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The trouble with social networks and business

Facebook and Twitter exposed

We look at how social networks put a new face on brand-damaging activities, ranging from reputation attacks to imposter sites.

The cost of piracy

Online counterfeiting also damages brands in other ways. For example, some people who buy pirated copies of Microsoft's Windows operating system may think they have legitimate copies, says Cori Hartje, senior director of the Microsoft Genuine Software Initiative.

What they get is software that often includes embedded spyware and malware - and they expect Microsoft and its channel partners to support the product.

Hartje says she's seen research showing that counterfeiters today can make more money from the spyware and malware than they get from selling the pirated software itself.

Meanwhile, the user blames Microsoft for any problems the malware causes. "That hurts our brand," Hartje says.

At WWE, while the onus is on the corporation itself to find and shut down sites peddling pirated videos and other counterfeit wares, most sites do try to cooperate.

Many video-sharing sites, such as YouTube, have tools available to report and take down footage that violates copyrights.

Dienes-Middlen says the challenge isn't shutting down the sites that WWE finds, but keeping up with the new ones that continue to crop up.

While businesses can assign employees to do that, she recommends trying a third-party monitoring service to get a handle on the problem.

Dienes-Middlen thought she had things under control - until she did a test run with brand protection service MarkMonitor. The losses WWE had uncovered on its own were just the "tip of the iceberg", she says.

Soon afterward, she went to WWE's chief operating officer to ask for additional funds to clamp down on the illicit activity.

"This was something we needed to attack. Our most valuable asset is our intellectual property," Dienes-Middlen says. "You have to protect [it] or you lose your rights to it."

Social networking sites can be a launch pad for reputation attacks from competitors, customers or disgruntled employees.

Jeff Hayzlett, chief marketing officer at Eastman Kodak, says he has seen competitors try to hijack conversations - sometimes anonymously - with customers on the company's Twitter and blog sites.

In one Twitter exchange between Kodak and a prospective customer, a competitor jumped in and "inundated" the inquirer with negative comments about Kodak's product while promoting his own company's offering.

It was, Hayzlett says, "a rude way to participate". He has a name for Twitter users who employ such tactics: He calls them "twankers".

Any time you sell a product or service, you're going to have issues like this, Hayzlett says, so Kodak hired a "chief listener" who monitors all conversations and routes problems to the appropriate group, be it legal, IT or marketing, so that the company can follow up.

When a customer is publishing negative comments, he says, his preference is to have a private conversation rather than use a public forum.

Broadband speed test

Small business IT advice

NEXT PAGE: Self-inflicted threats

  1. Facebook and Twitter may be more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to business
  2. The cost of piracy
  3. Self-inflicted threats
  4. Co-ordinated strategy


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