Archive for the ‘Social Media Tips’ Category

To Pin Or Not To Pin: How Businesses Can Use Pinterest And Reduce Their Legal Risks Of Copyright Infringement

href=""> class="alignright size-medium wp-image-6386" title="Red Thumbtack Pin Pinterest" src="" alt="Pinterest Legal Issues Copyright Infringement" width="300" height="300" />Go ahead.  Let yourself enjoy href="" target="_blank">Pinterest.  Pinterest is a pinboard styled social photo sharing website on which people can share what they find interesting and connect with people in the United States and abroad.  Relatively new, this social media network is extremely popular.  In August 2011, href=",28804,2087815_2088159_2088155,00.html" target="_blank">Time magazine listed Pinterest on its “50 Best Websites of 2011” column.  More recently, Mashable reported that Pinterest is a “top driver for retailers.”  Pinterest also has an app for iPhone, and a mobile website.  Consequently, it would be a shame for professionals and businesses to shy away from Pinterest because there are some copyright legal issues surrounding Pinterest.  However, businesses should use it by giving some thought to the images being pinned, and whether they have permission from the owner to use them, or, alternatively, believe they are protected by the “fair use” defense in the Copyright Act.

1.  style="text-decoration: underline;">Legal Challenges Facing Pinterest.

The idea behind Pinterest is to encourage users to surf the Internet and pin photos and material that they find interesting (translation:  sometimes the creative and copyright protected works of other people).   Pinterest explains the installation and use of its href="" target="_blank">“Pin It” button as follows:

“When you are browsing the web, push the “Pin In” button to pin an image.  Once installed in your browser, the ‘Pin It’ button lets you grab an image from any website and add it to one of your pinboards.  When you pin from a website, we automatically grab the source link so we can credit the original creator.”

Notably, these instructions do not say anything about paying a royalty to the original creator or getting their permission in advance to use their image on Pinterest.  It is therefore not surprising that some people are arguing that Pinterest may not qualify for the href="" target="_blank"> “Safe Harbor” provision of the DMCA (aka “DMCA 512”) which shields website operators from copyright infringement when they are passive infringers who have taken certain steps to qualify for the safe harbor, and have not encouraged the alleged copyright infringement.

The other story circulating on the Internet concerns Pinterest’s href="" target="_blank">terms of use.   Pinterest states that users agree not to infringe, violate or otherwise interfere with any copyright or trademark of another party, and that the user will indemnify Pinterest for any  costs and attorneys’ fees from any claims.  This term of use can be found on virtually all social networking sites, and, if it has been omitted, then that site may want to update its terms of use.  Less standard, is Pinterest’s reported practice of automatically uploading and keeping in its collection (whether you later delete the image or not) a version of the image to Pinterest.

Pinterest seems to understand it has a problem.  It is offering an opt out system which puts the onus on website owners to create code to prevent their content from being pinned.  This is not a very good solution.

2.  style="text-decoration: underline;">Ways To Use Pinterest For The Benefit Of Your Business, And Reduce The Legal Risks.

Setting aside Pinterest’s possible legal problems, your business can still benefit from Pinterest.  However, your business should do so with some thought behind the legal risks.  In deciding what to pin on your online bulletin board, your business should make an informed decision on whether you want to post only material for which you have permission from the owner, or have first worked through a site such as Creative Commons, or sites that use it, including Flickr and Google.  Alternatively, you may be willing to try and use someone else’s picture, image, drawing, or art (all of which are entitled to copyright protection), and argue that it is a fair use.

The fair use defense allows use of the original work, if the purpose for using the copyrighted work is for the purpose of fair and reasonable criticism.  Some examples of fair use in the preamble to Section 107 include:  “purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research.”  Federal courts usually decide fair use issues by considering the four listed (but not exclusive) factors in Section 107:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for profit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole (with Pinterest pinning, this would usually mean the entire original work but maybe with the size reduced); and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

In applying the first factor, courts will treat parody and comedic use as “criticism” or “comment” but it needs to be a comment on the original work.  Thus, borrowing a song and playing around with the words to make it funny is not necessarily a fair use if it is not being done to make fun of the song itself.  For the second factor, not yet published works would receive more protection than an out of print book.

The fourth factor is generally considered to be the most important of the four factors.  This is because href="" target="_blank">copyright law is designed to provide an economic incentive for new creative works.  A secondary use that threatens this incentive is less likely to be considered a fair use.  Thus, in the context of taking and using someone’s art, courts are likely to look at whether the post on Pinterest supplants the market for the original.  In other words, are people less likely to contact the owner to license her art.  The copyright issue surrounding Pinterest is another example of how businesses can benefit from giving some thought to the href="" target="_blank">legal issues surrounding their social media presence.

How is your business using Pinterest?  Do you find Pinterest helpful for improving your brand, or increasing your sales revenues?  Have any of the legal concerns surrounding Pinterest resulted in you getting off of Pinterest as some businesses have done?

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, her affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives her permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author.

id="author-bio-box"> alt='' src='' class='avatar avatar-80 photo' height='80' width='80' /> class="author-name"> Michelle Sherman  ( href="">3 Posts)

This monthly Social Media and the Law column is contributed by Michelle Sherman. Michelle is Of Counsel at Slater, Hersey & Lieberman LLP in Southern California where she is a litigation attorney representing businesses. Michelle also advises businesses on the legal issues surrounding the use of social media by them and their employees, and is the editor and author of

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Social Media meet Security. Security meet Social Media.

href=""> class="alignright size-medium wp-image-6347" title="Business confrontation" src="" alt="social media marketing online security" width="300" height="300" />Staring across the fence at each other

Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. Cobra and mongoose. Corporate marketing and security. These are examples of age-old adversaries constantly locked in battle. These days, that battle between marketing and security is showing itself most readily in the area of social media.

