E-commerce has become an integral part of social media.
Businesses of all sizes have a social media presence as part of their marketing strategy, where they not only promote their goods, they also offer them for sale.
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As social commerce grows, there is a growing number of counterfeits on social media platforms and an urgent need for online brand protection.
Online, the counterfeiting activity is mixed with legitimate online sales. The presence of counterfeiters can be discouraging and often overwhelming, but there are ways for brands to fight back and build an effective online brand protection strategy.
Social media attracts a growing number of counterfeiters and brand abusers, and there are multiple reasons for that.
(1) Audience size – Social media has become extremely popular, and an overwhelming number of users are active on numerous platforms. The sheer number of active users, together with more e-commerce features, creates an incredibly large audience that both authentic brands and illicit sellers can access. Marketing tools, such as tools to segment and target users, are available for illegitimate and legitimate sellers alike.
(2) Social commerce features – As social media platforms integrate sales into the social experience, they attract scammers looking to make a sale. The scammers promote their infringing businesses in different ways, depending on the platform. On WhatsApp, counterfeiters create private groups and offer fake goods. On WeChat (often referred to as the WhatsApp of China), counterfeiters appeal to customers that can pay in-app with WeChat Pay.
(3) Increased intellectual property enforcement on major online marketplaces – In recent years, some marketplaces have offered more intellectual property (IP) enforcement tools. Although brands still encounter counterfeits, infringers also look for more accessible touchpoints, which they find on social media platforms.
(4) Ease and Anonymity – It is easy and quick to create a social media account. Privacy features on social platforms enable fraudulent sellers to create private groups, and direct messaging makes illegitimate communication almost impossible to trace.
When accounts are taken down, abusers simply create a new account and start over.
(5) Fake reviews – Online reviews help consumers build trust and make purchase decisions, and scammers exploit this trust. They add rave reviews to their products, filled with false enthusiasm by “real” consumers.
Another way to abuse reviews is to leave negative reviews for the genuine product and tarnish its reputation.
(6) Brandjacking – Impersonation is a way to hijack a brand. It refers to using a brand’s unique features, such as its name or logo, to trick users into believing that a social media account belongs to the authentic brand. When brands monitor social media pages, they can trace impersonation and take down the illegitimate accounts.
Here we look at how to protect your brand on social media:
1) Register your intellectual property
Start with IP. Registered intellectual property (IP) rights give you the exclusive right to use them. Without it, brand protection is virtually impossible.
Apply for registration of your name, symbol, and/or logo as a trademark. When applicable, register copyrights, patents, and generally all your IP assets.
Registered IP makes it much simpler to approach social media channels, request IP registration and move on to take down infringing accounts and posts. Registered IP also allows brands to seek legal protection to enforce trademark rights.
As intellectual property is territorial, it is essential to register your IP in the locations where you manufacture and sell your products, including online sales. And in China.
Counterfeits come from almost every country, but China and Hong Kong (China) are at the top of this list. Over 70% of all counterfeit goods originate there (!). Other notable producers are India, Thailand, and Malaysia, as well as Turkey.
Since China is the biggest producer of counterfeit goods, it is crucial to register your IP rights there. Even if your brand does not sell or manufacture in China and has no intention of doing so in the near future, it does not mean that your product(s) are not counterfeited there and sold in China or anywhere around the world. Brands should have the foundation that allows them brand protection in China.
Control starts with ownership of all the social media handles associated you’re your company and its brands. However, ownership is not enough. Your business needs updated social media profiles, at least on major social media platforms.
Successful social media accounts make your authentic brand visible to a huge base of potential consumers. It is essential to be on social media for marketing purposes, yet this is not the only reason. It is much easier for counterfeiters to impersonate a brand with no meaningful presence on a social media platform.
Now that you are on top of your online strategy, link all your accounts, pages, and profiles. Linking them improves your efficiency and marketing exposure. It also protects your brand from rogue social media accounts.
Getting verified on social media means that you get a little checkmark next to your profile name. This checkmark lets others know that you are the genuine brand, company, or person. It is proof of your credibility and builds trust. At the same time, it indicates that other accounts that have your name are fake.
Try to get verified on all major social media platforms that have it available, such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube, and others. There are other ways to evaluate an account’s reliability, such as the number of followers and the content, but having a verified account delivers an immediate verification.
