How to Avoid a Social Media Profile Hijacking

April 4, 2016 1:15 am Published by

One of the more common pushbacks we hear from clients when presenting a social media campaign is a concern about an imposter “taking over” a company’s social media account or speaking on behalf of the organization without permission in some way. This can take the form of the creation of a fake handle, such as this example with Target, or the hijacking of a hashtag, which is then used to share damaging or inappropriate information, as in the case of the NYPD.

If done well, an imposter can appear as if they are actually the organization, potentially harming the reputation of the corporation or its leadership. Additionally, if a hashtag is hijacked, it can open op a whole can of worms a company never expected. Either way, extensive damage control is usually needed after such an incident happens, often requiring a lot of time and effort from staff and outside agencies.

The best way to address this issue is to try and avoid it all together. Here’s how: 

  • Do your research. If you’re creating a hashtag, find out if anyone else is already using it. If so, what are they using it for?
  • Be smart. If your corporation is not well liked to begin with, a broad-based social media campaign likely shouldn’t be one of the first PR campaign. Work on the corporate image before giving the public a tool to share their thoughts/opinions.
  • Verify or authenticate all social media accounts. Verification differs between social media platform. For Facebook, the verification process involves submitting an application and official documentation authenticating the account; Twitter automatically generates verification badges for high profile accounts. If the account cannot be verified, be sure to at least include a link to the organization’s website in the description on the social media account.
  • List all of the corporation’s social media handles in one place on the website. If faced with an imposter situation, share a link to this page with all followers.
  • Stake your claim. Claim all possible iterations of a corporation’s handle, so it’s harder for an imposter to create a convincing account.

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This post was written by Jessica Sharp

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