Sam Makad is a business consultant. He helps small & medium enterprises to grow their businesses and overall ROI. You can follow Sam on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.
Brand impersonation is not a new threat when it comes to social media, but many brands are not aware. This guide lists down steps you can take to handle and a few tips to avoid it.
Imagine building your brand reputation for years only to see it destroyed because of brand impersonation on social media. From brandjacking to unwanted mentions and even counterfeit products – pretty much anything can happen to your brand when you don’t take cyber security seriously. Brand impersonation shouldn’t be taken lightly because it can shut down your company.
It is not enough to have a social media presence. You need to keep a close eye on everything happening around your brand and act quickly. Don’t allow scammers to influence the opinions of your customers. Cyber security should be a priority, and your employees must be on the same page. It includes setting hard-to-guess passwords and using the latest software and the best VPN.
If you are eager to learn more about brand impersonation, how to spot it, and what to do to prevent this sort of thing from happening to your brand, keep reading!
How impersonation hurts brands
Even though brands are essentially victimized, impersonation can hurt them further by completely crushing the business. This scam can destroy a brand’s reputation and drive away customers and followers. For instance, would you order a product online from a brand that experienced a security breach? You will probably have difficulty trusting them with your credit card and personal information.
Statistics confirm this because 63% of customers will stop shopping from a brand if they had one bad experience with them. So if a fake profile engages with them, users will associate the real brand with an impostor and cause direct harm to the finances.
Brands need to handle the situation as quickly and professionally as possible because a company could be blamed for the lack of action. Not all publicity is good, and if the news of the impersonation gets around, chances are potential customers will start avoiding your brand altogether. Therefore, it all comes down to the reputation of a business.
Types of brand impersonation on social media
Social media platforms are not able to automatically identify impersonation at the moment. Hopefully, they will invent a tool to help remove fake profiles and cyber criminals from a website. But until that happens, social media managers and others should know as much as possible about impersonation on social media. Here is what to watch out for:
The easiest and most common type of brand impersonation is fake profiles. It even has a name: brandjacking. Setting up these profiles is easy, and followers might not notice the difference. The name could almost be identical, with minor typos or even symbols. And why do hackers create fake profiles? They want to use a brand’s reputation to get their hands on someone’s personal information.
As an example, fake giveaways are very common for impersonators on Instagram. A user will be directed to an unknown website and asked to fill out a form. Assuming it is a part of the giveaway, an unsuspected user will gladly share their data. After all, they think your brand is behind the profile - what could go wrong? It is easy to fall victim to this type of fraud.
Another way these impersonators may pose as a brand is by answering questions and commenting on the official posts. This practice is common on Facebook. Social media itself moves pretty fast, and some users don’t even pay attention to the authenticity of a brand profile. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t spot it right away.
It might not be a direct impersonation on social media, but it can be equally harmful to a brand's reputation. Fake profiles might be running all sorts of scams, including phishing. On top of that, they sometimes claim sponsorship by various brands. It is not uncommon to see profiles that use the name of a brand and then add something like the name of a country.
Your company might also be mentioned in their bio or image description. These profiles with false affiliations often send out links as a part of a phishing attack. If one of the followers unknowingly types in their personal information, their account will be hacked. The problem is that people will start blaming a brand that has nothing to do with this phishing attack. And there goes the excellent reputation.
Even though we like to think that Internet shopping is accessible to everyone, the truth is there are still some countries where many major brands are not available. Or if they are sold there, the prices are off the charts. That is the ideal reason for fake social media profiles to pop up, offering affordable prices. Unfortunately, consumers are probably buying low-quality knockoffs. These not only financially hurt big brands but also tear down their reputation. When Apple announced the iPhone X, they had no idea there would be 532 social media profiles across several websites pretending to offer a free phone to their subscribers. The sheer excitement regarding Apple’s yearly releases is a catalyst for various online scams. Besides giveaways, these impostors might even offer early access to a device that hasn’t been officially released yet. They will send a waiting list form to interested followers. If they fill it out, hackers have their personal information.
How to minimize the threat
Now that we have covered all the basics regarding brand impersonation on social media, it is the perfect time to learn about minimizing the threat. You, as an individual, can do a lot to prevent this from happening to your brand. Here’s where to start:
Improve your cyber security
First and foremost, you need to work on your business’s cyber security measures. Your social media profiles should have strong passwords that are not easy to guess. Think of uppercase letters, symbols, and numbers. Also, set up two-factor authentication where available. Don’t forget to talk to your employees about the potential cybersecurity dangers and advise them to use the latest software that should prevent security breaches.
Stress the importance of updating the antivirus software regularly. Furthermore, encryption and a safe connection can be of aid. Remind your employees to download a VPN to their computers, especially if they work remotely. The best VPN like NordVPN will ensure all the data they send or receive is unreadable to third parties.
Verify the official social media profile
Don’t underestimate the power of the blue tick. We have all seen it on numerous profiles across different social media websites. So there is no reason your brand shouldn’t have a verified profile. This tiny badge can do wonders for the security of your followers and customers.
Once you verify your profile, your customers should easily recognize the impersonators and fake profiles. It will significantly reduce the possibility of scams and fraud. Therefore, the verified badge has the power to help you build trust with your followers and prevent scammers from brandjacking your company.
Be wary of influencers who don’t have a verified social media profile. Since these individuals are super famous, scammers can easily imitate them. Fake influencers may also try to interact with your profile and tag you in posts. Remember to warn your followers if you see someone pretending to be a celebrity or an influencer engaging with your brand.
Ask the social media platform for help.
Don't waste time if you have noticed multiple profiles using your content, logo, or brand name. File a report, and the impersonator should be removed pretty quickly. Also, rely on the community to tell you about profiles impersonating your business. Read the comments and direct messages as often as possible.
Additionally, you should warn your followers about any fake profiles. We have already mentioned that impersonators often contact users on your behalf. So give them a heads up. Share stories with screenshots. Point out the difference in the username or anything else you notice. Additionally, kindly ask your followers to report a fake profile to the social media platform. This small step will keep everyone safe.
Let your followers get to know you.
Having a distinctive brand voice can come in handy when dealing with impersonators. So even if someone starts directly messaging them pretending to be you, they will know the messages are fake. You can also create rules and let your followers and subscribers know you won’t be asking them to share their personal information or send them links that require a login.
Impersonators often appear whenever a brand or a company is hosting a giveaway. You have surely noticed an increase in sketchy profiles that start following you every time you try your luck on Instagram or any other social media platform. They know it is easy to get hold of someone’s data by telling them they are the winner and providing a link to a form to fill out. Remember this when planning and organizing a giveaway. Your good intentions can be used against your brand and followers.
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