Combating Brand Damage in the Age of Social Media

So you’ve decided that the social media marketing “hype” is here to stay. And perhaps you’re concerned that if you don’t come up with a social marketing campaign soon, your boss will figure out that your main competitor has, and give Johnson your corner office. Whatever the reason may be, you feel it’s time to discover the power of marketing your wares on social network sites, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Ning, MySpace and company blog.

However, you’re still a bit apprehensive to make use of these new “creatures” called social network sites because you fear “losing” control of your message and, possibly worse, angry customers may post negative comments about your company’s product. The truth of the matter is that whether or not your company launches a social media marketing campaign, your customers and potential customers may already be talking about it in the social mediasphere. The problem: you don’t know what they’re saying and therefore you’re not able to dispel misinformation about your company.

Misinformation may be the least of your worries, however. What about trademark infringement, counterfeiting or libelous speech that can severely damage a company’s goodwill and reputation?

Companies, whether or not they have opted into the social mediashere, should have a monitoring program in place to detect negative comments about them and infringements against their intellectual property that take place on social media sites. A monitoring program can consist of a self-monitoring program, carried out by an employee of the company, or one that is carried out by an independent monitoring service company.

A self-monitoring program should include a weekly or monthly review of a number of available social media web sites, including the following sites:

Wikipedia, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Second Life and other virtual worlds, eBay, major industry blogs, fan sites, or other online shopping sites that offer reviews, (alerts for comments that include company names and brands), (searches blogs, Twitter, MySpace, news and images), (alerts for use of company names and brands on blogs, the Web, news, videos, discussion groups) and (searches blogs).

Alternatively, you may decide to hire an outside company to monitor for negative comments and infringements. In addition to monitoring these sites, monitoring service companies can also, if need be, rehabilitate a damaged image caused by negative comments by developing new web pages and commentary about your company, which push unflattering comments and web pages to the bottom of search engine result pages. There are also service companies that can send you monthly reports listing all negative comments made during the previous month.

If your company is so lucky to detect negative comments or – worse – trademark infringement, counterfeiting or libelous speech against it or its products, it’s time to seek legal advise on how to best confront the infringer(s).