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Create an official Page, or someone else will?

Is today’s “Lesson of the Day” really that you better create an “official” profile on major social media networks, or someone else will…?

Case in point: the fake “Bank of America” Google+ Page that posted updates for a full week “mocking homeowners who couldn’t pay their mortgages” and building a following of over 1,200 people (while the actual BofA Page currently has 16 +1s.) According to The Huffington Post, these posts included a warning to #OWS protesters that, “You will sit down and shut up, or we will foreclose on you.”

So the real question is… What’s better: having “official” profiles on major social sites that aren’t very active (an “empty shell of a profile” as Suki calls it), or to just not create profiles on sites you know you won’t be active on and run the risk of having some random create a fake one instead?

As much as it’s important for the brand to leverage social media strategically, each social network has a responsibility to put some barriers in place to avoid such easy impersonation. Twitter has its “verified accounts” and now Google is saying that they have a similar “verified name” badge system in place — which also lacks a formal process for obtaining said badge.

While I initially liked the idea of the short set-up time, it’s now apparent that it shouldn’t be quite that easy. The possibility of an impersonator creating an official-looking Page is just too high, and with no formal process to getting “verified,” could just get messy.

And though I, personally, wouldn’t recommend creating profiles just to have them (if you have no intent of actually using them), I think there should be a way to somehow earmark or reserve a specific profile/brand name by proving that you are, in fact, that brand. This way, if parody profiles were to be created (which is allowed), it would be more obvious that it was such and couldn’t be as easily confused with the real company. Dear Google/Twitter/Facebook…thoughts?

I’m not saying that the general public is that oblivious to think that messages warning protesters to step down or face foreclosure, are definitely coming directly from its bank, but I can almost guarantee that someone out there believed it. More dangerous though is the opportunity for huge misunderstandings to occur, forcing Bank of America (for example) to roll out some serious damage control efforts.

What are your thoughts? Create official “placeholder” profiles, or have no presence and hope for the best?

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