Fake Instagram Accounts: Keeping Your Brand Safe

Josh Bourne ⬥ October 10

As the use of social media networks continue to increase, social media squatting – or “brand bombing” – appears to be on the rise as well.

Ray-Ban is the most recent brand to be affected by a social squatting on Instagram. In mid-September, a fake Instagram account with the username of “raybansofficial” promised the first 50,000 followers a free pair of the Ray-Ban sunglasses — provided that Instagram users followed the account and gave them a shout out from their personal Instagram accounts.

Because of the common use of the term “Ray Bans” (even though Ray-Ban does not use the plural form of the name for branding) and the absence of a link to the company’s official Instagram account on the Ray-Ban website, the “raybansofficial” Instagram account gained over 60,000 followers in less than 24 hours. When the fake Instagram account was pointed out to Ray-Ban, they made sure to inform FairWinds that their official Instagram account is simply “rayban.”

The fake Instagram account tricked users by featuring the Ray-Ban logo, branded content, and the link to the Ray-Ban official website (www.ray-ban.com). Luckily for Ray-Ban, there was nothing malicious on the account, just disappointment for those confused by the username and misuse of Ray-Ban branded material.

Other brands have been the target of a number of fake giveaways on Instagram recently as well, including airlines such as JetBlue and Delta. While situations such as the one involving JetBlue did not put the brand in a compromising situation in regard to having to honor the deals, brand bombing can undermine consumer trust and tie-up customer service representatives.

What Can Brands Do About Fake Instagram Accounts?

While there are ways to combat domain name cybersquatting – in the U.S., there’s the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) – cybersquatting on social media accounts is generally dealt with by petitioning the social media platform.

Unfortunately, each platform usually has their own criteria for dealing with the issue, which can prove frustrating to brands. How you deal with a fake Instagram account will be different than how you deal with a fake Facebook account.

With the growing adoption of social media –  it’s estimated that there were 1.43 billion social media users in 2012 (a 19.2% increase from 2011) – it’s an issue that may need a more uniform solution as companies increasingly engage with users and build their brands through social media.

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