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How to Prevent Brandjacking

You know how critical it is to protect your online reputation. Companies will spend copious amounts of money on advertising and PR activities to acquire new customers, but they'll completely miss the mark when it comes to actually monitoring what people are saying about them online.

There are multiple ways that this can hamper an online reputation: avoiding a customer query, complaint or comment can be detrimental. What's worse? Someone hijacking your online identity and putting your brand on a fast track to a full-on social media crisis.

A Dallas man working at a desk next to his computer trying to create a brand logo
Photo by Brad Neathery / Unsplash

So what is brandjacking?

By definition, it is the act of assuming or acquiring the online identity of a company, brand, or person. Coined by MarkMonitor, the term is a blend of “brand” and “hijacking”.

Brandjacking instances have become more high profile, with the rise of social media and the ability to create fake accounts. The intent may not always be malicious, but it does hamper your brand’s image.

Take this classic instance from 2005 when Target announced it was planning on removing the gender descriptions from in-store signage within its children's toy sections. People flocked to the company's Facebook page to share their opinions. Optimizing this opportunity, an account named ‘Ask For Help’, with Target’s logo as the profile picture, started responding to unhappy customers:

brandjack1-min

Target ended up having to release an official statement outing the stunt as an incident facilitated by a fraudster.

Do Small Businesses Need to Think About Brandjacking?

Let’s say you run a small cafe, a hotel, or even a nail salon; which threats would be on the top of your mind? Chances are, you’d be worried about a fire, flooding from a broken water line, a robbery, or anything that could cause physical damage.

While physical threats to a business can be serious, online threats are far more pervasive, have an immediate impact on your identity, and could result in your business shutting down.

Brands use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to engage with their customers and build their online profile. Brandjacking aims at damaging all that hard work. Even though the primary objective of brandjacking may not be financial, companies who fall victim to this phenomenon often incur financial losses as well as facing customer trust issues.

A bright neon on a brick wall in a store
Photo by Austin Chan / Unsplash

Keeping Brandjackers Away

Online scams will continue to grow and gain sophistication. The best thing to do is to acknowledge this and prepare a prevention plan. Here are some steps you can take:

Use social listening tools
The best way to stay protected is to prevent a crisis from happening in the first place. Investing in the right social listening tools allows you to track conversations in real time so that you can stay on top of what’s being said about your brand. These tools give you alerts which immediately bring any suspicious activity to your attention. Set a listening protocol for your team and adjust your notification settings accordingly.

Have a crisis management plan in place
Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Having a crisis plan in place allows you to react quickly, which helps to minimize damage in case of an emergency.

Invest in brand-related domains
One of the best tools to protect your brand against brandjacking is to purchase key domain names similar to your existing domain. This will prevent others from buying and using them with malicious intent.

One of the ways is to invest in website names that sound or are spelled like yours. For example, www.googel.com redirects to www.google.com. You should also register your domain name on relevant new domain extensions. For example, www.apple.store redirects to www.apple.com and www.amazon.tech redirects to www.amazon.com. Another strategy is to check the keywords in your domain name. If your website is www.hashtagonline.com, register www.hashtag.online as a way of brand protection.

Some of the most popular domain extensions to consider are .TECH (technology, startups) and .STORE (eCommerce).


Photo by David Travis / Unsplash

How Do The Best Brands Protect Themselves?

Learn from the best. Here's what some of the world's biggest companies have done:

● Paypay, a regular victim of brandjacking, is proactive about alerting customers about new scams and using the media to educate their community about risks.

● Adopt two-factor authentication for all of your accounts. This extra layer of security helps ensure that people aren’t easily duped into handing over sensitive information such as passwords and usernames.

● Educate your team. Top brands conduct workshops to educate their staff and customers about common and emerging online risks. For example, Australia Post revealed they run phishing simulation tests to educate their staff.

Thank you to Alisha Shibli from Radix Registry for this guest blog!

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