Managing your brand online requires vigilance. It is important to keep abreast of developments in technology so that you can adequately protect your brand. All business owners should be wary of the ease with which goodwill can be compromised on the web and take adequate precautions.

Awareness

You cannot protect your brand online if you do not know what is out there. Business owners must be aware of the messages that are being put out online. There are many free tools available to you to monitor what people are saying about your business – Google Alerts, Google News, Yahoo Alerts, Technorati.com and BlogPulse.com are but examples. You utilize these tools by simply entering your business name. You will then receive the information you want. BoardTracker.com can be used to measure what is going on in online forums and Keotag.com will monitor what is going on in the social arena. Since these are free resources there is no reason not to take advantage of them. There are also subscription services available which will undertake the monitoring on your behalf.

Social Networks

The popularity of social networking sites cannot be underestimated. Many businesses are utilizing social networking sites to increase their web presence, advertise, build brand loyalty and reach new and existing customers.

Two of the most popular social networking sites in Canada are Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is by far the most popular site while Twitter is the fastest growing. Twitter’s popularity with business boils down to the fact that it is easy to use and connects business with clients/customers in real time.

Twitter allows users to post brief updates called ‘tweets’. Tweets allow those that are interested in following you or your company to be kept up to date. Many companies are taking advantage of the nature of Twitter to keep their clients/customers updated. While some business owners may not be interested in ‘tweeting’ it would certainly be worthwhile to know what others are tweeting about you, your brand, your services and the overall customer experience.

Control Your Brand

While more and more businesses are utilizing the web for marketing and brand awareness, those that are not are exposing themselves to the risk of ‘name squatting’. Name squatting is becoming more prevalent as people improperly register internet names, (names that are the trade-marks or brands of others) and open Twitter or Facebook accounts for either mischief or profit. Because it only requires an email address to open a Twitter account, it is very easy for anyone to open an account and begin posting misleading material.

Protecting your brand or trade-mark from squatters should be part of your overall business strategy and should include, at a minimum, the following:

1. Register your trade-mark and obvious variations with social networking sites;

2. Continually monitor online sources for unauthorized uses of your brand or trade-marks; and

3. Where unauthorized use is found, immediately contact the site and demand the site terminate the squatting activity.

The online opportunities to promote your brand and connect with your customers abound, but businesses must remain on alert for those that would use online tools to create mischief and spread misinformation. Internal policies to monitor the internet will go a long way to ensuring that you can take swift action to protect your brand should anything untoward be discovered. With increasing frequency, our firm is being asked to assist companies in remedying and minimizing damage which they are experiencing because of unwanted internet activity. Your own vigilance can serve as an important first step in the protection of your interests.