According to Campaign Live, a fifth of top brands’ social media accounts are ‘fraudulent’. It seems many household brands are plagued with promotion spams, impersonators, phishing profiles, trademark violations, hacked accounts and counterfeit profiles. Ouch!
And this number is on the rise.
Sadly, the fakers are making money, so they are not going to go away. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are unable to police them all. In fact they often don’t make it terribly easy to resolve the issues either.
Apart from the serious damage to reputation, fraudulent profiles can be a nightmare for the social media team. Fall out from scam sites sees customer complaints rise furiously. Hacked social profiles are a hassle to snatch back, and can do endless damage in the process. Counterfeit Twitter and Facebook accounts can cause severe financial damage. In the UK, authorities have targeted fake goods being pushed through social media and it is thought that over 50% of counterfeiters now use social media to target unsuspecting consumers. It is a social media jungle out there!
Getting verified can help guide consumers and ensure confidence in the genuine brand, but it is not the only answer. There is a deluge of fraudulent profiles, many so good they could pass for the real-deal. Consumers are easily duped or confused. So what can brands do?
- Keep monitoring against your brand name
The social networks themselves do not do a great deal to detect and report fraudulent or spam profiles. Your IP is not their priority. You will need to monitor properly on a regular basis. I know it sounds obvious, but you would be surprised at how many companies do not set aside budget or time to do this. It needs to part of your operational machine with clear roles and responsibilities in the business.
For some brands scanning the networks can be done manually at regular intervals, for others, a monitoring tool and alert system will be necessary because of the volume of threats.
For brands dealing with counterfeit sites, there is an added complexity of using investigators and linking-up with government agencies. Many brands now use secret agent style shoppers (shoppers with fake personas), to uncover counterfeit organisations. Social is just the tip of the iceberg on the fakers and so it needs an organised approach.
- Have a plan, ‘cos there is rarely an easy fix
So what will you do if you find a fake or counterfeit site? The obvious answer is to ensure it is taken down. But that is a process in itself. So who will manage that? You need to plan resources and ensure people with the right authority can make it happen.
But more importantly, you need a plan for how you will protect your customers. They will bear the brunt of spam and fake accounts. You cannot sit on the side-lines and watch the fall out – they will take you to task if you do.
Again, you need a plan. Consider not just a reactive (or crisis) response. Instead go on the offensive if you can. Plagued by counterfeiters, Ugg (the folk that make those wool boots everybody loves), set up anti-counterfeit social profiles. These actively inform customers about thinks to look for in counterfeit products. It helped consumers to think a bit about where they are buying from. Ugg is supporting the consumer in making the right buying choices, and not just waiting for complaints to pour in.
- A password is not for life
In the hustle and bustle of a marketing day it can be hard to think ahead. Passwords tend remain the same no matter how often people join and leave your business. I get it. It is not a priority when you are working around the clock to ensure you get value from social. Except it will be a priority when you get hacked.
Again, make it part of the operating rhythm to change your social passwords regularly: one day when you agree that all passwords will changed and permissions are reviewed. Also teach staff receiving social network alert emails not to click on the links, but instead to visit the profile direct and check verifications. Phishing emails pretending to be from social networks are very prevalent right now.
Think ahead and be super-cautious to avoid the very painful headache of trying to get your account back when things go wrong.
- Be persistent. In fact be a pest.
It is a tedious process getting a fake profile removed. The social networks are not clear on the how to do it, or what happens once you have submitted it. You generally will not be told timeframes or be given any status updates. Basically it is a lottery as to whether it will be fixed in hours or in months.
And as you close down one profile, another will appear. You have to be persistent. You have to nag the networks. If you suffer constant fraud in social, you will need a process to manage it and keep track of everything.
- Get close to your social networks
A lot of the administration in getting fraudulent social profiles removed can be expedited if you have a close relationship with the platforms. This tends to be the case when you are investing in paid, or if you are a household brand. It is these bigger brands that tend to suffer the most fraud.
A networks’ account manager has a vested interest in making sure you are kept happy. They will work hard to get the problem sorted. Better still you will know them by name. It is always easier to call up and talk to a person if you want a swift resolution.
Your social agency too will have a good working relationship with the networks. The closer they are to the networks, the more they will do to prevent fraud.
I guess the point to be made is that there is no room for complacency when it comes to the fraudsters. Plan to be hacked and for fake accounts to spring up. You will save time, money and reputation in the long run.