Counterfeiters’ presence on social media is difficult to deny, and their presence seems to be growing. That said, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
- Registering IP is the first step to protecting a brand
- Protecting a brand on social media can be adopted by even small startups
- Counterfeiting is an ongoing war, brand owners need to stay determined and positive
Brands shouldn’t see the mass appearance of counterfeiters on social media as a lost cause just yet. There are plenty of things brands themselves can do to make sure they’re protected against counterfeiters on social media.
Register your intellectual property
This is always the first step brands should take to protecting their intellectual property - by actually registering it. If this step is skipped, then brand protection becomes an unwinnable war. Having a strong IP portfolio will make the process of removing infringing posts and accounts much simpler.
As well as registering trademarks, design rights etc domestically, it’s important to ensure additional registration for intellectual property in China too. Over 70% of the world’s physical counterfeit goods come from China, and western companies experience a great deal of trouble attempting to enforce their rights when they’re not also registered in the east. This is an important step even for companies with no intention of selling in China or outsourcing their manufacture there since counterfeiters are able to copy product designs simply from seeing photos.
Controlling your pages on social media
The second pre-emptive advice for staying protected on social media is to maintain well-kept, updated social media profiles of your own. It’s important that you, as the official brand, have a page on all major platforms to prevent counterfeiters from impersonating your brand.
If you have a presence on a given platform, then not only will there be a clear comparison between the counterfeiters and the authentic brand, but your page will naturally rise to the top of any searches.
One way to make clear your account is authentic is to get a “verified” label on your account. Recognised as the blue tick against your Twitter handle or Instagram name, verification can be achieved through a simple application process, there are no stated minimum follower requirements.
Ensure your page links to all other official pages. This would include links to and from your website/s, between social media platforms and between all profiles on the same platform if they are separated for language or geographical differences.
Make it easy to shop with your brand - if you have brick-and-mortar stores that sell your products officially, then consider including a map with legitimate stores near any visitors to your page. You want to make it as easy as possible for customers to access your real product - any bump in the road might push customers towards pages selling counterfeits.
On-platform reporting tools
All major social media platforms have reporting tools for counterfeits and bad-faith accounts. It’s important to utilise them as they’re the best tool to remove harmful pages that you have at your disposal.
You want to start building trust between your brand and the platform. Keep the reports you submit as close to 100% accurate as possible - the platform will begin to streamline your reporting process once you’re seen as a credible source of reports, meaning more consistent and speedy compliance with your takedown requests.
Undercover social media profiles
Creating accounts on social media is a very simple and very fast process. It’s part of why counterfeiters love these platforms so much. But this feature can also become a useful tool in your own brand protection and can betray counterfeiters as much as it’s aided them over the past few years.
Creating an account can open the doors to secretive counterfeiting groups, allowing you into the circles that are ripping off your brand. Once you’ve gained entry into such groups, you can expect to see an ocean of fake products for sale. Products are listed as image posts to the group, links to outside sources selling fake goods are left in comments sections, and many counterfeiters are inclined to sending out huge amounts of private messages to members of the group.
So, just as anonymity is used by counterfeiters, and often by their customers, the same permission of anonymity can be used in the fight against them.
How do I know if this is working?
Counterfeits are everywhere on social media, and it can feel like an unwinnable battle at times. But don’t discount the progress you make in protecting your brand. Here are a few ways that brands can measure the progress they make in protecting their brand on social media.
Shutting down a platform or counterfeiter
Don’t worry that you can’t remove every infringement of your product from social media all at once. Brand protection is never an overnight victory, it’s a continuous process of defending against counterfeiters and pirates. Each counterfeiting account removed should be seen as a step in the right direction.
By proving your brand is not one that is easily counterfeited, it can become a significant deterrent for counterfeiters. Make it a headache to knock off your brand, and counterfeiters will start looking for easier targets.
Increased market share
One of the clearest impacts of counterfeiting is the effect is has on the sales of brands. With online counterfeiting, it’s easy to mask a fake product as real, and considering the price sensitivity of consumers, offering a cheaper product will massively take away revenue from legitimate companies. Although the actual percentage can vary depending on the industry, Red Points’ market researches suggest that brands can expect that around 5-10% of their customers will have bought a fake at some point.
Dealing with counterfeiting will remove this unfair competition, and will improve revenue for brands. This likely won’t be an overnight victory, but as counterfeits are removed, brands can expect to see their sales figures improve over time.
Improved search engine visibility
Social media platforms are enormous and rank very highly for Google searches. A well-run social media page, even if it’s technically an illegal operation, can rank high on results pages if the authentic brand doesn’t put thought into their search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy. It’s even possible that a brand that’s poorly managed online gets beaten out on search engine rankings by a well-managed counterfeit account. Having a potential customer search for your brand, only to find counterfeit pages before the authentic page is disastrous.
Monitoring the steady rise of SEO through results rankings of important keywords is a positive way of tracking overall brand improvement. It can be used as a clear way showing how well a strategy against counterfeits.
Increased follower numbers and social media engagement
As a result of removing impostor accounts, you should an upward trend in your social media followers and interactions with your target audience. This is because you should collect those social media users who erroneously liked or followed impersonating accounts and profile. Although unlikely to be an enormous number, brands who clean up their social media usually see an influx of followers in the proceeding weeks.
Final notes for brands
Counterfeiters have moved to social media in a big way. As shown in our last article, Growth of fakes on social media, this explosion can be seen most clearly with fake football jerseys, of which detections have quadrupled in just two years. Counterfeiters have smelled the potential success to be found by adopting everything modern social media has to offer, and they’ve run with it.
However, even if protecting a brand on social media seems to be an uphill battle, companies need to remember that it’s not an insurmountable task. Active, consistent monitoring and enforcement of all risky platforms and channels is important for any company with a need for brand protection.
All of the methods of IP rights enforcement suggested in this article can be adopted by any company, even brand-new startups with a handful of employees. It takes a lot of time and diligent working, but brand protection on social media can be attained by brands.
To learn how automating brand protection can save companies both time and money, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’d be happy to set up a demo!