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Brands’ guide to combating hashtag hijacking
Impersonation Removal
5 mins

Brands’ guide to combating hashtag hijacking

Table of Contents:

    In today’s digital world hashtags are a valuable tool for businesses because they can be used across social media and marketplaces to promote a new product, service or experience. Unfortunately, in recent years scammers, impersonators and counterfeiters have been taking advantage of businesses through a deceptive tactic called ‘Hashtag Hijacking’. 

    To prevent hashtag hijacking businesses need to be proactive. The best way to combat the risk of counterfeiting and impersonation is to learn as much as you can about the perpetrators and then implement measures to take them down. In this blog we’ll be exploring how to combat hashtag hijacking by highlighting a number of topics, including:

    • What is hashtag hijacking?
    • Detecting hashtag hijacking: Spotting impersonation and counterfeit threats
    • What to do if your hashtag gets hijacked?
    • How to prevent hashtag hijacking from affecting your brand

    What is hashtag hijacking?

    Hashtag hijacking is a kind of digital attack that occurs when a hashtag is co-opted and used for a purpose that is different from its original, intended purpose. Scammers use this tactic to impersonate brands, sell counterfeit goods and capitalize off the goodwill built up by legitimate businesses. 

    This kind of deception can be subtly deployed. As a result it can sometimes be difficult for businesses to spot when, and where, hashtag hijacking is occurring. However, detection is vital because during marketing campaigns and promotion cycles hashtag hijacking can have a serious impact on a business’s success. 

    Hashtag hijacking is being used by scammers today to accomplish two main kinds of deception: impersonation and counterfeiting. 

    For example, hashtag hijackers are regularly using the official hashtag campaigns of legitimate brands to impersonate their business, share misleading information and dupe consumers. Equally, hashtag hijackers are also using hashtags to promote and sell counterfeit or imitation products. Both kinds of deception result in consumers being misled and businesses being damaged. 

    Detecting hashtag hijacking: Spotting impersonation and counterfeit threats

    Usually, hashtag campaigns are a coordinated activity with one goal in mind. Those who use social media sites like Twitter, Instagram or TikTok might remember famous hashtag campaigns like #ShareACoke by Coca-Cola, #JustDoIt by Nike or the #IceBucketChallenge by the ALS Association. Large companies use hashtags to build hype around a specific topic and hope that the audience on these websites will organically grow the conversation by using the hashtag. 

    Detecting hashtag hijacking requires you to notice hashtags that do not match the conversation. This means you have to use the social media sites and, using the search function, find instances where the hashtag seems out of place, strange or tagged with content that doesn’t match your brand’s hashtag campaign. This method of spotting impersonation or counterfeit threats can be effective if your social media campaign is relatively small scale. 

    However, as your business grows so will your marketing presence on social media sites and marketplaces. At a certain stage it will become impractical and inefficient to manually search your hashtag campaigns across a variety of social media sites looking for counterfeits and impersonators. Hashtag hijackers will be hard to find amongst the crowd of legitimate hashtag users. 

    As a result, many brands use automated hashtag tracker tools. These tools allow brands to monitor trends and emerging topics related to your specific industry or brand. This makes it easier for you to detect and track impersonation and counterfeiting threats that are capitalizing off your brand’s hashtag campaign. 

    Red Points' business impersonation removal

    What to do if your hashtag gets hijacked?

    If your hashtag gets hijacked you have to act fast if you want to protect your business and your customers. 

    Step 1: Identify and Block

    You should immediately move to identify the hijackers and try to block their accounts. This will be possible if your hashtag is getting hijacked by a single person or a small group of people. 

    However, this manual approach will probably not be practical or effective if your business is the victim of a sophisticated and targeted attack from a large group intent on scamming your followers and customers.

    Step 2: Talk to affected customers

    You can also try to engage with any affected customers. Talk to your customers via social media or through your customer service department. Understand how they came across the false hashtags and whether they have been misled by impersonators or counterfeiters as a result. 