Social media platforms have requirements for verification that can be found on each platform. For example, Facebook explains how to request a verified badge on its platform and how to verify your business.
4) Enable shopping on multiple platforms
Online shopping is growing rapidly, and consumers increasingly make purchases on social platforms. The easier it is to shop your brand, the more likely it is for consumers to buy your goods rather than fakes.
How many of us buy on social media? In China, over 11% of total retail e-commerce sales happen on social platforms like WeChat (over 1 billion monthly active users) and Sina Weibo (530 million monthly active users). And it is expected to grow. In the US, a 2019 survey by Statistica revealed that 36% of U.S. online consumers had purchased something directly on a social channel in the last year, and this is before the pandemic.
Social media is also a crucial part of a brand’s online presence and marketing strategy. The same 2019 survey also revealed that 72 percent of consumers had used a social media channel to discover new products.
There are numerous possible digital touchpoints for every customer journey before purchase. But there is no doubt the unique journey should lead them to you, the authentic brand.
5) Utilize reporting tools
Social media platforms have reporting tools at the disposal of both legitimate and illegitimate accounts. Use them.
The more your takedown requests prove to be accurate, the more trust you build with individual social media platforms.
With trust, your takedown requests are more likely to be approved. Brand protection agencies like Wiser Market have established trust with multiple platforms.
6) Apply technology for brand protection strategy
Opening accounts on social media is easy, and counterfeiters take advantage. They create accounts and promote their fake goods. By doing so, they cause loss of sales and damage to reputation for genuine brands. Although brands are aware of this reality, the number of counterfeits online keeps on growing.
The enforcement of your intellectual property rights requires continuous monitoring across numerous online channels. The only way to accomplish this task with success and effectiveness is with the help of technology.
Using monitoring software allows for the detection of all major threats. After analysis, almost all online infringements are removed.
(1) Search – Innovative software continuously monitors online channels for any mention of your brand, detecting every relevant reference automatically.
(2) Analyze – A proprietary algorithm filters online references to your IP and identifies infringements. A team of experts oversees the analysis and reports to your brand.
(4) Enforce – A skilled team implements broad industry expertise to ensure each infringement is removed quickly and efficiently.
Wiser online brand protection
E-commerce options are increasingly integrated with social networks. The line between social content and e-commerce is increasingly blurred as social platforms promote more goods, and shopping on social media becomes popular and seamless.
Rogue social media accounts harm businesses in multiple ways. Infringing accounts, such as counterfeit accounts, phishing accounts and other unauthorized accounts, exist where your brand has legitimate accounts, but not only there.
There are hundreds of online platforms that scammers can exploit. No brand is too small – if there is a profit to be made, there are those who go for it. Even if you believe your business is well protected, you may find the reality is very different.
For online brand protection, Wiser Market anti-counterfeit agency helps brands combat counterfeits and intellectual property infringements with tools that work and a team of experts that stay on top of the fast-changing landscape of social media and e-commerce features and trends.
We employ a cutting-edge monitoring system that continuously scans digital channels, detecting relevant references to your brand and analyzing them.
Wiser Market’s highly effective, long-term online brand protection strategy safeguards your revenue and brand reputation, with a proven track record of over 95% success rate.
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WiserTip: Threats are present not only on social media platforms that promote e-commerce. TikTok, for example, is not an e-commerce app, yet content on TikTok facilitates the sale of counterfeit goods.
What is social commerce?
Social commerce is part of e-commerce. It refers to buying and selling of products and services on social media. It often has to do with engagement and sharing as part of the purchase decision. See: Social Commerce is the New E-Commerce.
What is brand impersonation on social media?
Brand impersonation on social media happens when an impostor creates an account or a page on social media, pretending to be the authentic brand. Specifically, counterfeiters impersonate existing brands so they can sell their fake products.
What is a phishing account?
Phishing accounts attempt to look identical to another brand’s official page. The purpose is to convince customers that the page or account belongs to the trusted brand, so they enter information or click links that enable access to sensitive information.
What is brandjacking?
Brandjacking refers to an account that assumes the online identity of another brand or business. In this sense, brand impersonation is a form of brandjacking, and so are phishing accounts. For example, brandjacking can involve creating a profile by using a trademarked name, logo, hashtags, or another form of identity. This fake profile can be published in the comment section on the authentic brand’s page, misleading customers into believing it is the genuine brand.