The inherent openness and anonymity of the Internet are creating unprecedented challenges for corporations. With the dramatic growth in online social media sites such as Twitter, MySpace and Facebook, companies are now faced with the challenge of managing their identities in the world of Web 2.0.
All of the major social media sites provide Terms and Conditions that strictly prohibit impersonation, as well as copyright infringement.
However, as a preemptive measure, companies should consider protecting their corporate identities and core brands by registering them across social media sites: On some sites, like Twitter and YouTube, this is especially of concern because the username becomes the identity of the poster.
There is also the whole issue of ‘Groups’ which are being registered on these sites as well. Again, if it appears that impersonation is occurring, then the companies should address quickly by referring to the Terms and Conditions of each site.
Once brands have been registered on these sites, it is important to keep all login and password information secure. It is also important to let stakeholders within these organizations know that these assets have been secured, should they want to use them for marketing or promotional purposes. Clearly using these sites to promote brands, provide customer support and build community is an extremely cost effective approach given the current economic climate.
If a brand has already been registered, it is possible to request that the account be deactivated or deleted pursuant to the Terms and Conditions of each social media site.
Finally, companies should implement internal policies that strictly prohibit employees from the impersonation of, and/or the use of brands or trademarks on social media sites to intentionally mislead others.
While social media sites provide an extremely cost effective method for companies to reach out, market and provide support to their communities, the risk of trademark abuse and impersonation is extremely high. Companies should take proactive measure to secure their brands and should continually monitor and take action to recover or deactivate sites when issues arise.