Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 00.46.36After the last few days of speculations and allegations of copyright infringement against Linda Ikeji by Emmanuel Efremov, the news that reached us this evening was Google had taken action and shut down Linda Ikeji’s blog. While there will doubtless be countless discussion on and off social media for the foreseeable future as to what really went wrong and what Ikeji, Nigeria’s queen of blogging, will do next, we should also shed light on what this situation highlights about proper branding, and perhaps lack there of in many sectors of Nigerian fashion and entertainment.

Working on publicity and branding at S TWO Media, the first advice we give new and potential clients is to ensure they lock down all cyber real estate. Say, you personal brand name is Joe Blogg, you need to make sure that @JoeBlogg is registered to you or your company across all social networks (even those you are unlikely to use actively) and you own the joeblogg.com domain, of if it is taken, as similar a variation of the name as possible. Such a move at an early stage of a brand’s existence not only builds a certain level of trust for the brand by those it is setting out to do business with, but it also protects the brand against any future incidences of cyber-squatting where you will need to go through long-winded procedures to claim your brand name from someone who has either unwittingly, or worse knowingly, been squatting on or claiming your brand name.

One of our recent clients was adamant in ensuring their brand name was registered across all platforms. Upon discovering that their domain name was already taken by different individuals on different social platforms, upon our consultation, they decided on a name as similar to the original domain name and branded all their social media channels, regardless of how soon they wanted to activate each. The result? The brand has a consistent name and image across all platforms supporting and enhancing brand identity.

Similarly, last year backstage at Lagos Fashion and Design Week, after taking a picture of Nigerian photographer and publisher Kelechi Amadi Obi, I remember asking him if he was on Instagram. He was not yet active but he was quick to explain he had already registered his name before any Timi, Dike or Hassan could get in there and claim his personal brand. A year on, Kelechi is now active on social media, having ensured that even through long months of no posts, he had full control of this social media. A savvy move for any businessman or creative who has a personal brand to protect.

As savvy as some businesses and individuals are there are equally those who are slow on the cyber uptake, leaving brands wide open to misrepresentation online. For any clued up creative or business owner like aforementioned, I can give you ten examples of those who are not. Take the fashion entrepreneur who has to change their YouTube password or set up a new account each time an intern leaves and hijacks the password or the publication which has three different accounts on one social platform simply because people have moved on taking the password with them and those that have come in have started new accounts. Just imagine how bad it looks for a brand when you search for their name on a social platform and three different accounts come up?

“How does this all tie in with the Linda Ikeji saga?” I hear you ask. How can it not?

Linda Ikeji is a businesswoman we love and admire and she has worked hard to get to where she is today in the top echelons of the Nigerian media. However, it is sad that a businesswoman of her acumen and intelligence has for such a long time continued to run her blog like a one-woman business despite the resources she has. I recall a conversation with her about two years ago when I had asked her for her logo for a media partnership and her answers was simply, “I don’t have one but feel free just to put my name there on the banner, that’s what they all do.” Keen to get it right, I had asked her if she wanted media partners to use a particular font or colour, and yet again she came back with, “Choose what you want.”

I went ahead with it and picked as similar a font and style as possible to what could represent her blog, but even then it irked me for a businesswoman whose name had become a brand in her own right to be so carefree with her brand to tell someone to “choose what you want.” Just imagine the power you are giving someone by telling them to “choose” and make decisions for your brand. It still baffles me to date why a brand like Linda Ikeji would not have a logo – a consistent brand image representing her brand on and offline. Seeing these days anyone can get a logo for as little as £5 and Linda Ikeji recently treated herself to N24million Range Rover Sport, it clearly isn’t an issue of money.

Likewise, i have always been baffled by Linda running her platform on Blogger. Each time I have visited her blog over the years, I have always imagined how much snazzier it would look on her own domain with an individual sleek design away from the tacky Blogspot backgrounds. Design aesthetics aside, had Linda moed her blog on to her domain, today we would not be discussing the issue of Google closing down her blog. Yes, she may have had legal matter to attend over the allegations but she would have had full control of her blog which is the whole essence of branding and owning cyber real estate: having control over your brand online so no one, not even Google can mess with it.

Sadly, many small businesses not just in Nigeria, but across Africa, suffer from what I refer to as “one-man business syndrome.” You know the ones where the CEO is emailing you from a Yahoo account as the business does not have a domain, or it has a domain but the emails have not been set up, or a designer with 20 years of experience give you a Facebook page as their website, or the manager is telling you they have not been able to send you the images you requested as they do not know how to send large files… And the list goes on. And sadly many of these small businesses die along with the CEO as they have never looked beyond the daily hustle and gain.

As Linda Ikeji moves on from this unfortunate turn of events and takes legal action, I can only hope she will take this experience as a lesson and not only take the necessary steps to secure her brand on and offline but also make the move to turn her website from a one-woman-business to the media empire it deserves to be. I also hope that other entrepreneurs, in whatever sector they work in, take away from this the most important lesson about owning, registering and protecting your online brand as prudently as they can: Own it from the start or lose it overnight.

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