Someone may be squatting on your company’s name on Twitter (or for that matter, any other social media site).
In many countries, squatting refers to property rights. A squatter is someone who doesn’t have a legal right to use property (such as a home or an apartment), but proceeds to live there anyway.
In this high tech age, squatting is no longer limited to physical property. Electronic squatters (also known as cyber squatters) are those who use a company’s name or slogan without permission. They have been around since domain names first started being registered. In many cases, domain name issues have wound up in court.
The popularity of social media sites like Twitter has raised the bar when it comes to cyber squatting. While companies still need to worry about domain name squatters who build a site on a domain name that mirrors their company name, companies must now also worry about social media squatters who may register their company name on popular platforms.
Rupal Parekh documented this hazard on Advertising Age with his article, GM, Kellogg, Nestle Beat to the Tweet as Squatters Take Over Twitter Names. The post lists a surprisingly large number of large companies, most of whom are household names, who don’t own the Twitter account bearing their company name.
What was particularly concerning to me about information in the Advertising Age article was that the list of companies who don’t own their Twitter name included some prominent financial companies such as: Bank of America, Mastercard, and Berkshire Hathaway. I can well imagine how these tweets could be abused. Imagine receiving a Twitter message that your Mastercard payment was overdue including a link to a phony payment site…
Of course, some cyber squatters may simply have adopted a company name out of loyalty, or as a fan. Even seemingly benign cyber squatters pose a danger to a corporate brand, though. For one thing, they are able to misinform consumers and even journalists since tweets may be mistaken for company communications. Also, a company can’t really be sure of a cyber squatter’s true motivation.
The lesson to be learned from social media cyber squatting is that companies simply can’t afford to sit out when it comes to social media. If you aren’t using your company name on a social media site, chances are that someone else will (especially if you have a well-known brand).
Have you been a victim of cyber squatters? Share your story in the comments.
How do you protect your brand on social media sites? Share your tips.