Marketing Formula Series: Protecting Your Employer Brand Online

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The Marketing Formula Series

Brand Pirating

At Talent Formula, a large part of our role is being your eyes and ears on trends in marketing and social media so that you can focus on your core activities. Indeed our most popular seminars to date, and the area we are most often asked to help, is teaching HR managers and front line recruiters how to manage and optimize social media marketing channels.

This series will be featured the first week of every month. The posts are easy to digest marketing basics that are applicable to HR. Whether you manage marketing channels, like Facebook or Twitter, directly, or outsource to subject matter experts, a firm understanding of the topics in this series will make you more effective… Let’s get started.

Brand Protection and Location

One of the first objections senior leaders often raise when HR managers want to use social media channels is: there is no way to control the company’s message online… but, this is a wide misunderstanding.

While a brand cannot control what others say about them online, they can have a voice of their own that they do control. Indeed having such a voice is the only way to be present in the conversation that is already happening about your brand. Just as important is protecting that voice once it is established.

If you are not present on the right social networks and being an active part of the conversation about your brand two major risks arise.

Risk 1: Brand Impersonation

Today’s consumers expect brands to be present on the most popular social networks. A recent survey asked consumers “What does it say about a brand if they are not involved with sites like Facebook or Twitter?” the result was “It’s EXPECTED that a company have some digital face … they need a strong electronic presence or you doubt their relevance in today’s marketplace.” Because of this expectation consumers rarely question official looking accounts on many of the most popular social networks. What does this mean? Simply put, if you are not on Twitter – someone else may be on twitter posing as you – and consumers will not question it.

Risk 2: Misleading information

By not being a part of the conversation you leave room for inaccurate misinformation to spread about your company. Let me share two personal examples. While monitoring online chatter about a clients brand I once saw a rumour spreading across one particular campus that my clients HR department would only be accepting applications for jobs through Facebook. A potentially dangerous rumour. In another instance I monitored a conversation happening on stating that my company required job applicants to provide their Facebook login credentials to recruiters for the purpose of background checks. In both of these cases these “facts” were false. If we were not already set up on the proper social media channels we would not have been able to respond quickly and stop them from spreading.

In Part One of this article we will discuss establishing a voice in the relevant social networks to prevent brand impersonation, and in Part Two we will discuss protecting it from malicious intent. Responding to misleading information that spreads online will be covered next month.

Location, Location, Location

The first question I get from new clients, training seminars, and even the first question I’m asked at parties is almost always some variation of; “What social media sites should I be using?” I get asked this question so many times I wonder why I haven’t written this earlier. It is a very important question. If you aren’t in the right locations you may end up the victim of Brand Impersonation mentioned above, or “Brand Jacking”, but what is brand jacking exactly?

Brand Jacking:

Simply put, brand jacking is when someone poses as your company or brand online.

One of the most high profile examples of this occurred during the BP Gulf Oil spill. A satirical twitter account posing as BP’s official PR arm (@gloablBPpr) gained a substantial following that overshadowed BP’s actual Twitter account. Aston Martin was another early victim. The Twitter account @AstonMartin appeared to be an official company representative but often tweeted stories about competitors cars, and there was little Aston Martin could do about it.

So what can you do? Well, don’t get caught with your digital pants down!

Step 1: Checking for Accounts

The first step is searching on the most important social networks for existing accounts registered as your brand. Use a simple account search and registration service like, or

These services let you search for your brand name on hundreds of social media channels with one click. Just do it. A quick search will alert you to any problems and save you a lot of manual searching. Search for variations of your company name or marketing slogans.

Step 2: Registering

Now that you know if the brand name you want is available on most social networks, you need to register your accounts. Hint: It is better if you use the same brand name across all social networks if you can, this makes it easier for consumers to find you online.

This list of 10 sites covers most of the popular social networks in use today, but is in no way comprehensive. Use it as a starting point though and you are already further then many brands.

10 Sites to Register Your Brand Online:

1. Twitter: one of the most popular brand jacking targets because of how easy it is to create a branded account. Removing fakes can be a difficult process. Your best defence is to register your brands first. You should already be here though – it is 2013 after all.

2. Facebook: Like Twitter, we hope you’re already here.

3. Google+: While some say it’s a ghost town, and real user data is inconclusive this site is sure to become a heavy weight. It means too much to the success of Google for them to not make it work. It also has an impact on your search rankings – so basically, you have to be here anyways.

4. Instagram: The darling of the social media world right now. Instagram now has over 100 million monthly active users.

5. MySpace: Stop shaking your head for just a second. Myspace has relaunched, and with heavy weights behind its re-birth. With owners like Justin Timberlake -this could become a major player again. Or it could fade away for a second time, but better safe then sorry.

6. Pinterest: It may be a mostly women’s social network right now, but that’s not a bad thing, and its not likely to stay that way

7. Foursquare: A loyal user base, and “set it and forget it” marketing abilities make this a no brainer.

8. LinkedIn: I’m sure you’ve already done this, right? RIGHT?

9. YouTube: The video powerhouse that powers most of the webs streaming content.

10. Vimeo: Similar to YouTube, you can easily cross post your videos on both networks. You may never use it – but its better safe then sorry.

By registering on these ten accounts you protect your employer brand from the easiest brand jacking targets. One of the easiest things you can do to prevent misinformation from spreading online. Next Monday we will post Part II: Protecting Your Accounts; where we will discuss setting strong password standards to prevent your official accounts from falling into malicious hands.

Comment Request:

Do you have any other social networks you think are important for your brand and how many of the social networks above are you already registered on? Also, we would love to hear from you in the comments below about what you would like us to cover next. Together we can build a great resource for human resources professionals to keep informed about social media marketing.

Michael Mahoney
With a background in a multitude of fields from HR, marketing, strategy, and mobile application development, Michael has a unique perspective on how social media is changing business today. Due to his passion for social media, Michael has been featured in HR Professional Magazine and is regularly asked to comment on industry news. Look for Michael’s blog posts about top trends in social media to achieve results in the HR space.

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