Week 12: Social Media Policy & the Legal Fun Stuff!

Hey folks!

We’ll have a busy class this Monday!

We’ll lead with outstanding scandal presentations, head into the lecture on Social Media Policy, Copyright, and Trademark Infringement, then I’ll leave you with some final thoughts on best-practices.

This week we are going to talk about something a little less flashy than scandals, but a potentially strong strategic guideline for content development: policy and the legal side of social media.

Let’s start with policy.  When managing social media for organizations at some point we have to discuss “policy”.   Policy is a fancy way of saying we’re going to create a document or set of guidelines that articulate a course of action and behaviour.

Some presentations in class have already demonstrated that without policy, social media can be scandalous.  Recall HMV, Epicurious, Senator Wiener, etc.  If policies were in place governing how social media is used and by whom, these scandals could have been avoided.

When discussing policy, we take a step back from specific technologies and think about the overarching issues of managing what kind of content we produce and share.  Content is generally guided by organizational goals, campaign objectives, brand positioning etc.  But sometimes organizations need some rules around the kind of content that can be posted and shared.  This helps guide employee behaviour, and protects both the employer and staff 🙂

Developing policies

The Canadian Business Network has laid out a guide for small business and entrepreneurs to develop social media policies.  It provides a great overview, especially for entrepreneurs.

This Mashable article provides some ideas about building a social media training program for staff.  It really outlines a comprehensive approach to developing a social media policy/program.  Educating staff and team members is essential for engagement and effective use of social media.  If education and engagement is not secured (especially from top administrators or managers) it will be difficult (if not impossible) to develop policies, let alone enforce them.  Getting people to agree to policy development requires everyone to relinquish control of what happens in conversations online. That can be a challenging concept, but keep in mind – hyperlinks subvert hierarchy!   

Hubspot has posted an article looking at 5 Noteworthy Examples of Corporate Policy that provide great suggestions to managing corporate social accounts.  

What else needs to be in a social media policy?  This article outlines the “10 Must Haves” and gives social marketers some food for thought on what we ought to consider.  A London based web development company created “Policy Tool” a site that generates social media policy.  It asks a series of questions to help determine your best policy.

Policies should also include how the social media plans will be executed. Generally a good approach to drafting policy includes building social capital by actively engaging with your constituents on social media through reciprocal communication, providing something useful (communications with customers, fun contests, etc.) Understanding and following the culture of your chosen social media tool is also important; people behave differently on Facebook than they do on Twitter. It is important to build trust with your followers by showing the organization’s “human” side. Make sure that status updates matter to your followers, and that they “get” something out of your posts.

Demonstrating that you are aware of good policy, are able to craft it and abide by it will make you invaluable to your Manager. 

Policy assessment and evaluation

Generally we focus on evaluating the needs of your audience and balancing their needs with the goal of the organization.  Then we share and create appropriate content simply by observing how our audience responds (recall our analytics lecture)

Policies and evaluation decisions should always be tied to data. You might learn, for example, that your followers/audience don’t care about a blog with links to more information about your organization’s products or services, but a Facebook post gets active engagement.  That might suggest a policy outlining the kind of content you share on your blog and facebook, and the percentage of time a social media coordinator would spend on each platform.

The legal fun stuff 

Copyright and trademark infringement are two legal definitions you need to be aware of in social media marketing.

The Canadian Copyright Act exists to protect against unauthorized copying and certain uses of an “original expression.”  We’ll get into what “original expression” means in our class discussion. One thing you should know though, is that copyright is automatic. In fact, the blog post is copyrighted.  Any academic essay you’ve ever written is copyrighted and protected by the Copyright Act.

I’ll discuss the highlights of the Canadian Copyright Act and the most applicable parts to marketing and communication.  We’ll discuss the four concepts of “expression”, the usefulness (or not) of protecting, borrowing, and limiting expression.  Feel free to flip through the Act or bookmark the page so you can reference it ongoing.

Trademark and trademark infringement are fairly straight forward concepts. Trademark law provides protection for distinctive marks, certification marks, distinguishing guises, and proposed marks against those who appropriate the goodwill of the mark or create confusion between different vendors’ wares (i.e., goods) and services or both.  A “mark” can be a logo, symbol, design, image, or a combination of these elements.

The law of trademarks is designed to prevent competitors from confusing customers into thinking that they are buying products and services from a trusted, known source when in reality, this is not the case. It’s also meant to protect the integrity of the “brand”or “mark”.

Trademark is part of Intellectual Property Law – we won’t get into that, but if you want to check out some details about it, you can do that online.  We’ll discuss forms of trademark infringement, how to avoid it, and when you can “get away with it”, so to speak.


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