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How to use brand safety tools to protect your brand’s reputation


Operating on social media without brand safety tools is like browsing the internet without malware protection. Technically, you can do it—but it opens you up to unnecessary risks and incidents that can cause financial loss and permanent reputational damage.

Brand safety has traditionally been relegated to just protecting brands from advertising on or near inappropriate content online. But it also encompasses monitoring your organic content and what people are saying about your brand on social, and scoping out imposters or other security threats.

Keep reading for actionable ways you can use brand safety tools and examples of effective tools that will help you minimize risk on social.

What are brand safety tools?

Brand safety tools are automated solutions that protect your brand from threats on social media and other digital channels, including major reputational risks such as your ads appearing alongside distasteful content.

A gold graphic that reads: What are brand safety tools? Automated solutions that provide your brand with threat protection on social media and other digital channels.

Brand safety tools can also track conversations about your company online: They monitor what people are commenting on your posts and ads, how your brand hashtags are being used and the discourse surrounding your brand.

With this intel on hand, you are empowered to respond to reputational risks before they become a full-blown crisis, and expand the breadth of your corporate communications strategy.

4 ways to use brand safety tools to protect your reputation

Here are specific ways you can use a range of brand safety tools to preserve your brand’s reputation.

1. Use the built-in brand safety tools for each social network

Your first line of defense against your branded ads appearing alongside offensive content includes the in-platform tools provided by the major social networks. Factor them into your social media advertising strategy to minimize risk and maximize the impact of your campaigns.

  • Meta platforms: Meta offers several brand safety controls that work across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. These features allow you to choose the level of control over where your ad appears. Placements can be restricted by content topic, format and source.
  • Twitter: Twitter’s Brand Safety Marketing Collection offers both technical and general advice on how to keep your brand safe on the network. These features allow you to keep Twitter a safe place for your brand and community.
  • YouTube: In 2022, YouTube received content-level brand safety accreditation from the Media Rating Council for the second year in a row. Their continued accreditation speaks to the many initiatives Google has taken to ensure advertisers get the most out of their investments in the network. YouTube’s brand safety features are consistent with those available through Google search and display ads.
  • TikTok: TikTok launched its Brand Safety Center to provide marketers with up-to-date news and recommendations on brand suitability within the network. As its footprint in the social media landscape grows, the TikTok team has been hard at work creating brand safety solutions within their ad platform including the TikTok Inventory Filter and some pre- and post-bid safety tools.
A screenshot of Adidas' video ad featuring WNBA star, Candace Parker. The screenshot is zoomed in on Parker's face as she looks down at something out of frame. Text across the screen reads: Candace

Adidas’ recent campaign is a brand safety success story. The retailer used TikTok to highlight its partnership with basketball star Candace Parker. To deliver the message, Adidas wanted to make sure the ad campaign would be surrounded by content suitable for the brand “without sacrificing scale or performance.” By using the TikTok Inventory Filter brand safety solution, Adidas could reach their audience without compromising their brand values. The campaign received 57 million impressions, a 99.9% brand safety rate and a 99.9% brand suitability rate.

2. Use social listening to see what people are saying about your brand online

Social listening helps you keep a pulse on what people are saying about your brand online, even when you aren’t tagged or mentioned. This intel gives you the audience insights you need to create a customer-centric social strategy. And, if a brand crisis emerges, listening reveals “the why” behind negative feedback to help you understand the root cause.

Social listening allows you to:

  • Monitor brand sentiment to get ahead of a crisis.
  • Analyze how people respond to your organic posts and paid ads in one place.
  • Track branded hashtags and related keywords.
  • Find and address copycat or impersonation accounts and other security threats.

You can complete a social listening exercise today to find out if there are any risks you should be aware of. Mind you, if an unexpected emergency does come up, manual social listening might not be proactive or extensive enough.

With a tool like Sprout’s AI-powered social listening solution, the platform does the heavy lifting for you, sifting through millions of data points to deliver the trends, insights and key learnings you need in seconds.

A screenshot of a Listening Performance Sentiment Summary in Sprout. It depicts percentage of positive sentiment and changes in sentiment trends over time.

You’re enabled to track unfiltered conversations about business-critical topics, like how people are reacting to your latest ad campaign, product launch or social responsibility initiative. For example, you can view brand sentiment trends at a glance within the platform, which helps you visualize how people are reacting to your brand in real time.

To see it in action, read how the Atlanta Hawks use social listening to track relevant keywords and hashtags related to their campaigns, and use the data to demonstrate the organization-wide impact of their efforts.

3. Monitor message activity and frequency to stay ahead of a crisis

Your social inboxes are like a vital sign that measures your brand health. For the most part, an average volume of messages means things are business as usual. But an unexpected spike can be cause for concern. It could indicate a PR disaster is on the horizon or has already arrived.

