Last week, a man created a fake Facebook account and posed as a Target customer service rep, responding to customer comments regarding new store policies. While the internet found some of them hilarious, the impact on Target’s brand, even when exposed, could have taken a significant amount of damage.
Social platforms have done a lot of work to accommodate brands, such as robust administration options and “official” page status. Global integration for international brands and local content allows you to segment your audiences and better monitor what’s going on.
Despite this, your community manager does not get to relax. As the Target example proves, “brand mis-identity” can still happen. While safety features make it easier to keep your brand authentic, not all users have the agency or the awareness to confirm this authenticity. Consider your typical Target shopper, how likely are they to be overly familiar with social network practices? To them the official account and the fake one could hold very little distinction (and for some it did).
While you can set up monitors and blocks about what fans post to your page, totally censoring fan posts is not the right move either. Fans can post both positive and negative messages on your page, often kick-starting a narrative in a different direction.
Same applies to #hashtags. In an ideal world they are something that helps you frame the conversation and easily track it. But like everything else about social, hashtags are organic and as they grow they get harder to control. Branded hashtags do not often perform well and ones that do not contain a brand name are too “malleable” by the general public.
What does this mean for your brand?
This is the million dollar question. How do you protect your brand identity online? Invest in analytics and monitoring. Be constantly aware of the conversations that are happening. No query is too small. Don’t make the mistake of only monitoring for brand mentions and branded hashtags. Make sure your query includes key words associated with your brands.
Quality and speed of response matters. If you take too long, the conversation becomes irrelevant. The best brands are able to respond to a mention or conversation within 24 to 48 hours.
Have a plan. The best brands and community managers have a clear understanding of response protocols, when to get involved, when to stay quiet and when to escalate the issue with the specialist within the company.
You will never control the narrative with 100% certainty online. You have to exist within it, not above it. Sometimes, the issue is beyond your control and you have to adjust your messaging accordingly. Sometimes, it’s better to not say anything at all. It’s up to a community manager to make that call.