As if it weren’t enough that corporations have to worry about the legal implications of a tweet, they’ve also got to make sure that no one is fraudulently using their persona on social media in a harmful way. It’s been proven to be difficult to resolve a situation when you’re being impersonated on Twitter, but it’s essential if the fraudulent account is damaging your brand’s reputation.
In 2013, Pfizer had to deal with this very issue. The brand didn’t own the Twitter handle @Pfizer, but whoever did was spouting unflattering news about the brand. After the account cooled down and laid dormant for a few months, Pfizer (the real brand) was able to request the account from Twitter.
But just imagine the potential damage the false account owner could have inflicted on the brand if it had continued to masquerade as the company. You don’t want to leave your reputation in the hands of others, so it’s imperative that you own your brand on all social media channels.
A note on pursuing legal action
Before you assume that you can simply send a “cease and desist” note to the account holder or even sue them for fraud, understand that it is extremely difficult to find an account holder who wishes to remain anonymous, and that there aren’t enough laws in place to help companies pursue legal action in this situation. Your best bet is to report the fraudulent account to the social site and aim to get the negative content removed. Here’s how to proceed.
Step 1: Search for your name
You may not even know that there are Facebook Pages, Twitter profiles, LinkedIn profiles, or Google+ Pages using your brand’s name. This is easily remedied by searching on each social channel for your company name. Your objective here is to ensure that there are no negative accounts that others might take for your actual company accounts.
Step 2: File a complaint immediately
Reporting impersonation isn’t always a clear-cut or even streamlined process with social media (there are likely thousands of brands and people being impersonated, so that department at, say, Twitter, is pretty swamped with requests), so file your complaint immediately…then be patient. It may take weeks (or longer) for your report to be reviewed and for action to be taken.
Here are links to report the impersonation on each social site:
You may be required to prove your own identity and position at your company before a site will move forward in removing the offending account.
Step 3: Inform your community
Be proactive in letting your social followers, website visitors, and blog readers know that there is an imposter using an account that appears to come from your company. Provide the links to your actual accounts and direct people there.
This may be an uphill battle for a while until everyone gets the memo that this fake account isn’t associated with your brand, so be prepared to put effort into it. It may be helpful to set up a search for the fake account and respond to anyone who tweets that account with your correct account info.
Step 4: Be diligent
Just because you’ve squashed one fraudulent account doesn’t mean others might not pop up in the future. Monitor your brand name on all social channels so you can nip it in the bud if it happens again.
The more active your brand is on social channels, the less likely anyone will be to mistake a new account as your own. Take whatever measures you need to to prove your identity to followers who are skeptical (try having the CEO give them a call!).
We’re entering a new era with social media marketing. It’s a necessary channel for your brand to communicate with customers, and it’s one that can make or break your brand reputation. Staying on top of who’s talking about your brand can mitigate serious issues like impersonation.