17/01/2012

By Jemima Gibbons, Social Media Strategist, AAB Engage

It never ceases to amaze me how many businesses are happy to stick their heads in the sand when it comes to social media - especially when there is specific online activity consistently harming their brand.

Take MAC Cosmetics, for example. MAC is a very cool brand. The products are pricey but not unaffordable. The quality is good and the colour/look/feel of the make-up is second to none. I recently visited MAC’s Covent Garden shop and was impressed by my in-store experience. Afterwards, I decided to look the company up on Twitter.

I couldn’t find an official account, but I was shocked - and then horrified, to find an unofficial profile @themaccosmetics.

Although the profile biography clearly states that this account is “unofficial”, nearly 65,000 people are following it and the account has been listed more than 1,000 times. The lists include titles such as “Trusted products - the brands in nail care and aesthetics that I trust” and “Fashion brands news - news from top fashion brands all over the world”.

These Twitter users have clearly been duped.

A quick glance through @themaccosmetics' followers shows that the majority appear to be young women based in the UK and US - exactly the type you’d imagine would typically follow an “official” MAC account.

Most heart-rending of all, is the way in which these users are interacting with the “imposter” MAC account. One, for example, has tweeted a picture of her birthday cake - immaculately decorated with a selection of MAC eyeshadow, lipstick and blusher products, all crafted from sugar icing and complete with the MAC logo. “I love MAC!” she says. “Love it! Happy Birthday!” responds the imposter brand.

How would this follower feel if she realised who she was "really" interacting with?

Because this Twitter user, and thousands like her, have been well and truly duped. The profile biography may link to the official MAC cosmetics website, but nearly every tweet is a tiny advertisement for a non-related brand.

These links connect to offers on the sort of brands that MAC fans may well be into - Dolce & Gabanna, Jessica Simpson, Kate Spade etc - but any eagle-eyed observer will notice that the url shortener that’s been used is “My Likes” - a social media monetisation platform enabling any online publisher to make money from promoting specific products.

So - @themaccosmetics.is basically a Twitter content farm, making money from pay per click advertising, and hijacking MAC’s fanbase to do it.

Since my visit, MAC has at last launched its own Twitter account at @maccosmetics. But tweets from this account are “protected” - they can only be viewed if the user is approved by MAC first. Why on earth any business would want to do this is beyond me: however “cool” you may wish to appear, making consumers jump through extra hoops just to interact seems counter-intuitive.

If I was MAC, I’d stop worrying about protecting my own tweets, and start protecting my most loyal fans - whose trust is being abused on a daily basis by @themaccosmetics' All it takes is an email to Twitter HQ.

Why doesn’t MAC do it?

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