As an early user of social media I was an advocate. I believed in the openness, the discovery of new ideas, products, people etc. Sure it was a little wild west, but there were used car salesmen long before Twitter – that will never change. What has happend over the last couple of years is a blatant disregard for brand intelectual property and a malicious environment that can be toxic for brands.
1) Brand Intelectual Property – What I call social brand infringement. This is when a social message is made to look like it originated from a brand. It can occur in two ways, out right brand hacking as experienced by The Associated Press, Burger King and others or a site such as Let Me Tweet That For You that like this fake tweet from someone tweeting as Rachel Ray.
In either case it’s digital harassment by those who have nothing better to do with their time. Now I’m not talking about legitimate claims by consumers who have purchased a product. This is just messing around and it’s wrong.
2) Fake Complaints and Reviews – This is perhaps a more insidious use of the social web in that these negative comments travel under the disguise of an “average consumer”. Take the website Pissed Consumer this site allows you to post anonymously. Not too cool about that, especially when companies reach back on the post to identify the consumer to rectify the problem and there is no response. I believe this is an indication of a fraudulent post. If a company can not verify a complaint then it is likely it is a malicious post, either by a competitor or a reputation management company looking to stir up some work. Now Pissed Consumer is allowing subscribers to feature their complaint on the home page – subscription price, $5.99/month.
Companies need to see some of these less than transparent comments as attacks on their brand and call them out. Social media has turned a spotlight on to the actions of brands, yet consumers too are no longer operating in the dark. Yes, when social was new and most of its participants were optimistically naive, consumers shared their experiences without malice. Nearly a decade into social, it’s not the same. Brands need to carefully walk the line of listening, while also showing consumers where they are being wrongly accused.
Listen to a conversation about brands fighting back on Beyond Social Media
podcast Tuesday, May 7 at 9:30PM EDT on Blog Talk Radio. Beyond Social Media is a conversation with B.L. Ochman
, David Erickson
, and Albert Maruggi. Ochman is a marketing consultant, a frequent contributor to Ad Age, and author of What’s Next Blog
. David Erickson is a marketing consultant and author of The e-Strategy Blog.