Protecting your personal brand on Twitter from hackers

*Updated * David vs. Goliath. Someone’s Hijacking My Twitter Stream

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*Updated * David vs. Goliath. Someone’s Hijacking My Twitter Stream

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Protecting your personal brand on Twitter from hackers

Table of Contents

**Updated at 4/3/2012 at bottom of post. New details so read below. 

Help!  My Brand Has Been Hijacked On Twitter

A couple weeks ago while at SXSW,  I was sitting in a panel session minding my own business and enjoying one of my favorite conferences of the year, SXSW.  In fact, I’ve been planning and plotting and anticipating this conference for months.  This conference for me is a true learning conference.  It’s here that I’m engaging peers and influencers outside of my niche, the world of HR & Recruiting, while learning from them and the current technologies and tools they are using, developing, and designing.

One of the sessions, I sat in during my time at SXSW was titled, “What’s So Bleeping Hard About ROI?”  The discussion centered around the dreaded conversation that many of us face when discussing social media to our senior business leaders at our organization.  So while I’m soaking up the atmosphere and conversation, imagine my surprise when . . .
When I learn that a vendor is using my twitter name, Blogging4Jobs as a sponsored keyword on the social networking site,  A Twitter follower sends me a DM alerting me to the issue.  Apparently, she has a Twitter column set up on Tweetdeck with the keyword “Blogging4Jobs.”  Companies who work with Twitter as advertisers can sponsor keywords showing up at the top of the column when searched.  These companies pay Twitter so that their messages are the first in the search column to the tune of $15,000 over a three month period to use their service.  So a vendor in the human resources technology space was using a keyword to promote their Twitter account, and that keyword happened to be my Twitter name, Blogging4Jobs.

Let me just say that I was flattered.  I mean, I have worked hard to build a brand online.  I’ve blogged, tweeted, Facebooked, and livestreamed for more hours that I think I ever want to know.  And I’m glad someone noticed.  So when a company thinks enough of this blog and my Twitter following to make the decision to sponsor my name, I have to smile.  Of course, being on the social medias happens to be part of my job, and it’s also a labor of love as technology and social media when it comes to the workplace are in uncharted waters.  So when I learned that HireVue (@hirevue) used my Twitter name as part of their sponsored package with Twitter, I was excited.  I was excited until I realized that they were hijacking my Twitter stream and thus, hijacking my brand too.

A Real Social Media Brand Dilemma

So on the other hand, I’ve worked hard to build my brand.  The blog is now on pace to reach record breaking traffic numbers, and this year I’ve opened the blog up to sponsorships and advertisers for the first time.  Social media, my brand, consulting, and this blog are my business which happens to serve as a source of income for me and my family.  HireVue is a large company with a reported 500% growth.  In 2010, they acquired $5 million in venture funding and yet they choose to sponsor Twitter instead of working with me directly.

Maybe you are thinking, this isn’t a big deal.  “Jessica, this is a #firstworldproblem.”  On one hand I’m flattered, but on the other hand, I think this may be wrong.  Why don’t they and other vendors work with the blogger, the thought leader, and the influencer directly?   I also quickly realized that I’m not the first to encounter such a dilema.  A quick look at Chris Brogan’s Twitter stream  (@chrisbrogan) shows that advertisers currently sponsor his Twitter keyword stream, and apparently that’s okay.  Or is it not?

 How Should I React & Should I Protect My Personal Brand on Twitter?

So I’m asking for your help, what do you think about all this?  Is it wrong for advertisers to sponsor keyword streams or use pay per click advertising tactics to drive conversations away from thought leaders, influencers, and individual personal brands?  Or should I be excited, flattered, and just continue on my way?  And should I connect with HireVue directly or should they engage me after they read this post?  I’m interested in hearing what you think so leave a comment or two or three below . . .

