Brand squatting… It’s a problem for brands, but there’s a big conversation going on at the same time you need to pay attention to if this is your problem.
Brand squatting, for the uninitiated, is what is was called when some third party would go on to a social network and register a new account name under the handle of a brand, especially big brands, and hope to make a quick buck by selling it back to the company.
It’s a problem for social media platforms that rely on unique user names, like @apple on Twitter. That’s not Apple Computers, and the email address in the bio is a sure sign that the owner of that twitter account is open to deal with Apple to sell it to them. Dell suffers from this as well (but they can’t so much take legal action since Dell seems to be that person’s last name).
Brand-ing or Person-ification?
At the same time, there’s another conversation that’s going on in social media, that I think is related to this issue of brand squatting is “How should organizations be represented on social media channels?”. Should it be as the corporate identity, a Dell, or an Apple account? Or can organizations get more return by representing themselves through the people who work at the organization?
Personally I vote for the people from companies to be who I connect with on those services. But given that some organizations have problems with name squatting, maybe going the personal route is maybe the best possibility for them.
Given, if Apple went to the Twitter controllers and asked them to release the name for them, they might be able to get it back. But I don’t think that’s something all brands should rely on happening. If you take the approach that a person from a company can deliver more value to the company through social channels than a corporate account, than in the long term its a much better choice. I would like to think too that employees of companies on a whole if trained and strategic are gold mines of brand value waiting to be released.
Brands Are People Are Brands
When social media broadcasting becomes more of a common thing in companies, and all employees become brand representatives, then the potential for organizations and brands to represent themselves would change dramatically.
Even if you are John at WidgetsNThings, and you aren’t authorized to twitter and formally represent the company, isn’t it fundamentally unavoidable that you are still a person who works at WidgetsNThings and that in some form you are in some sense a representative of your company in whatever you do?
Brands might be names, but in social media what’s stopping them from being spread and represented by so much more?
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