When Social Media Spam Hurts Your Brand

I spend a lot of time on social media — Facebook, Twitter, Google+, even Pinterest — and as a result, I see a lot of people get tricked into clicking spam links. Last weekend, I saw a very savvy friend repost a spam link on Facebook about Jennifer Lopez’s “wardrobe malfunction” on the Grammys. Then, I watched as Philadelphia agency Square 2 Marketing had their Twitter account taken over. That hacked account subsequently sent both public tweets and private Direct Messages with spam links to most or all of its followers. At the time, I tweeted a simple question: “What does Twitter spam mean for your brand? Your customers?”

Square 2 Tweets

Square 2 got caught in a worst-case scenario: their account was hacked sometime on Saturday, when no one was in the office, and when they were unable to change the password and secure the account.  I personally received one Direct Message and saw five tweets with spam links before Monday morning. Their social media team jumped into action once they got into the office and did a good job responding to followers that pointed out the issue, but it took two more days and intervention by Twitter to restore control. So, can social media spam hurt your business?
[Full disclosure: I once applied for the position of Social Media Manager at Square 2 Marketing, so it would have been my issue to deal with if I had been hired.]
The answer is fairly complex, and perhaps not clear at all. Looking at follower count only, @Square2 lost just five or seven followers during that weekend (about 1%), but by the time I was writing this post, they had won all of those back, and added at least 10 more. Square 2 Marketing certainly has digital expertise, but they seem to focus more on traditional website design and optimization than social media or influence marketing, so it’s probably not an issue for their business development team. I would also add that since spam is such a big part of social media (everyone knows someone who’s had their account hacked), there is probably some “forgive and forget” built into situations like this. However, if social media were a larger or more important part of their business operations — say customer service or technical response or a mechanism for promotion — it could present a HUGE issue, both in terms of public relations and the bottom line.
Brands spend countless hours, days, weeks, and even months trying to build up their social media presence and approach this emerging tool with grace and tenacity. When an account gets hacked, or you spread spam links, you hurt your brand or personal image and reduce the time you’ve put in to an examination of the mistake. It may not be totally clear what the consequences are, but it’s certainly clear that there are consequences. So please, change your password, be vigilant, and don’t ever click links with the promise of revealing the latest wardrobe malfunction.