The issue of ‘brandjacking’ – hijacking a brand name for alternative purposes, is a serious threat to corporate online reputation, and should be protected against in any online reputation management strategy.

Your brand name is your search term; the word/phrase a user will find you through on Google. If somebody who isn’t associated with you posts under your brand name, they could do untold damage to your online reputation. Whether maliciously or not. The impact on your Google rankings could be disastrous.

The Rising Culture of Brandjacking

It’s a trend that is becoming increasingly common among disgruntled customers, competitors and even activists. Negative content specifically designed to damage a brand is posted on social media sites.

BP Oil recently had a significant brandjacker problem. The company was hit by a brandjacker on Twitter claiming to be a part of its global PR operation. Many people believed the account to be authentic and it amassed over 136,000 followers. Bearing in mind that BP’s ‘official’ press office only has 3,000 followers, the fake account reached far more people and had a huge influence on the company’s online reputation.

Brandjackers may also heighten issues that are already damaging a company’s online reputation. This is exactly what happened to ExxonMobil. During the Pegasus pipeline spill, individuals claiming to be ExxonMobil employees posted spoof content under fake profiles. It was disastrous for the oil company’s online reputation, and ensured the effects of the disaster were drawn out for as long as possible.

Deal With the Brandjacker

Although preventing brandjacking may be difficult – the Internet is an open communication tool – it is possible to deal with an incident and limit the damage to your online reputation – but consider your actions carefully.

When Shippam’s Paste – a company with no social media accounts – closed down a fraudulent account set up in their name, and posing as an incapable social media intern, it sparked a social media backlash. The account proved popular with fans and when it folded #paste trended on Twitter, attracting far more attention than the original spoof ever did.

So how should you deal with brandjacking?

  • Set up alerts to identify any unwanted/fraudulent posts as soon as possible.
  • Use Radian6, which with its ‘influencer widget’ identifies the social media accounts most influential for brand terms whereby you can detect fake accounts.
  • Use a source tag to export the data and set up alerts to monitor the fake account activity.
  • Bury unwanted content on Google with unique blog content, social media posts, promotional news pieces and relevant PR.

Brandjacking has the potential to significantly harm a company’s online reputation.