this space. Ongoing social monitoring. Recommendations for next steps, platform utilization and optimization. Campaign creation, including development and tactical implementation for social engagement. Creation and/or optimization of social profiles, pages, etc. Program management, including recommendations for community building, engagement and growth.If you’re a small-business owner and/or have a limited marketing budget, easily accessible andaffordable (even free) tools provide alternatives to a marketing firm. Some buzz-monitoring solutionsinclude: Google Alerts Addict-o-matic BlogPulse BoardTracker HowSociable Keotag Technorati/Twittorati TweetDeckWith the help of such monitoring tools, you’ll be able to stay current with the brand conversations thatare sweeping the Internet. And when unauthorized accounts get created under your brand name, you’llbe at the forefront of the situation before extreme damage can be done to your brand. As moreconsumers gravitate toward social media, the power of viral messaging will be unleashed with greaterintensity, which means you’re watchdog monitoring of the social landscape will continue to play aprominent role in your branding and marketing.Consumers may control the messaging, but only you can control proper use of your trademark and howto react in the face of defamatory content. 5
About UsTMP Directional Marketing | 15milesFrom the first Yellow Pages advertisement to comprehensive local-search-marketing strategies, TMPDirectional Marketing (TMPDM) is an experienced leader in the industry. In 1967, our agency was thefirst to recognize the potential of Yellow Pages advertising. In the 1990s, we were the first to developinteractive-advertising solutions, due to our affiliation with Monster Worldwide. Today, we are thelargest local-search agency, working in tandem with our interactive-services division 15miles to offeronline-, offline- and mobile-search solutions. Our clientele consists of top national brands and morethan 100 of the Fortune 500 companies, who rely on us to position their brands at the forefront ofconsumer searches through print advertising, Internet Yellow Pages, social media, and mobile andsearch-engine marketing.Headquartered in New York City, we apply the advantage of national scope and the personalization oflocal perspective to our integrated marketing campaigns. Over the years, we’ve built an industry,underscored by our understanding of local-search marketing better than any other agency.ContactFor more information about social monitoring or our comprehensive marketing services, please contactus at 866-738-4127, or visit us online at tmpdm.com or 15miles.com. 6