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Social media presents brands with great opportunities, but if they want to fully realise the benefits they need to take care of the obvious, such as their own social media accounts, as Chrissie Jamieson of MarkMonitor explains.
The use of social media has transformed our lives—and not just when it comes to socialising, keeping up with celebrities or riding the latest trends. The phenomenon has also changed the way brands engage with their consumers, making interactions more personal and memorable.
There are, of course, disadvantages too. The very elements of immediacy and reach that make social media so appealing also make it easier for counterfeiters, scammers and fraudsters to operate.
This is especially true when it comes to the sale of counterfeit goods online. Brands face loss of revenues, damage to their reputation and decreased customer trust as a result.
There are prevention policies and guidelines in place on many social media sites, but counterfeiters are skilled in swerving these rules and using these platforms to impersonate genuine brands.
One of the most popular ways counterfeiters work is by using legitimate images, brand names and logos to increase their own credibility, before promoting fake goods and directing consumers to counterfeit websites.
Whether it’s through fake social media accounts or illegitimate listings and advertisements on online marketplaces, it’s a serious problem that is causing significant headaches among brands of all sizes.
But this isn’t to say that efforts aren’t being made to prevent such activity.
Many brands are implementing consumer-centric online brand protection strategies, which can help to eliminate the most impactful instances of counterfeiting while making it more difficult for these malicious individuals to cause any damage in the first place.
However, there’s one area that is particularly vulnerable; an area that many businesses are failing to consider: their own social media platforms.
We are seeing a new trend in the world of online brand enforcement in which those looking to sell fake goods to consumers are posting “hidden” comments on the posts of official brands that link to counterfeit websites and are designed to fool shoppers into making a purchase.
A three-pronged attack
First, someone will create an account that uses the same name and logo as the genuine brand. In this way, posts in the comment section appear to come from the legitimate brand and are used to guide consumers to the fake goods.
The second method is for the counterfeiters to use their own accounts to offer what appears to be support or guidance to the consumer, but is in fact a trap to disseminate information about their counterfeit goods.
“If consumers are already browsing the brand’s genuine social media account, they have no reason to put up their guard or approach the interaction with any real degree of scepticism."
Another common method being used by counterfeiters is to pose as a salesperson on a genuine brand’s social media page. The comments generated—geared to selling counterfeit goods—are posted by bots, powered by artificial intelligence technology, that run on a 24/7 basis.
This form of attack has proved to be worryingly effective, primarily because the audience is far less suspicious of this activity when compared to other counterfeiting methods.
If consumers are already browsing the brand’s genuine social media account, they have no reason to put up their guard or approach the interaction with any real degree of scepticism.
It is no secret that counterfeiting of any kind on social media platforms can lead to crippling damage of the genuine brand, but this damage is further amplified when the activity is taking place on the brand’s own accounts.
If a user falls victim to counterfeiting in this way, they will likely become irate and decide to post a complaint online. If they mention the fact that all of this took place on a genuine brand’s page, the consequences regarding reputational impact are not hard to imagine.
Social media presents brands with great opportunities to interact with their customers, develop relationships and build loyalty.
However, if they want to fully realise the benefits of social media, they need to adopt a more inward-looking approach when it comes to battling the threat of counterfeits.
This includes taking care of the obvious, such as their own social media accounts, especially as fraudsters become ever more sophisticated and brazen.
Chrissie Jamieson is vice president of marketing at software company MarkMonitor. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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