Controlling Online Brand Abuse

TPG believes that the single biggest risk we all have online is not managing or tracking those statements published about our brands online by others.   This article deals with online brand abuse and how to defend against it.   Good insights for any business who should be protection their most valuable asset – their brand.

What to do when your brand is being abused online!

October 9, 2013


Online brand abuse is one of those tricky subjects that many companies struggle to tackle and some even ignore.

A complaint or a verbal (aka keyboard) attack online has the power to be read by hundreds, even thousands, of potential customers. So when you encounter online brand abuse what do you do?

This article looks at tactics to deal with online brand abuse and discusses ways to mitigate damage once it has been discovered.

The most common forms of brand abuse we see on a daily basis include:

• Online complaints on forums.
• Online complaints through official social media pages
• Online complaints on personal social media pages and handles.
• Dedicated hate sites.
• Inappropriate staff behaviour online.
• Competitor bad mouthing.

Any one of these types of brand abuse have the power to irreparably damage online reputations, scare away customers and hurt the bottom line. Whether the content is merited or not, once it is online it stays there, so it is important that action is taken swiftly to control any fall out.

Monitor Your Brand Online

The first step is to identify instances of brand abuse. You can either do this by yourself, but we don’t recommend it as you will never have time, resources or ability to capture a large enough sample.

We recommend engaging a company that has dedicated brand monitoring software, ideally a company that provides you with regular alerts to flagged, potentially contentious issues. Many companies will provide brand monitoring on a weekly or monthly basis.

Not only will a good brand protection company find instances of brand abuse, they will also prioritise them based on the biggest threat to the business (based on type of threat, number of views, exposure etc).

Look for a company that offers you a free brand health assessment. They will compile a report that may uncover some surprising results.

Understand and Respond Appropriately

Before responding, take the time to understand the nature of the complaint or abuse and respond accordingly.

Many commentators say that the first step is to “apologise’, but this is not necessary always practical or reasonable. Of course there will be customer service issues that warrant an apology, but before you start admitting guilt, make an effort to understand the issue first and consider ways to solve the complainants’ problem. Most complainants would prefer solution to an apology.

It is important to ignore the abuse or vitriol diatribe when responding, and set the tone with a polite and active tone, for example:

“We understand your issue, and I (the appropriate person) am working with the area invoked to look into this for you, I will PM you within 24 hours”.

Naturally, make sure you do what you commit to, or the abuse will just get worse.

Removal of Brand Abuse

So how do we do this?

Most people don’t realise this, but when visceral brand abuse occurs on sites likeFacebook or Twitter – you can apply to have the comment(s) removed.

Anti-social behaviour should not be accepted, and there are clear policy guidelines that govern acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

There are other options such as using a lawyer (expensive, not necessarily effective) and contacting the person directly and requesting that they remove the comment.

If you are decide to contact the brand abuser, acknowledge that they have an issue, but also be firm about their violations of either your IP, legal rights, or the relevant forum policy or guidelines.

Bury It with SEO

We often see hate pages set up, and in some cases they can start to rank in Google. This is a code red for brands, as Google is a source of infinite traffic and if a website starts ranking that contains brand abuse, consumers could stay clear of your brand. Just readDell’s nightmare on this issue.

Clever SEO tactics can bury brand abuse, such as media releases (distribute it out through a variety of Press Release Distribution services who will in turn publish and rank), blogs etc.

Once the page with brand abuse is buried, the damage is contained as no one really searches beyond page one.

We hope that found this blog useful, please share if you have and note that online reputation protection is an area that Web IP specialize in.

We would be happy to provide a complimentary online health report to any organisation interested in finding out more about the service.

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