Social media experts are urging brands to employ dedicated social media marketers to carefully manage their online presences, after a hacker wreaked havoc on Just Jeans’ official Facebook page for over 12 hours.
News of the hoax broke yesterday, with Just Jeans apologising for a swathe of offensive, un-authorised posts by a hacker posing as Just Jeans head office.
The fraudulent account, which used Just Jeans’ logo, responded to a number of fans’ enquiries and comments, telling one customer a Just Jeans shop assistant had filed a complaint against her “for being rude and abusive”.
Another customer was told her comments about a sale were “so last year”, before being offered fake in-store vouchers.
Just Jeans, which has 18,600 fans, deleted the comments from the hoax account on Tuesday morning and told its community it was "investigating the posts as a matter of priority".
Chris Bridgland, accounts director at digital agency We Are Social today told B&T the case exemplified the need for brands to take their social media presences more seriously – that is, invest in dedicated social media marketing teams.
“If, as a brand, you’re not aware of anything happening over a 12 hour period then that shows there is a hole in your community management structure.
“Social media audiences are increasing. Facebook now has a large spread of older audiences, as well as generation X and Y, and it’s no longer just a place to go and check up on things. You go on there all the time to talk to friends, to talk to brands, to get discounts to enter competitions; all these elements are so important these days.
“If you are not controlling the conversation and reacting to online conversations then you are really missing out on an opportunity to develop your brand online. Brands need to have full-time social media teams. There needs to be a level of consistent management,” he said.
A security advisor for internet company AVG, Michael McKinnon, yesterday told the Sydney Morning Herald that businesses who cannot monitor their social media on a daily basis should look at "locking down" their page by disabling the comment ability.
But Laurel Papworth, freelance social networks strategist, said dismantling public comments is not a viable option.
"If brands are using a social media site to put up promotional posts only (broadcast) and not interested in comments back (engagement), they get what they deserve. Companies need to understand that all channels are now open communication lines and at the very least monitor them.
"When people 'Like' a company's Facebook page, they are subscribing to see news status updates. However, only about 17% of friends/companies status updates make it into your newsfeed on Facebook. How does Facebook determine which of the 17% of photos, status updates, videos, etc will you see? By the number of comments, likes and shares a company's status update gets from your friends. By turning off comments, no status updates will make it into customers newsfeeds."
Bridgland agreed, urging brands to recognise the intrinsic value of user engagement.
“User generated content is what social media thrives on. Brand posts go out there and do their job, but it’s really the engagement and commenting and interaction with your consumer which drives home purchase intent and increased awareness of the brand.
“If a brand wants to remove any kind of commenting section they could be setting themselves up for a failure because essentially they are just restricting what they are on social media for.”
Facebook currently has no safeguards to prevent imposters from masquerading as brands, making it easy for pranksters to disrupt official online conversations.
Pages of big global brands including Nike and Adidas face hackers on a regular basis, according to Bridgland, but the difference is that these brands monitor their online presences diligently and constantly.
“Nike and Adidas have really robust, well-formed management systems in place to make sure hoaxes never escalate to any level where they affect the consumer. It’s all about making sure the brand has a really well thought out content management situation.”
But it’s not just their own profiles which brands should be scrutinising. Good marketers will be listening to conversations about their brands across all social channels.