When parody Twitter accounts become the voice for your brand

Having a corporate social media presence is crucial for keeping in touch with your customers and ensuring your brand's voice is engaged in the digital media conversation. However, not every social media account is all that it seems.

In fact, many Twitter, Facebook and other profiles are not run by the named user at all. Instead, parodies, bots and trouble-makers post under a name chosen to create confusion or even cause damage to a brand. An example of this occurred in Malaysia last month, when a customer complaint provoked an unwelcome response from a fake profile.

The Watsons Malaysia brand is in hot water after an unauthorised Twitter account responded to a customer complaint with a less-than-professional comment. After Adam Minter (@AdamMinter), a writer for Bloomberg View, posted a photograph of a Panadol box with a tampered seal, he did not expect Watsons​ to reply in the manner it allegedly did. A branded Twitter account posted a rebuttal to his claims, calling Mr Minter out for "provoking" rather than dealing with the situation in the manner it deemed appropriate.

@AdamMinter By noticing it's unsafe in the 1st place, why don't you make a refund or exchange instead of provoking?

— Watsons Malaysia (@watsonsmalaysia) January 31, 2015

Watsons Malaysia has since denied that this Twitter profile is its official account. A statement on the company's authorised Facebook account explained: "We have reported this to Twitter and the police. Hence, the comments in that account do not represent an official response with regard to this matter."

However, the damage seems to already be done, with many Twitter and Facebook users picking up on the scandal, spreading it even to the mainstream media as Says.com and other news sites published articles and follow-ups on the story.

On the lighter side

While this was a serious concern for both Watsons Malaysia and consumers, a similar, but more humorous, situation rose in 2013 and demonstrated how a fake profile is not always damaging to a brand.

An opportunistic individual took advantage of the many misspellings of irate customers attempting to tweet complaints to United Airlines. Under the account name Untitled Airlanes, the user posted tongue-in-cheek responses to angry tweets.

. @ConorWhately After the first six hours, she technically belonged to us. You're just lucky we met our monthly quota.

— Untitled Airlanes (@untitledairlane) July 31, 2013

Parody is an interesting area of legal ambiguity, but it is important to understand your rights in regards to defamation. Keeping tabs on fake profiles is vital for managing your reputation across digital media. Social media monitoring gives you the ability to respond to damaging posts from unauthorised accounts and direct misguided customers toward your official profile and statements instead.

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