Manually monitoring incoming messages 24/7 is unrealistic, which is why having a tool that monitors message activity and notifies you of a sudden influx is imperative to stay ahead of a crisis.

Take Message Spike Alert notifications connected to Sprout’s Smart Inbox. When incoming messages across your social platforms exceed the hourly average, you immediately get email or mobile push notifications. Plus, you can customize the tool’s sensitivity settings to ensure the protocol is appropriate for your team.

A screenshot from Sprout's platform that demonstrates message spike detection. In the screenshot, the Smart Inbox features a message alert that reads: We started detecting a spike 5 minutes ago.

Curious how real brands use this feature? Read more about how Allegiant Air depends on the Smart Inbox to stay alert to incoming messages. In two years, they were able to increase their message response rate by 77% and bolster engagements by 2.6 million.

4. Use employee advocacy tools to reduce risk from in-house posts

Something we believe wholeheartedly at Sprout is that a brand’s employees are its greatest superpower. When your employees share your content, they amplify your reach and give you a powerful endorsement. However, even the most well-meaning employees can tip public favor against you by saying the wrong thing.

By using an employee advocacy tool, you empower your employees by providing them with pre-approved social messages to share. These message ideas help you maintain a consistent brand voice and enable your employees to comply with your brand guidelines. To that end, you’re able to restrict the available social networks your content can be shared on, too—decreasing your risk of liability even further.

A screenshot of Sprout's Employee Advocacy platform where a post is being curated for employees to share.

Sprout’s Employee Advocacy platform enables you to put all your shareable content in one place so employees can quickly and easily post to their social networks. Whether your goal is to drive brand awareness, generate leads or attract top talent, advocacy can make a measurable impact, while reducing the risks that come with employees’ individual social media use.

Read how our Advocacy platform helped Vizient transform their awareness strategy during COVID, triple their impressions and make thought leadership accessible to their employees—all while minimizing risks to their brand.

Effective brand safety solutions

To get started crisis-proofing your brand, learn more about these brand safety tools and how they can help you face (and overcome) common threats.

1. Sprout Social

Sprout Social is a powerful solution for social media management. And, as we mention throughout this article, our platform improves your brand safety on social with automated tools and processes.

A screenshot of Sprout's Performance Summary tool which demonstrates key metrics (like volume, engagements and impressions) related to a Topic.

To recap, you can use Sprout to:

  • Quickly gauge public perception of your brand and products, and proactively monitor emerging risks.
  • Stay alert to increases in message volume that could indicate crises, time-sensitive events and other urgent situations.
  • Centralize all your shareable content into one secure place and provide pre-approved, shareable social messages to your employees—reducing risk, while helping you make huge impacts on your social performance.

Ready to put your brand’s safety first? Start using Sprout’s intuitive platform to dig into conversations about your brand online and monitor your inbound messages today with a free 30-day trial.

While Sprout can cover many important brand safety and reputational needs, here are a few other targeted solutions you can consider to round out your strategy.

2. Proofpoint

Proofpoint is a threat-protection solution that fortifies brands and data against cyber attacks. On social, their Digital Risk Protection tool provides real-time security features for branded accounts.

You can use it to:

  • Search accounts by image to discover brand misuse.
  • Scan for fraudulent and brand protest accounts.
  • Receive alerts for risky accounts that require takedown or legal review.
  • Send automated alerts to internal stakeholders when risky accounts are detected.

3. Adobe Analytics

Adobe Advertising Cloud Brand Safety Tools deliver industry-leading solutions that ensure your ads display in the best possible light. With these tools, the computer software company goes beyond creativity and enters the world of brand safety and security.

Adobe tools protect your brand by:

  • Detecting and mitigating faulty inventory.
  • Identifying and preventing fraud, brand violations and suboptimal viewing.
  • Ensuring you only pay for meaningful media placements.

4. Zefr

Zefr enables digital advertising effectiveness, while ensuring brand and social responsibility values are upheld in the world’s largest platforms (i.e., Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest).

This leader in brand suitability allows you to:

  • Activate and measure brand suitability according to industry-leading Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) standards.
  • Enable brand-suitable advertising efforts and precise activation.

Make brand safety part of your workflow

Incorporating brand safety solutions into your workflow will strengthen your brand and prevent reputational risks from morphing into serious business damage. Because what happens on social doesn’t stay on social. An event like your ad appearing alongside distasteful content could be devastating, as 49% of consumers say their perception of a brand is negatively affected when it’s presented next to offensive posts.

And that’s only scratching the surface of the brand safety risks you face today. Negative customer feedback could spiral into a full-blown crisis, an employee could accidentally share proprietary knowledge, the list goes on and on.

To continue your efforts to protect your brand, download our corporate communication plan template to help you keep up with the many risks in social’s changing landscape and chart a clear path forward.

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