**Update as of 4/3/2012:  My Twitter stream is being dominated again by once again another vendor in the HR space.  @bountyjobs boasts 812 followers and has 188 tweets.  Until you invest in social media and join the conversation, using these Twitter promotional tools are a waste of time IMO.  I’ve also included a screenshot of the new hijacking on this post.  Also be sure to check out the comments section.  This has generated a lot of discussion.  In related news today,  I helped guest co-moderate a new Twitter chat called #peoplechat hosted by HR service provider, People Clues.  With my help we had 459 tweets and 9.3 million impressions.  Yes, almost 9.3 MILLION impressions.  Influence is so much more useful when you actually stop and join the conversation.

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  1. Nope, that’s cheating. They’re doing it because enough of YOUR Audience is also a sakes target for them. If they don’t want to work with you, fine; but then they should be targeting the hashtag channels that audience plays in & not your twitter handle. It’s distastefully bad form on the part of their marketing department.

    1. Thanks, Crystal. It is my hard work. I realize that Twitter owns and controls the platform so in reality they can do pretty much whatever they want. That’s the reason on the Focus Roundtable I was so intent on sending people to my blog and it serving as the center of my marketing universe. This is the one platform I own and can control to the largest extent. Looking forward to seeing what others have to say.


  2. Are you sure it’s hijacking the conversation? I click on ads more than most people in my small circle of acquaintances but it’s never stopped me from engaging on a topic. If i click on an ad I always open it in a new tab, continue with what I was doing, and then skip over to the advertiser when I’m done. Probably most people are scrolling past the sponsored tweet anyway.

    You mitt ask other tweeters who have had their name targeted by advertisers if it hurt or helped their brand.

    Introspect a moment and ask yourself if you would have minded this last year when you weren’t offering sponsorships on this blog. Is it just the lost revenue that bothers you? Then let it go. Cast your bread on the waters and they will return to you with the natural current.

    1. Anna,

      I couldn’t think of a better word. It was 11 PM when I wrote this post and hijacking is what came to mind so I went with it. Yes, you click on ads with small circles of friends because it’s personal and that’s my point. People will associate me with a brand and they are benefiting from my brand without compensating me only Twitter.

      I still think I would have written the same blog post last year. I’ve been working towards where I am now for several years. Slow and steady wins the race. . .

      Thanks for your insights. I’ve put myself out there and will have to just get used to situations like this, I guess. Doesn’t mean I won’t blog about it along the way.


  3. Not that I have any insight on this, but Twitter allows advertisers to target keywords for advertising. As an advertiser, you can target whole communities and have your promoted tweets show up. And you accept this advertising when you sign up for twitter as a user. It’s part of the TOC. You agreed to have yourself — and anything related to any words you used — advertised to.

    You can run some ads yourself and learn about it:

    Maybe it’s not you, JMM, but the #HR #blogger #SXSW #TNL community that was being targeted — just like AARP Jobs advertises on #HRHAPPYHOUR and Raytheon Jobs advertises on #TLNTransform.

    Someone was trying to circulate a white paper, last week, and it kept coming up under my own searches. That’s not hijacking — that’s targeted advertising. I was flattered. You should probably be flattered — and not assume you know anything about Twitter’s algorithms. And if you want to bid on #blogging4jobs, go do it. Outbid them. That’s not cheating. That’s capitalism.

    I am so impressed with you, JMM. You have an audience and you are part of a community — and Twitter’s algorithm recognizes your success. Good job.

    1. Thanks, Laurie. Appreciate the comment. And that’s my dilema because I think I would recommend the same thing to a client. Of course it’s always a little different when it hits home. I’m interested to see as the discussion on here progresses.


      1. NASCAR advertises to NASCAR fans. Pepsi advertises to people who drink soda. Why shouldn’t any HR vendor advertise to HR professionals? The word hijack is a wrong. Nobody is breaking into your Twitter stream and stealing your words. They seem to be advertising against keywords.

        And again, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I advertised as a joke at TLNT transform because I was sick of seeing AARP tweets in my timeline. So I spent $200 and advertised myself! You can do it, too.

        And FYI HireVue is actually a David in this scenario. They are small. Nimble. Snagged amazing talent and won product of the year by beating the Goliath-ish practices of old recruiting companies.

