Using Social Media Services to Protect Your Brand
With the reputation of a brand being so important, getting your online presence noticed for the right reasons becomes ever more vital. Unfortunately the internet can be a minefield of possible problems, especially when it comes to the more sophisticated criminal elements. If these people get into your systems, you may find that you are being noticed for all the wrong reasons.
Here are a few examples of the potential threats:
· Fraudulent user registrations – which are designed to link with real users and steal their data. This fake activity can also distort your analysis and traffic statistics;
· Account hijacks – stealing login information via ‘phishing’, possibly giving criminals access to personal and financial information about your customers;
· Social comment spam – flooding social sites with thousands of copies of the same post, promoting a product or a web-link;
· Malware spams – postings containing links that install unwanted software on user devices.
If your website or social presence becomes a victim of one or more of these problems, you could be faced with a lot of expense to remove the damage to the site. Repairing the damage to your brand will take much longer due to the loss of trust from your potential customers.No-one will bother with a site or social account that is filled with spams and malicious links. Similarly, people will be justifiably wary of using a site that appears to have stolen their data or installed a virus on their computer. Unfortunately customers have a long memory for damaged reputations, however much action is taken at the time. This is a definite case of prevention being much better than cure.
Your sites need to be defended against these attacks, but this must not be at the expense of blocking legitimate users or discouraging engagement. This is a tricky tightrope to walk, and you will need expertise. Employing a social media services provider to assist, even for a short time, could pay big dividends.
Your first task will be to make an assessment of what needs to be protected. Remember that your customers can provide input about your brand not only on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, but also on any site where you allow reviews, comments or other kinds of user content. This means that all these channels must be covered by the social media services package that you select.
At the most basic level, you need to defend your online presence from inappropriate postings.This begins inside the organization with access control. Make sure that you know who has access to your social accounts and that passwords are secured. If your Twitter feed or Facebook account is run by several people, there are packages available to manage the work between them, and to provide traceability. You may need additional levels of access control for your customers. One system is the ‘CAPTCHA’ code, which helps to differentiate between human beings and a computer program. Another method is to use telephone authentication, where customers are sent a code to their cell phone which must be used before they can join your site. These and other methods have to balance security against discouraging users by making them work too hard to join you.
The next issue to consider is the flood of inappropriate content known as ‘spam’. Spammers are constantly changing the methods that they use, and their automatic programs trawl the internet continuously in the search for new and undefended sites and servers. Most spam is annoying rather than harmful, but it looks bad if your social presence is flooded with advertisements for little blue pills or get-rich-quick schemes. Things look even worse if your site is hit with obscene postings or photos, and such unwanted content will quickly get you blocked from many news feeds and services.
Internet ‘trolls’ have also become a problem in recent years. These are people who seek to provoke reaction from others by posting unsuitable content on a social site or user forum. Trolls have long been known on forums as those who post deliberate silly questions or irritating suggestions, but there is a disturbing new trend for violent or otherwise graphic photography. Reddit.com was recently hit by a deliberate case involving this.
Another important item is content moderation. This can be either automatic or manual, but you must have some basic defences in place before you go live with your online presence. There are social media services packages that use artificial intelligence to block out undesirable content. Databases of suspicious users are kept and shared among organisations, and thus registrations coming from toxic IP addresses can also be detected in advance.
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