I appeared to have uncovered a worrying level of brand cybersquatting of one of the UK's most recognised high street chains.
It all came about following a visit to a Bristol branch of the Costa Coffee this afternoon which led to this blog post. As is usual nowadays I turned to Twitter to see if the company has a presence. It took me seconds to find @CostaCoffee and @Costa_Coffee_UK. The first was registered in October 2008 and has made one tweet. It is followed by over 1,000 people and is included on 37 Twitter lists. The latter has many less followers but has been much more active in its tweeting. Here are a selection, two of which are pretty shocking:
A company spokesperson has confirmed to me that both accounts are unofficial. Why on earth are they still online then?! The @CostaCoffee account was registered nearly two years ago and the potentially brand damaging comments about "slave grown" bananas and drug-laden coffee beans were posted around two months ago!
If my message to the spokesperson is the first time the company has heard about these accounts it is a pretty shocking state of affairs. All I did to find the accounts was type 'Costa Coffee Twitter' into Google. No sophisticated brand monitoring tools required! Despite being a consumer-facing brand with branches across the UK, this is one company that clearly has a lot to learn about the new world of social media!
It turns out the spokesperson I spoke to who works for an external agency can't definitely confirm the status of the two accounts. He has told me to get in touch with the internal Costa Coffee press office. I have.
UPDATED (13:35 25/05/10)
I've just clicked on @Costa_Coffee_UK and guess what happens?
So it appears Costa Coffee has finally recognised it is victim of brand hijacking! Was it because of my blog post? Possibily. I can't say whether it definitely is because Costa's press office still hasn't got in touch with me to discuss the issue. I will keep trying.
About Dan Martin
Dan Martin has 10 years experience as a journalist writing about entrepreneurs and the issues that affect them.
After three years working as a researcher for Sky News, he joined BusinessEurope.com as a reporter. This was followed by two years working as news editor for Startups.co.uk during which time Dan also contributed to Growing Business magazine. In 2006, he joined Sift Media as business editor before being promoted to editor of BusinessZone.co.uk. He also has responsibility for UK Business Forums, the UK’s most active online forums for small business entrepreneurs. In addition, Dan founded The Pitch, BusinessZone.co.uk's nationwide competition for small business owners. He host the grand finals in 2009 and 2010 in front of an audience of 300.
As well as interviewing many entrepreneurs, Dan has written content for leading business organisations such as the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, British Chambers of Commerce, Forum of Private Business, Investors in People and Business Link for London. Among the publications that have quoted Dan are The Times, Mail On Sunday, Financial Times, Personnel Today and Bristol Evening Post. His articles have also been published by publications including eGov Monitor, Virgin Express in-flight magazine and Personal Success.
Dan regularly speaks at events about small business and social media issues. Among the events he has presented at are the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies' annual conference, Learning Technologies, Publishing Expo and World of Learning. He has also chaired high profile debates featuring senior representatives from Business Link and the Federation of Small Businesses and Dragons' Den judge James Caan.
Dan was named the 10th most influential political blogger on Twitter by the Independent and won the public award for best B2B tweeter at the Golden Twits 2010. He also organised the Bristol Twestival, part of a global Twitter driven charity initiative, in February 2009 and March 2010. Volunteers from 175 cities around the world organised events using the social network. In total, $350,000 was raised for charity: water in 2009 and $500,000 for Concern in 2010. In Bristol, £1,500 and £5,600 was raised.