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Just one day after the hailed launch of Google’s new service, the first brandjacking of a Google+ Brand Page made it in the news.  The fake Bank of America page, filled with derogatory text such as  ‘We are committed to making as much money as possible from usury, bribery, insider trading, extortion, and debit card fees as possible’  was taken down as soon as the company alerted Google, but not before it gathered over 11000 followers and more than 700  +1s.

‘Brandjacking’/‘brand hijacking’ occurs when someone assumes the online identity of another entity for the purposes of acquiring that person’s or business’s brand equity. Funnily enough, the term refers to both actions of malevolent groups- as in the above mentioned case and the now famous story of @BPGlobalPR or to attempts at humor from people that don’t actually mean any harm to the brand. A heartwarming example of friendly brandjacking is the fake Twitter for Shippam’s Paste.

The fictional character of a clueless yet lovable intern called ‘Ben’ managed to ignite interest for Shippam’s Paste and to gather over 7000 followers in less than three weeks. So what if @ShippamsPaste was just a joke created without the company’s knowing, as long as it worked?-you’ll ask.

And here lays the issue: beneficial or not, when brandjacking happens you lose control over your brand’s image. As Shippman’s Paste explained, ‘ It’s not that we want to control it, but that it’s just not in our control. You don’t know where it’s going to go, or if the tweets were going to suddenly change.’

Once brandjacking happens, the company can request protection from the social media website. In the case of Google+, brands can obtain a verification badge or alternatively link their web sites and Google+ pages through a snippet of HTML code.

The truth is you can’t totally prevent brand hijacking from happening.  But the more proactive you are in nipping the threats in the bud, the least damage your organisation will suffer. I always remind my clients to make sure their official channels are signposted from their main website; this way if anyone does set up a rogue account it will be easily identifiable as a fake. I also advise companies to register account names similar to their own, a pre-emptive strike that might save you in the long run!

As Olivier Blanchard puts it, ‘You cannot defend a brand and its reputation if you cannot guard it, and you cannot guard it if you are not listening for signs of an impending problem’. Image-threatening situations can arise at any time, and you’d better listen carefully to the web conversation and discover them before they escalate.

One of CrowdControlHQ’s key features is our buzz monitoring service. Buzz sits within our system and allows users to listen to the social web in real time. Blogs and news sites are searched as well as social networks like Google+, Facebook and Twitter. You can then respond in real time from any accounts under your control and get alerted to any mentions of any keywords you choose. You can even get alerted to raised levels of chatter on any topic of your choice so you you can’t miss any unusual spikes! Feel free to contact me at  joy.stefanicki@crowdcontrolhq.com or @Joyouscomms.






Joy Stefanicki, CrowdControlHQ

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