With over 200 million business accounts on the platform, Instagram is a powerful tool brands can use to build an audience and engage with customers. However, Instagram can also pose a great threat to businesses.
Intellectual property theft and impersonation runs rampant on thousands of fraudulent Instagram accounts. Even if you aren’t selling on Instagram, scammers can still impersonate your brand and ruin your reputation.
As brand protection experts, Red Points has helped over 1,000 clients enforce their IP and protect their brands from online infringement. We’ve put together this guide to help you enforce your IP and protect your brand on Instagram.
Social commerce involves using social media platforms, like Instagram, to promote brands and sell products. Social commerce is unique because it focuses heavily on the engagement between brands and their followers. This form of marketing is quickly growing in popularity, as it gives the unique opportunity for brands to connect directly with their intended audience.
It’s no surprise why a growing number of brands are selling their products via Instagram. A recent Hootsuite report found that 81% of consumers on Instagram use the platform to research products before purchasing. Brands can use this to their advantage by creating a strong Instagram presence, forming customer relationships through engagement, and offering in-app purchasing.
Unfortunately, online scammers are also taking advantage of the quickly-growing social commerce side of Instagram. Thousands of Instagram accounts use stolen intellectual property, spoof legitimate businesses, and rip-off existing products through the platform with ease. Understanding these threats is essential to protect your brand on Instagram.
Legitimate brands face many threats from online scammers on Instagram, and they can’t be ignored. While Instagram prohibits impersonation and infringement on the platform, the vast majority of these scams go undetected. It’s up to you as a brand owner to monitor for these threats and ensure your brand is protected on Instagram.
Brand threats to prepare for on Instagram:
IP infringement occurs when an unauthorized user makes a copy of your protected content. There are various forms of IP infringement that can occur on Instagram, but most can be categorized as either a copyright infringement or trademark infringement.
Copyright trademark infringements occur on Instagram when users share photos, written content, music, and other trademarked material they do not own. Trademark infringement on Instagram occurs when a page uses an existing brand’s logos, catchphrases, and other brand identifiers as their own.
It’s important to note that not all infringement is intentional. Some users may not realize that sharing an exact photo, phrase, or other protected content constitutes illegal infringement. That said, all infringement on Instagram is illegal, and poses a threat to your brand if left unaddressed, no matter the poster’s intent.
Counterfeit products are illegal knock-off replicas of existing products. When counterfeits occur on Instagram, additional infringement is almost always involved. Counterfeits are usually advertised and sold on Instagram by fraudulent brand impersonators who steal IP content from legitimate brands to fool consumers.
When consumers buy these counterfeit products on Instagram, a majority of them believe they are buying from the actual brand. Once they receive the low-quality counterfeit, they will likely complain to the legitimate brand they thought they were purchasing the product from.
Red Points client Catan, for example, realized they had a counterfeit issue after receiving an unprecedented amount of quality complaints from customers. With the success of your business hinging greatly on your reviews and brand reputation, counterfeit products are not a threat you can afford to ignore.
Instagram scam ads, campaigns, and fake comments are Instagram scams that rely on hidden links to direct consumers to fake online stores. When consumers click on the links provided in fake ads and comments, they will be redirected to a fake online store external to Instagram.
Once in the scam website, usually spoofed to look like a legitimate business, consumers may then be fooled into making a fraudulent purchase. Because hidden links allow scammers to advertise and promote counterfeit products outside the platform, this kind of Instagram scam is hard to detect.
Keep an eye out for Instagram ads in your business niche to ensure you’re not being spoofed. If you identify a scam Instagram ad stealing your content, ensure you report the ads as well as the website anchored in the hidden link.
Instagram impersonation accounts use stolen photos, logos, and other content to spoof existing businesses and fool consumers. Creating an impersonation account on Instagram is extremely easy for scammers, and these accounts are a widespread problem on the platform.
According to Today, there were over 28,000 complaints of Instagram impersonation accounts made to the Internet Crime Complaint Center in 2020. Each of these accounts represents a massive threat to the brands they impersonate, and these are only the reported occurrences. If you identify an account impersonating your brand on Instagram, take immediate steps to report the account and get it taken down.
Impersonators, infringements, and counterfeits are rampant on Instagram, but there are steps you can take to ensure your IP is protected on the platform. Follow these steps to best protect your brand on Instagram:
Registering your brand content for the appropriate copyrights and trademarks is an essential step to protect your intellectual property. This may be a sizable investment, as registering for business trademarks and copyrights do incur fees, but it will be well worth it. Having these registrations makes it far easier to claim your legal ownership of your brand content and take down infringements as quickly as possible.
Once you have registered your intellectual property, ensure you keep a detailed IP portfolio for your records. Time is of the essence when infringement occurs on Instagram, and you’ll need to have easy access to your IP registrations when enforcing them.
Instagram’s policy regarding brand protection includes prohibiting brand impersonation and infringement, and the platform provides forms to report infringements. To protect your intellectual property on Instagram, report any IP violations as soon as they are identified.
Before sending your report, collect as much evidence as possible to ensure the review team will approve your takedown request. Including your IP registrations, screenshots of the infringement, and any other applicable information can improve your chances of getting the content removed.
Each type of infringement may include a different reporting procedure on Instagram. Use the following guides to properly report the infringement you are experiencing:
Consumers don’t want to be fooled by Instagram scams, and you can help by keeping your customers informed. Help your customers identify whether the products they see of your brand are legitimate by sharing the vendors and marketplaces who carry your products. Furthermore, make it easy to find the prices of your products and any upcoming sales.
By keeping your customers informed, you can help them identify counterfeit products that show up in the marketplace impersonating your brand.
To best protect your brand on Instagram, you will want to be proactive about identifying and taking down infringements that occur. If a spoof account is active for too long without being addressed, it can cause serious damage to your brand reputation. You can get ahead of scammers on Instagram by monitoring your brand name and other identifiers on Instagram.
Unlike monitoring listings that mention your brand name on other marketplaces, there are multiple places you should be monitoring your brand on Instagram. Places scammers can impersonate your brand on Instagram include:
You should also search for usernames that are the same as yours that include “customer service” or something similar in the username. Many scam accounts pose as separate customer service accounts of legitimate brands and attempt to get personal customer information through the account.
Monitoring for infringements on Instagram is vital to protect your brand. This can be extremely time-consuming, however, because of all the various places you will have to monitor on Instagram. As a brand owner, it’s simply not feasible to take on the full-time job of monitoring for Instagram infringements while also running your business.
Hiring a brand protection service like Red Points can solve this problem for you. Red Point’s software makes it easier and more efficient to keep a constant monitor for infringements on Instagram and beyond. By sending automatic takedown requests when infringements are identified, this service saves you the time and stress of enforcing your IP online.
Protecting your brand on social media is essential to ensure scammers aren’t benefiting from infringing on your content and tarnishing your brand reputation. You can enforce your IP on Instagram by keeping a close monitor for infringements and addressing them immediately. Brand protection services like Red Points take the stress out of enforcing your IP online, and can ensure your brand is well protected online.Ready to take the hassle out of enforcing your IP on Instagram so you can focus on your business? Learn how you can protect your brand on Instagram with Red Points.