The field of Brand Protection has historically been relegated to those companies who produce products that are subject to counterfeit production. This includes popular consumer products and luxury goods.
However, the rise of social media popularity in business has fostered a counterfeit culture for accounts. In recent years, a growing number of businesses have wisely allocated resources towards social media brand protection, but the vast majority of businesses still have gaping vulnerabilities in their social media governance approach. If exposed, these vulnerabilities would inflict substantial reputation damage.
Online brand protection, as a whole, combats the loss of revenue, reputation and customer trust when another party exploits your brand. In order to protect against these losses, here are the threats to be aware of and how social media increases your risk.
Threats to Your Brand
Since the way we shop has dramatically changed, customers have access to goods and services across the world through online shopping. Unfortunately, this makes it easy to set up websites and social media accounts that look legitimate to sell fake products. Counterfeiters can be experts at copying your branding, products and messaging so it can be difficult for consumers to tell the difference. By using social media to spread links to these websites, they can reach hundreds of thousands of people who could end up buying fake products or trying to contact your customer service about these fake product orders. In the end, your company can lose revenue when consumers choose to spend their money elsewhere. Additionally, the counterfeit products are not the same quality as yours and consumers can share their dislike of the brand resulting in decreased brand reputation.
When you’re building up or expanding a brand on social media, it’s important to have the right usernames so that interested parties can find you online. Cybersquatters register social media accounts to block businesses from extending their brand voice in hopes to resell the accounts for a profit. Even if these accounts are currently dormant (i.e. customers and other visitors who go there see a blank page), they can be activated at any time and be manipulated to inflict significant brand damage.
For example, when Hilton wanted to start a Twitter account for the San Diego Hilton hotel location, they found that @HiltonSanDiego and @SanDiegoHilton were both taken. When a person already owns the account name you want, it can be hard to get that “fake” account taken down or it can be expensive to buy that account from the owner. If you decide to create an account with a username that isn’t ideal, like @HiltonSanDiegoCA, users may think your account is fake resulting in consumer confusion. Additionally, consumers may think the other accounts are real, and get trapped into a phishing scheme or other threats that can damage the corporate brand reputation.
Cyber criminals, hackers and other bad actors are increasingly turning to social media to launch spear phishing campaigns, and carry out other illicit acts. As mentioned above, it is easy to recreate a website to get passwords, credit card information, social security numbers and other personal information. Then when that website gets shared on fake social media accounts that look real, it can expose your customers and potential customers to stolen identity, fraud and more.
And sometimes these fake phishing websites get linked to by official social media accounts! In a recent cybersecurity incident where Equifax had a data breach exposing 143 million American’s personal data, they created a website at equifaxsecurity2017.com in order to help customers sign up for free credit monitoring. Just to prove how easy it was to create a phishing site, Nick Sweeting, a software engineer, created securityequifax2017.com which had the same styling as the real website to bring attention to how easy and cheap it was to steal consumer information. While the fake phishing website was created with no malintent, meaning Sweeting didn’t ask for any personal information, Equifax actually linked to it at least three times on their official social media.
According to The Verge, “although the misspelled link likely wasn't intentional on Equifax's part, it demonstrates just how easy it is for attackers to trick consumers — even the company's own support team was fooled. It also shows a lack of a consistent response strategy.”
The Bottom Line
Social media can spread cybersecurity threats to your customers and prospects causing a loss of revenue, trust and reputation. If your company does not know where these fake accounts and counterfeit web properties are located, how can you protect your brand and your company from these threats?
To learn more about fortifying your social media brand protection — so that if your business shows up in the headlines tomorrow it will be for all of the RIGHT reasons — contact Brandle today and schedule a demo of the Brandle Presence Manager. We will show you how to audit, inventory and monitor your social media and web presence so that your brand is protected.