If you go to Facebook and you run a search for “Thai Airways,” you get a search results page like you see in the screenshot immediately below. Which one of the multiple Fan Pages listed there is the official Thai Airways Fan Page? Is there one? Is there more than one?
This situation highlights one of the most common problems facing brands in social media today: Avoiding brand confusion and keeping control of your brand. Though this problem is in no way unique to Facebook, let’s look at the situation facing Thai Airways as an example.
In the early days of Facebook it was possible for anyone to create a Fan Page using a brand name. Last year, Facebook (finally) recognized that allowing people to create unauthorized pages using other peoples’ brands was not an acceptable practice and they took steps to reduce the problem. (Very small steps, but steps nonetheless!) The first, and arguably least effective, approach was to add a disclaimer and have users certify that they had the authority / right / permission to create the page using the brand name. Facebook did not, however, go back to the people who had already created Fan Pages and push them for such assurances, thereby leaving a number of misleading profiles in place.
A second and more meaningful step was to set up a grievance procedure whereby brand and trademark owners could petition Facebook for the exclusive use of their brand or mark. While the redress procedure has been criticized for being mostly show — and being very slow to act — it is a step in the right direction. Companies like Thai Airways would do well to begin to shut down unauthorized profiles, and to reduce redundancy where they have created more than one Fan Page. Your brand is valuable. Take steps to protect it!
Hong Kong Disneyland recently experienced another problem of a similar nature — this time on Flickr. The park maintains a personal profile on Flickr, but does not run their own Flickr Group. They did, however, join a Group created by a third party, and that’s where the difficulties arose.
The third party had created a Group named “Hong Kong Disneyland.” The Group name is a big part of the problem; it is likely to cause confusion among users and create a false impression. Moreover, the Group profile page does nothing to clear up the situation and leaves visitors with the impression that this is an official, or at least officially sanctioned, Flickr Group for the park. The Group has a significant number of members and on the whole is what it should be, that is, a collection of photos taken at the park. However, as membership is open to anyone, there is a potential for abuse — particularly in the absence of proper oversight.
The screenshot at right shows what is occurring in that Group. At least one member is using the Group to promote pornographic imagery. If an unwary visitor clicks on the circled users profile, they are taken to a page filled with pornography. Disney, though neither the owner nor the manager of the Group, suffers from the lack of oversight by the Group owner and has no real recourse. The situation seems foreseeable to us: The brand has failed to control its presence on the channel and has left itself open to abuse.
The lesson here is simple: No one will look after your brand like you will. Don’t delegate reputation management to strangers.
Fragmentation is another branding issue of concern. In the rush to get online it seems that many firms created profiles that were subsequently allowed to lay fallow. Still other brands are now struggling to get things back under control after a fast (and perhaps somewhat uncontrolled) start to their social media efforts.
Wotif is a case in point. In the past, the firm maintained a large number of Twitter profiles, each targeting a different country market. They have recently shifted away from that “pure” markets strategy, choosing instead to consolidate all their non-Australian promotional activity on Twitter into a single profile.
The new profile, named WotifG2G (seen at right), covers all the activity outside of Australia and replaces several country-specific Twitter profiles, for example, the WotifUAE and the WotifAmericas Profiles seen below. Wotif has left up the old Twitter profiles — at least for the time being — and is using them to steer existing Followers and newcomers into the new G2G profile (see, collage at bottom).
Other firms who have spread themselves too thinly, or who now find that brand control is an issue, would do well to learn from Wotif’s exercise. It may be a bit painful, but the short-term pain is offset by the long-term advantages of improving control over your message and reduced overhead.
Note: This article is excerpted from the 2010 Asia Travel Engagement Report, a water&stone white paper. You can view the report in it’s entirety by visiting the online marketing resources page and clicking on the White Papers.