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Rethinking Brand Protection in the Social Media Protection Era

The definition of brand protection can be applied differently based on individual and business need. Sometimes it includes identifying impersonating accounts pretending to be your company. Sometimes it includes listening for negative sentiment. In short, brand protection means whatever the business needs it to mean. It’s all relative to your organization and brand.

Defining brand protection

One of the great business trends of the past 25 years is the move towards intangible assets as the foundation of business valuation. This is compared to the previous norm, where assets were mostly hard; they could be held, put in a window display or knocked down by a wrecking ball. With the rise in software and digital platforms, new and evolving business models have increasingly relied on nonreal bit and bytes, abstract intellectual property and speculation to underpin their valuation and fundamental financial strategy. With nearly every consumer on earth connected with a smartphone and a Facebook account, the brand, with its fuzzy edges and multifaceted manifestation, makes up a large portion of the intangible asset valuation pie chart.

All this is to say that the brand, and thus brand protection, is difficult to define. It’s intangible, dynamic and changes quarter to quarter. The digital revolution has pushed a vast majority of buyer and seller interactions online. And in recent years, websites and email servers have given way to mobile apps and social media.

Brand protection on social media

Social media is particularly intangible because companies do not own the physical infrastructure. Historically, you could still reduce the intangibility of a website or an email account to a physical server somewhere in the basement. The code was manipulable by the engineering team. Now everything lives in the cloud (which just means a physical server in a farm somewhere), is controlled by a 3rd party and brands have little input into how the platform is run. Which raises the question again of how businesses handle brand protection when it comes to social media.

In our day and age, social media is the bedrock of brand. Roughly ¼ of all marketing budgets are spent on social media, 50% of buyers consult Facebook before making a purchase and only a shrinking fraction of brands do not use social media to engage customers. On the flip side, consumers have never been more empowered and more fickle. According to Accenture, 78% of consumers report that they are retracting brand loyalty at a faster pace than three years ago. McKinsey reports that only 13% of customers are loyalists that don’t shop around. This is the perfect storm for brand vulnerability, and thus the need for brand protection.

Social media has been the subject of exploitation — from election meddling and targeted cyber attacks to brand impersonations and scams — since its inception. It has made major headlines lately in the wake of the 2016 elections. For brands, the key risks are account hijacking, impersonations, attacks on customers, counterfeit goods and malicious inbound content posted to owned social media pages.

A new approach to brand protection

Modern challenges demand modern solutions. Brand protection today means protecting a channel you do not own and cannot manipulate from risks and attackers you cannot see. The approach to brand protection must be rethought. Here are a few tips for how to handle brand protection in this new era:

  • Take stock of what you own (and what you don’t): The first step towards any successful brand protection strategy is to identify and measure up your current social media presence. Does your organization have a dedicated (or even better, verified) Facebook page? Twitter? LinkedIn page for recruiting? Are there pages that were created that go unused? Make a list of all of these pages and add to that list as you expand your social reach. Once you’ve identified what accounts your team owns, you can then identify what accounts you don’t own. This process can be much more daunting but is an important step. While we hope there are no fake accounts posing as your brand, executives or people, it’s important to identify any potential impersonations so they can be addressed directly. Rogue and fraudulent accounts exist to mislead your community and customers and often to disseminate false and/or potentially malicious information. If you do find any accounts impersonating your organization, make sure to report them to the network for removal.
  • Establish a clear and concise message and strategy: Once you’ve taken stock of your accounts, posts and overall social presence, you can start to develop a robust social media strategy. The first step towards doing this is to establish a clear tone and message that you want to convey. This tone and strategy can look different for different networks. On LinkedIn, for instance, most prospects will view your posts during normal working hours. Knowing this you may tailor your social media content and tone to be more business-minded. Posts on Facebook and instagram tend to reach prospects during downtime or off work hours and might include a more lighthearted or relaxed message and tone. Creating a clear strategy for each social network also means your community will begin to recognize your brand and your organization’s style. This is helpful for promotion and distinguishing your brand, from both the competition and those fake accounts we just discussed.
  • Secure your assets and accounts: Finally, all social media strategy is for naught if there is not a robust security plan in place to support it. With social media engagement accounting for a greater portion of generated leads, it is extremely important to keep that engagement secure and your followers and community protected. A single hack can lead to 1,000s of followers lost and brand trust broken in a matter of minutes.

ZeroFOX Brand Protection

ZeroFOX Brand Protection is built to help brand and marketing teams protect their social media presence from revenue-damaging threats to their brand, their hard-earned social accounts, and their engaged followers on social media & digital platforms. ZeroFOX secures organizations against critical issues like account hijacking, offensive content to posted to corporate pages, brand impersonation accounts, and scams targeting customers. ZeroFOX Brand Protection is ideal for brand managers, marketing teams, and security teams addressing external threats to their social media accounts, reputation, online brand, and follower engagement.