        This whole thing just feels off to me, JMM. Sorry. But I’m looking forward to seeing you tonight!

        1. Nope, Laurie. You are entitled to your opinion. This conversation is the exact reason I posted it here. Appreciate your insights but compared to me, HireVue is the Goliath. I’m a party of three at Xceptional HR.


  4. I’d be infuriated, it IS cheating & I say protect your domicile! It is your brand and you’ve done a tremendous job developing it! Perhaps we (your loyal friends & followers) should lead a tweet-revolt? I’m pretty sure there are plenty of folks this would upset. I’ll start by sharing the tweet that led me to this post! 😉

    1. @Darrell, Let’s hold off on lighting fires and carrying torches just yet. I’m wanting to debate this a bit. This issue is something that companies and individuals are now faced with as the average person can gain a foothold and become a subject matter expert or famous through the power of the internet.

      Appreciate your comment. Thanks for reading and for sharing.


      1. Lol, I’m not going to burn anyone at the stake here, it just hit as unsettling to me. My tweet-revolt comment was of pure sarcasim. I see the “advertising” perspective, as William pointed out. This makes great sense, but I’m one of ethical stance and my perception is one of endearment, I suppose: Upon reading your initial excerpt it struck me as an immoral benefit at your laborous hands! In further consideration, and after reading the other posts herein, I too believe it’s probably best to consider it a grand compliment! To coin the phrase, (and no disrespect intended) they’re “skirt-tailing” , AND paying for it… I do like David’s idea of twitter-compensation however! Keep up the good work!!

  5. How can I get in on some of that sweet AARP action?

    Actually I think it is kind of neat when those sponsored ads show up. I think the folks at TLNT have done some of that on certain keywords or hashtags as well. It in a way validates the medium.

    1. Steve,

      Yes, I agree with you. It does validate things but let’s just say I had $15,000 to spend and started working with Twitter for promotional and targeted ads. Let’s just say that’s it’s me an individual doing the targeted marketing using my @blogging4jobs account and I started using the #hrhappyhour, #hrevolution, or #fot hash tag to drive conversations and traffic. Would this change your feelings in any way? I would take it extremely personal because we know each other and I like to think are friends. These are untested waters, and I’m not completely sure how I feel about things just yet.

      Thanks for commenting and leaving your POV. TLNT as has ERE has done great things for our space in providing news, information, and an outlet for individuals to share their thoughts and opinions. I wouldn’t have the blog I have today without them.


  6. I don’t think it is cheating or wrong in any way… moreover, I know the people at HireVue… they would never do anything that was remotely close to swarmy… I think Laurie was spot on with her analysis… be flattered and move on… that said, I do think this is an important public discussion… thanks for kickstarting us…

    Lastly, who the hell clicks ads? I haven’t clicked a banner ad (in whatever jacknot system) since 1998… but then again, I’m prolly not their intended audience…

    1. So here’s my issue with this – and I’m totally open to being wrong, William… but why not just target the hashtags that Jessica’s audience is using as opposed to her Twitter handle. How is that different really than when marketers used to keyword Celebrity names?? THAT didn’t go over well at all – and, it’s not looking like it’s going to go over well in the “Sponsored Stories” that have similar lawsuits pending (both types recently survived motions to dismiss).

      If I’m looking up Tom Cruise or Sandra Bullock on Twitter (I’m not, but if I WERE to); then it’s reasonable to assume I’m doing it to find information on Sandra Bullock or Tom Cruise. Not a 3rd party company trying to market something to me. Which is what happened in Jessica’s story.

      The next step is actually using the “Keyword” (also known as Jessica’s actual Twitter Handle) within the tweet without the @ sign. Is that okay? Where’s the line?? “Like [Insert Company Name here] Like Tom Cruise!” – they didn’t actually SAY Tom Cruise liked the company – but the two are inextricably linked. Maybe I’m going a step far in this – but it seems a slippery slope to me.

