Ali Moghadam

Social Branding Fails, Wins and 5 Tips for Businesses

6th Sep 2013 Brand, Social Media 8 minutes to read

Social BrandingHow do you tell when a piece of technology has truly become an everyday essential? The answer – when your mum starts using it. In fact my mum has recently started using Social Media better than a lot of brands and here’s why.

After so many years of putting it off, my mum got a new mobile phone to replace her decades-old brick. She got a smartphone. And with that, technology took over. She got a laptop. She signed up for “all the social medias”, and started making sure that she was the first one to register her name.

She doesn’t use her Facebook or Twitter accounts, she doesn’t want to. She has no intention of using them in the future. In fact, she wanted to hide her profiles and remain hidden. So why did she do it?

My mum manages mental health support for vulnerable young people in education. She learned of some students posing as other students or members of staff, for a joke, as a challenge or just to damage their reputation.

She figured out that online profiles can give a lot away. In her line of work and for the people she works with, that could be very dangerous. And she decided that that just wasn’t going to fly with her – she needed to be in control.

So if my mother (by no means a shrewd businesswoman, tech guru or aspiring brand) managed to figure this out and put it into action, why on earth are there still companies and brands out there that haven’t? The digital age is here, it has been for a while and it isn’t going to end any time soon. Get with the program, people!

First Come First Served

What happens when a malevolent force nabs your brand name as a Twitter handle and poses as you? Well, Twitter says that you have some rights here and that you can submit requests to claim your intellectual property (here’s a link to Twitter’s support if this has happened to you). That’s something at least. But that won’t stop a spoof account or just about anyone else from taking your name on Twitter – it’s first come, first served. If you’ve yet to secure your brand name on Twitter, do it – right now!

It’s not just about Twitter and Facebook though. Do you know how many social sites there are hovering in the digital void? More than you could possibly manage to maintain (see Dunbar’s Number). They’re all ripe for the plucking. They might not all be popular right now, or ever. But they do give you the opportunity to represent yourself as you want to be represented and to secure your name and identity. It should be more than a ‘just in case’ measure – it should be common sense to take what’s yours before someone else does. It’s all up to you. Not every social network has measures in place to protect you. Assume that nobody’s going to do you any favours but be courteous – it’s theirs if they get there first.

Major Brands and Names That Failed to Grab the Handle

Sam’s blog post from October 2012 delivered some very interesting stats on the lack of love for Twitter from some brands – and those that lost out on that all important Twitter handle. It still rings true. Sure, it might be a vanity issue for some, but can you believe that these brands and big names missed out on their branded handle?

None of the above represent the real deal. Others have tried to piggyback on brand names and success – if you’re planning on being a success (you are, aren’t you?!) don’t let it happen. In 2013, the unofficial year of social media, there are still big gaps waiting to be filled. Make sure you fill in all of your own blank spaces.

The Flipside

There are the rare occasions where things are reversed. You have secured your name, but someone bigger wants it and will do anything to get it – regardless of how long you’ve had it. A particularly frustrating example of this “don’t you know who I am” attitude is the story of Luke Stidson, AKA Twin Falls. Working under the Twin Falls name for some five years, the aspiring musician (successful in his own right in the UK) was pursued for the name by a US music star, who wanted to form a new band.

A stressful legal process unfolded where Luke, very much the underdog, was threatened by extremely powerful lawyers in the music industry. The blog post he wrote and subsequent support from his following swung things in his favour – but it was quite a fight he put up.

I think that’s the kind of attitude you need to have with your brand – “this is mine. I will defend it and protect it.” Luke should be an inspirational figure for brands who have been bullied out of their name, logo or branding by bigger fish. He knew how to cause a stir and tipped the odds – the mindset of a survivor.

Unexpected Wins

Signing up for profiles indiscriminately and for the sake of protecting your brand doesn’t mean you have to promote that channel. If you don’t want to represent yourself on a popular platform for any reason, you absolutely MUST secure your brand on all major platforms, to avoid having impostors claim your voice. Just like Prince Charles!

But if you do go to the trouble of registering profiles, give each platform a try; you never know what might happen. You could really find your voice on Twitter or reach a whole new group of people through a YouTube channel. Playing and experimenting, while time consuming, can help you understand how things work. It can also lead to discovery. You can reach a whole new market that you never knew was there.

Nothing demonstrates this better than Will it Blend, Blendtec’s hit video series. After experimenting and playing with putting weird things in their blenders, they stepped up the game to a whole new level. All the success of the campaign was spawned from trying something out – with unexpected but brilliant results.

Screenshot of the Will It Blend YouTube Channel

5 Tips for Brands and Businesses

So, even if you’re not going to be broadcasting, interacting or sharing on social channels like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn – make sure you protect your brand. If you don’t want to be out there for any reason (business requirements, policies or confidential status) make very sure that you’re covered. Here are some tips for brands not yet on social media:

Check that your brand name is available as a Twitter handle

If your name is available, register it. Make a profile that’s branded up with links to your brand’s website and provide an official bio. You don’t need to do any more than that.

If your brand name has been taken, make sure that the account is not impersonating you – a competitor may have seized a dastardly opportunity. If you have run afoul of an imposter, contact Twitter.

Create a branded Facebook Page

Provide contact information and your brand’s official website in your profile. You might not be concerned with gaining likes, but you might get some additional traffic – so it’s a win-win situation

If you’ve discovered a fake Facebook page representing you, you can report the page by visiting it:

How to Report a Facbook Page

Use the settings icon and select ‘Report Page’.

Facebook - Claim Intellectual Property

You can then follow the steps to claim your intellectual property – but it must be yours. If you have fan created pages, be sure you don’t pull a Nutella, who kicked up quite a fuss when they pursued legal action against a fan-made page (they have since turned things around, but not without causing some upset).

Set up a Google+ account

Google+ can offer you much more than a social broadcasting platform – it can make differences to your SEO (all social profiles can, but Google’s platform has added benefits). Lenka’s excellent post offers some great ways to leverage your social media for SEO. But be sure to secure your brand on this ever more important platform.

Link it up with YouTube

YouTube is incredibly powerful for marketing. Secure a channel on this prominent video sharing network. Videos don’t have to go viral, but they can say something about you and represent your brand. See Dean’s foolproof guide to creating a YouTube One Channel.

But that’s Not All – By a Long Way!

Pnterest, Instagram, LinkedIn – they might not have the publicly perceived clout of the other networks, but they are niches that attract specific kinds of user. You could be missing an opportunity for notoriety in select circles. Even if you don’t plan on using these platforms, you can secure them for the future and make sure nobody is free to take control of your brand.

They’re not the end of it though. There are hundreds of social sites out there, each ready to get branded up. My final tip is to use this tool from Claimbrand – it lets you check for your brand name on countless profile platforms and claim them before anyone else. Very handy!

Have you experienced problems with an imposter? Has your brand found its social voice? Do you disagree with brands being on social for the sake of it? Tell me your experiences in the comments – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Image Credits

Social Branding image from BigStock

Screenshots from Blendtec’s YouTube Channel and Facebook.

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Ali Moghadam

As kooky as they come, Al even describes himself as weird. He’s in a band and has performed at many festivals and gigs in his time. And as the rock star he is you wouldn’t think he’d be afraid of moths… and butterflies.


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