    Step 3: Report

    If these approaches fail to put a stop to the hashtag masquerade you should then decide whether there are any reporting options available to you. Social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok all have their own internal reporting systems that you can use, especially if you find that hashtag hijacking is increasing the risk of impersonation and counterfeiting. 

    Step 4: Cease and Desist/Further legal actions

    If reporting fails you can also pursue legal avenues such as sending a cease and desist letter. This kind of correspondence is a common, and formal, way to begin legal action against a party that may be infringing your intellectual property or causing some other harm to your brand. If the party fails to respond or stop their action you may want to consult a legal service to determine whether litigation would be an appropriate next step to protect your business, safeguard your customers and bring any scammers to justice. 

    How to prevent hashtag hijacking from affecting your brand

    • Establishing a strong online brand presence and reputation

    By having a strong online presence and reputation, you will be less vulnerable to hashtag hijacking attacks. Scammers will be more hesitant to leech off your brand if they are aware that you have a robust online presence that is capable of simply brushing away their hijacking attempts. 

    Often fraudsters are looking for easy targets – brands they know won’t fight back. If you have a sturdy reputation online scammers may believe that their impersonations and counterfeit products won’t work. 

    • Building consumer trust and loyalty through authentic engagement

    One way to prevent hashtag hijacking is to focus on building consumer trust and loyalty through authentic engagement. Impersonators and scammers are counting on the fact that most social media users don’t have strong relationships to the brands they engage with. Weak consumer bonds make it easy for fraudsters to impersonate brands and mislead consumers with counterfeit products. 

    Therefore it is important that your brand has authentic engagement on a variety of social media platforms. When customers trust your brand and regularly communicate with you they will be able to distinguish a real marketing campaign from a fake one. As a result, it will be harder for fraudsters to disrupt the relationship between the brand and the consumer with their hashtag masquerades. 

    • Educate your customers

    Educating your customers about the risks of impersonators and counterfeiters will also help you fight hashtag hijacking. In general, social media users are aware that they risk coming across digital scammers when they browse online. However, many social media users will not be aware of the way hashtag hijacking can be used to redirect them to dodgy websites, steal their information and mislead them into fraudulent purposes. 

    Consumer awareness will help you combat impersonation and counterfeiting. An educated customer base will protect your business by reducing the ability of scammers to manipulate vulnerable individuals connected to your online presence. As your customer base becomes more informed you will also be able to collaborate with them to report and address a variety of suspicious activities. 

    • Implementing proactive measures to deter impersonators and counterfeiters

    The last, and best, way to prevent hashtag hijacking from affecting your brand is by implementing smart, proactive solutions specifically designed to deter and takedown scammers. Impersonation and the selling of counterfeit goods are the two biggest risks brands face if they allow their hashtags to be hijacked. Thankfully, Red Points has powerful solutions to both of these risks. 

    Red Points’ Impersonation Removal Software enables your business to takedown impersonators at the source and remove fake accounts, sites, apps and domains. With this solution you can monitor across social media 24/7, review suspicious accounts and request takedowns. Our automated process is customizable and powered by machine learning, to ensure that you can remove thousands of accounts and keep social media clean of impersonators that may harm your hashtag campaigns. 

    What’s next

    Scammers today are constantly conjuring up new ways to impersonate brands and produce counterfeit versions of products and services. Through hashtag hijacking fraudsters have a handy digital vehicle to deploy their impersonations and counterfeit scams. If you allow such activity to continue your business will suffer too. 

    To maintain your brand’s integrity, and to protect your customers, you have to be proactive about hashtag hijacking. Outdated or manual tracking systems will not deliver the results you need to ensure that your business is protected. Instead, you should try to implement modern measures that have a proven track-record of success.

    Red Points’ Impersonation Protection Software have been designed to ensure that businesses like yours can takedown scammers and grow their digital presence without hindrances. Our protection solutions use smart automated systems to ensure that you can quickly handle a vast and diverse amount of potential hashtag hijackers during busy campaigns. To learn more about Red Points can help you business combat hashtag hijacking, contact us here today.

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