      I agree Hirevue folks are good people – I like the ones I have been able to talk with, etc – and I like the company. This does, however, seem like an end-run around using Jessica directly to reach her audience… and that seems like bad form to me… just like the examples above. Good companies can make well-intentioned mistakes; I think this might be one of them (but I’m a relatively small fish in a very smart pond of bigger fishes here; so take it for whatever it’s worth!)….


  7. Just as a disclaimer, ERE has run these ads before. I have no idea how it works beyond the basics. Still, I think you’re looking at it incorrectly.

    Twitter sponsorship is a small part of the pie. I feel like it is better than an advertiser hitting a stream multiple times with the same message. It stays at the top, leaves the stream spam free and helps subsidize the free use of Twitter.

    I know our sales team has used the stream advertisers to find new sponsors and the pitch is simple: How many people are using keyword searches on Twitter on a daily basis? I’m sure there are enough but we know we can offer better reach in our industries to a broader base of professionals.

    So use it as a leads list. These are companies that have money to spend in your target demo and they are aware of the importance of social media. I don’t think anything replaces a Twitter sponsorship but there is certainly a ton that is complimentary to it.

  8. I’ve gotten more calls and emails on this blog post so clearly its a lot of good discussion. Where do we draw the line? Maybe we should ask Brian Boitono? He seems to always know the answer. Better idea, I’ll tweet him directly. 🙂


  9. Hi Jessica:
    Another company hijacking (or “using”) your “blogging4jobs” as sponsored keywords doesn’t seem right to me. My first thought was … “Can they do that?” Based on the comments, it seems like they can, but is it the right thing to do? It’s interesting to follow the discussion and learn more about this dilemma.

      1. I’m glad you like the phrase swagger jacking but I can’t take the credit. I believe Jay-Z or Kanye West said that in one of their songs. It fits your situation because they jacked your swag;)

  10. Would it possible (and/or beneficial) to trademark your twitter handle? I’ve watched you build this from the ground up and would hate to see it get snaked from you!

    1. Thanks for the comment Doug. I appreciate it. I’m not sure that trademarking is the right idea. I want people to engage me on the social medias. This has been an interesting dialogue here though.


  11. Swagger Jackin’ is so lame! They need to respect Jessica’s blood, sweat and tears she put into this blog. I’m going to share this on all my social networks. Jessica continue doing what you do because we learn so much from you. They need to show you the money! JCJ

  12. All the discussion here has been fascinating and I still have a couple more calls to return as result of this post. Apparently, things like this are common place when it comes to the HR technology industry and I will soon be looking forward to companies also using Google Ads when someone searches my name and the blog’s name, Blogging4Jobs.

    Thank you for the fantastic discussion. I’m looking forward hearing more about your position, POV, and insights.


  13. I had stayed out of this conversation because I was eager to see how others would comment.

    Now, having just returned from The ERE Expo in San Diego, I feel a need to drop a line or two here.

    Jessica’s Twitter Stream WAS, indeed hijacked, stolen, borrowed without asking, taken for granted, and used for the purposes of promotion. She has been developing a following for years and given the size of that following, one could say “her work has paid off.”

    Here’s what I saw at ERE: iCims sponsored the Twitter Stream at ERE. They obviously asked for permission and ERE obviously charged them for their sponsorship of the stream – whether or not it was part of the Twitter rules, this happened. Why? Because iCims saw value in doing so. They knew there would be much activity on Twitter and they knew that ERE and Dave Manaster would be a great partner in this endeavor.

    Do you think for one minute that iCims would have done so without asking for permission or getting permission from ERE? This is a courtesy, it is the responsible thing to do…

    I would NEVER think to take somebody’s name, the name of their business, and use it to my advantage without expecting a repercussion of some kind. Or without at least the tip of the hat… Seriously?

    Come on, if HireVue had thought they were in the right, they would never have removed the sponsored tweet at the top of the stream and they would have defended their right to continue to use JESSICA’s NAME to promote their own brand. Their post-behavior says everything about whether or not they thought it was right, because, ultimately they knew it was wrong….

    HireVue has 1,738 followers, Jessica has over 106,000. Do the math.

