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Lock those virtual doors

What would happen if your library closed up at night and purposefully left the front door unlocked?  Every night?

ThiefEventually, some unscrupulous individual would figure it out.  He/she would have the run of the library at night, and could easily cause damage or property loss at an astounding rate.  The reputation of your library would also be affected; after all, what would people think of a library that didn’t bother to take the standard precaution of locking the doors?

Where am I going with this?  Keep reading…please.

Only a few libraries may be aware of an internet practice called brandjacking. Essentially, this is the practice of unscrupulous individuals ruining the reputation of an organization or business by snatching up unused social media account names and putting forth posts and content as if they were that organization.  BP was a victim of brandjacking earlier this year, when someone took @BPGlobalPR on Twitter and started putting forth a large quantity of snarky and sarcastic posts, pretending to be BP.  Think it only happens to big companies?  Run a Google search for brandjacking.  You’ll be there a while.

It’s incredibly easy to perpetrate brandjacking, with no special tech knowledge required.  Just sign up with any social media site (e.g., YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc) using an organization’s name…the only catch is that the name can’t already be in use.  If your library never claimed its name(s) on major social media sites, it’s really not a whole lot different than leaving your door unlocked.  Somebody will eventually figure out that the library is unprotected.

One question I commonly get from (especially smaller and/or rural) libraries is “Why should I deal with yet another social media site?  We’re understaffed as it is!”  This is a legitimate concern for any library; librarians are slowly beginning to understand that, to do social media well, it requires a serious time commitment.  However, there is a difference between preventing brandjacking and managing a social media account…and that difference is the answer to this question.

What does this mean to me, Laura?

  • It takes 5 minutes or less to simply sign up for any given social media account–and that is the main action your library needs to take to prevent having its reputation ruined via brandjacking.  Whether or not your library wants to do MORE with that account is optional.  But at least lock the virtual doors!
  • If there are variations or acronyms of your library’s name, make sure to claim those, also.  Then just post something in the other accounts to redirect them to the one your library will consider its “main” account.
  • There’s an easy way to check across many social media services if your library’s name is taken or not.  Try http://www.usernamecheck.com/ as an easy way to get started with some of the most popular (and this is just one of many such tools).

I know we’re all beyond busy.  But the world is changing around us by the second, and sometimes not always for the better.  Take a few minutes to proactivley protect your library’s reputation.