Let’s say you’re just getting started on Twitter and you come across the account below.
At first glance, it seems like a legitimate news source, and you follow it for quality news updates. After a couple posts, you notice something strange:
Something doesn’t seem right here.
You were just duped by a common Twitter prankster, the parody account. You’ve likely seen them around. They imitate everything from news sources to politicians to celebrities to big-name brands. They exist to get laughs, but for the account being imitated, they may quickly become a nuisance.
If you’re managing a brand on Twitter and you run into a doppelgänger of your account, how should you handle it?
It’s important to be very careful when dealing with parody accounts. Not only are these users legally allowed to exist, but they are also protected by the unspoken etiquette of Twitter users and their aversion to heavy-handed brands that take themselves too seriously.
The best course of action is to consult Twitter’s official guidelines for these mock accounts. Although they are permitted, Twitter emphasizes that the spoof account should be clearly labeled in both Twitter handle and bio. It should not “try to deceive or mislead others about [its] identity.” If your imitator meets these criteria, then he/she is technically permitted to tweet away.
At Eckel & Vaughan, we have dealt with our share of spoof accounts, and we’ve found various strategies to be effective. A recent article from Social Media Today also provided some great tips.
- Make it harder to imitate your brand in the first place. You can do this by really owning your account’s branding and content. It may help to use a foolproof handle like @OfficialBrand and/or have Twitter verify your account with the blue checkmark badge.
- Ignore the parody account. A majority of these satirical users are just looking for attention. If you reply to or mention them, this only emboldens them and may earn them even more followers.
- Think before reporting. It often takes a lot of work to endear your brand to the fickle Twitter community, and it’s easy to throw all this trust away by acting too much like a corporate bully. Some brands (including Nestlé) have learned this lesson the hard way. Ask yourself if the parody account is really harming your brand or just having fun before you take action.
- Report the user to Twitter. If you absolutely feel that the parody account is harming your brand by use of “illegal, pornographic or spam content” or confusing potential followers, you can report the account to the authorities at Twitter.
Again, use discretion before taking any action. These accounts are the satirists of the social media world, and most exist strictly to amuse and entertain.
The most successful brands on social media are humanized, and humans know when to laugh at themselves. So if a @FakeYourBrand pops up and pokes fun at your content, take a deep breath … and smile.