  14. It is galling that somebody can so easily exploit your brand to promote themselves, but as the saying goes, if you aren’t paying for the service, *you* are the commodity. The practice is becoming quite common, and you aren’t the only “victim”. There is a cure for Las Vegas hangovers that comes up during the Recruiting Animal Show. Although that one seems quite fitting. The practice isn’t limited to twitter, either. A resume writing firm in Toronto uses the names of all their competitors to buy click-ads. I click their ads whenever I see them. Revenge is sweet (okay, and slightly petty).

    1. Hi Karen,

      I told Recruiting Animal today that his a dog biscuit company was sponsoring his stream on Twitter today. Doesn’t mean I have to like it. I feel like if we don’t discuss these kinds of things, everyone will assume these kind of things are okay without question. Personally, I’m enjoying the debate.

      Thank you for the comment.


    2. I LOVE that. Each click-thru – it costs them! But you are right, a common practice that competitors even do in Press Releases. Ho-Hum. Still doesn’t make it right.
      I am just dumbfounded that it happens.

  15. @William, sage comments – and agreed, the folks at HireVue are classy people, and are so not into branding themselves at the expense of others.. They don’t need to. They have an excellent name and Reputation..

    I think that they were utilizing a common phrase used in the social media world, especially in the employment industry – blogging for jobs. Considering that it is on Twitter, which limits their words, and that they are using a hashtag – dont’ think that there is anymore to it than that..

    1. Given they have chosen “Blogging4Jobs” specifically and not “blogging for jobs” – you are wrong, Karen. There is nothing innocent or unknowing going on here. While they may be great companies with great people working for them – and I agree – they have CLEARLY taken advantage of the following Jessica has worked for years to build.

  16. I just don’t know what to think of this. I’m going to have to really give it some thought. I really appreciate this post, JMM, and I appreciate Laurie’s informative comments, but I love how Ray-Anne has weighed in. My first instinct is that the real villain here is Twitter. There are many things about capitalism that leave me wanting. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want any of the alternatives, but this is a consequence of the economic system in which we live; literally people capitalizing upon the success of others. I think you should email this post to PT and ask her opinion. Jess, as you know, I take a lot of pictures – primarily of OKC subjects. I always find my pictures swiped and put on a FB pages of for-profit companies. They never give me credit or a link. They never even acknowledge the post in which the photo appeared. These people need to go back to Kindergarten and learn manners. I offer almost all my photos under the CC license with attribution. I do it as a hobby, b/c I love it and I love to share. You’re someone who loves to share, too. It’s why you are so successful. Keep digging deep within the bounty you’ve been given; keep pulling out the best. We’re all better for it. You’ve brought to light a kind of ugly issue. This is your offering to us today. It will be interesting to see how this fleshes out. In the spirit of ruthless self promotion (ha!) you should coin the word for this practice. Not blogjacking, but something like that. This will only make you more famous, more of an authority and further solidify you as a thought leader. Hugs!!

    1. Thanks, Jen for the insights.

      This conversation comes with the territory. First, I will say that I am surprised more by the amount of private conversations I have gotten as a result of this post. People have a hard time publicly sticking their neck out for fear others would look down on them or think differently.

      These kind of things will likely continue so I will have to get over it and just be flattered as was mentioned earlier. It’s similar to how I feel about content scrapers and what you describe, Jen with your pictures. It still doesn’t feel 100% right but this is life, right?

      It’s funny that you say blame, Twitter. They are the foundation in so much of what I do and what my book is about. It’s like Liz Strauss explained to me. This social media thing is just like when the car was invented. There were no norms, laws, or basis foundation of how to drive. No speed limits, turn signals were used or even developed. Establishing these took time as with social media it is the same way.

      Thank you again for your comment. I miss you.


      1. The problem is – it IS the Wild West, no laws, no rules, no guidelines, except those written by US – the early adopters. So, you can expect a lot of shoot outs. Keep your weapons loaded and the safeties off people. We gain nothing if we never put our necks out and take risks.


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