…And How NOT to Behave When Being Squatted
When you’re a marketer wielding a hefty brand, it’s not easy discovering a social network you hardly paid attention to has blown up overnight — and, worse still, the name of your brand is being squatted by unofficial brand representatives.
On AdAge this week, Michael Werch, who squatted the HJ_Heinz handle for two weeks, describes his pre-squatter objectives and what he’s learned since. His qualifications: that the brand be global, with little social media presence, and that he be genuinely enthusiastic about it.
Werch studied Heinz closely, noting residents of its native Pittsburgh share in the brand’s success, and engaging with them. He also registered the Twitter account under a number of Twitter directories. In short, he behaved like a responsible brand representative, at no cost to the oblivious ketchup label.
He’d tweeted 175 times and raised his follower count to 367 when on December 14, Werch logged in to discover his username had been changed to @NOThj_Heinz and that his image background and bio had been stripped. There was no explanation besides a letter from Twitter HQ explaining he’d violated its Trademark policy.
Werch has since responded to Twitter to tell them he’d be open to discussing the case with a Heinz representative, but heard nary but a peep from either brand until AdAge queried on his behalf.
Heinz’s brusque response is attached to the bottom of his article. But here’s the stuff we find confusing:
Heinz claims that it “actively [monitors] the social-media space” — which is how it discovered the @hj_heinz user. Well then, why’d it take two weeks to slap Werch’s wrist?
Instead of considering how this user might be helping them, brand reps thought along one narrow route: “This guy isn’t an official Heinz representative, and he’s not saying so. DECEPTION!” They had Twitter call foul on Werch’s activities — demonstrating that while Werch studied Heinz closely to get a feel of how to represent it best in the social media world, Heinz didn’t bother to study Werch’s tweets at all.
Heinz still has no official presence on Twitter.
This is the kind of story that leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It also yields a crucial social media lesson: monitor your brand vigilantly. If you don’t want people evangelizing on your behalf, nip them in the bud — don’t wait two weeks.
This coin could’ve flipped the other way, too. Once Werch reached a reasonable following, Heinz could have enveloped him into its fold, inviting him to represent it as a certified brand evangelist. Werch could have continued what he was (and in fact is still) doing with guidance from On High and the blessing to lead a movement in a space where Heinz clearly has no interest in participating.
Instead, Heinz burned the hand of a genuine fan. What happened to Werch is now well-known among people following him — and incidentally, that number’s only grown. @NOThj_Heinz, where Werch revealed his identity and continues to tweet, is now 655 followers strong.
All that doesn’t even touch the frigid response of Heinz North America’s group leader public relations Jessica Jackson, whose boxed-in politically correct ramble now appears below the comparably human story of a fan who got screwed over.
Way to go, Heinz. Sadly, no high-five awaits you here.