Smart corporate marketers have learned that social media isn’t a fad or a option: it’s a necessity. If you use social media, there’s no one in your organization (except maybe your legal group) who seems to have as different an outlook, purpose, approach and goals as your security group. You need to be nimble, flexible, and on the cutting edge. And when you talk with security it seems the word you most often hear is “no”. Between your security and legal groups, getting approvals for new social media initiatives may make you feel like a suspect on “Law and Order” having to explain and justify everything again and again.

On the flip side, smart people in charge of keeping your digital properties secure know that they face unprecedented threats. Against that threat background, it can be frustrating to have to field constant requests to use tools that are untested, unproven and unknown. You need to be in control of your systems, your network and your data. It’s hard enough to keep your environment secure against the threats you know; being asked to secure against unknowable threats is crazy, especially in an era of shrinking budgets. Dealing with these requests may make you feel like you’re talking with an overenthusiastic teenager who’s so fixed on the cool thing, they have no idea the potential consequences when something goes wrong.

I understand the gap that separates these two sides because I’ve been on both sides. I’ve run computer networks and been an engineer in charge of securing them. I’ve said “no” plenty of times to requests because I felt they weren’t secure. I work now in crisis communications and PR. I’ve made requests for social media channels and had them denied because they don’t meet security policy.

I can say the marketers are right: social media is as important to business now as the telephone. And I can say the security folks are right: the technology is young, not well understood, in constant flux and is harder to secure than known technologies.

Both groups serve equally important but different functions in the company. When an impasse arises around social media the only way forward is for both sides to first understand each others’ needs and requirements. And then to take that understanding, collaborate and move forward in a way that satisfies as much of every ones’ needs and requirements as possible in service to the shared strategic direction of the company.

What are you thinking?

To understand what’s driving this frenzy around social media, its important to understand that communications has been undergoing the most profound shift since the development of the printing press.

The changes began with the broad use of the Internet in the 1990’s and has been accelerating exponentially ever since. In particular, the recent growth of social media, most especially href="" target="_blank">Facebook, href="" target="_blank">Twitter and href="" target="_blank">YouTube has overturned all the old rules.

People in marketing and communications in 1987 would reach their customers in much the same way as they did in 1957. But in 2012, these same people don’t reach their customers in the same way as they did in 2009.

Communications has not only changed drastically, it’s showing no signs that it’s going to stop changing. Current technology trends and an unquenchable thirst for novelty among consumers means that from a marketing point of view, the most effective communications channels are often the newest. An example of a new communications channel breaking on to the scene is title="Getting Started with Pinterest" href="" target="_blank">Pinterest, a new social media site, that is already making waves among early adopters and href="" target="_blank">raising questions about its potential to replace Facebook. You can be sure that marketing folks are reading this article and trying to figure out how they can use Pintrest for their business and many will be coming to their security group soon with a request to use it, even as their security group may still be evaluating href="" target="_blank">concerns with Facebook. Not to mention the href="" target="_blank">potential legal issues regarding the use of Pinterest.

To understand what the security folks are going to think when that request comes through, its equally important to understand that the online threat environment is more dangerous than it has ever been in history.

A look at href="">Trend Micro’s review of 2011 shows that online security incidents are continuing to climb and the chief focus in attacks is stealing organizations’ data. href="" target="_blank">Symantec’s 2011 State of Security Report had 46% of respondents saying that social media was affecting the difficulty of them providing cybersecurity.   href="" target="_blank">2012 only promises more of the same.  Attacks are growing in sophistication and number; even major security companies and governments can’t successfully defend against these attacks these days.  The only good thing about the current threat environment for security folks is job security.

It’s an axiom in security that you can only secure that which you can understand. It’s also the nature of new technology that it’s not known, certainly not to a level most security people are comfortable with.

This is the crucial point where the needs of marketing and security collide. Marketing has a need to use new technologies because they’re new. Security can’t comfortably use these technologies precisely because they’re new. And from a security point of view, introducing new technologies like this against the most dangerous threat environment in history is recipe for disaster. How can a security officer feel confident that marketing’s new Pintrest presence won’t be hijacked and used to serve up pornography and malware? If the risk is too great, they’re going to say no.

And that’s when we come to the impasse.
/> Moving Forward Together

That doesn’t have to be the end of the story though.

Plenty of major corporations have embraced leading-edge social media strategies without disaster. A look at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and now even Pinterest shows plenty of success stories. The question isn’t “can it be done”, it’s “how can it be done”.

The key to effective, safe (or more accurately, acceptably safe), leading edge social media for corporations is to view marketing and security both as partners and agents of checks and balances.

A good security person will tell you there’s no such thing as being absolutely secure: part of the process for them is determining what risk is acceptable and accepting that risk. A good marketing person should be able to come up with creative solutions to work around resource constraints: they never have unlimited budgets after all. Both sides should be able to function successfully without getting everything they want so long as they get some of what they want.

Finding the right mix of each side getting some, but not all, of what they want happens by bringing people together from both sides who understand some of the point of view and needs of the other side. Once together, they should work through a process of understanding the marketing side’s business needs, the security side’s risk assessment and then make a determination of whether to accept the risk associated with meeting that need or not.

In those instances where, despite their best efforts, they can’t resolve the impasse, the issue should be taken to a senior decision maker with authority over both parts of the business. They then can then make the final decision of which is more important: the needs of marketing or the needs of security.

Companies that have embraced close ties like this between marketing and security will find over time there will be fewer impasses. In fact, over time, the ties between those two sides can sometimes grow to be strong enough that people pass from one side to the other, to the benefit of the company. A company that can quickly bring security expertise to bear on new technologies can deploy them more quickly. And as we’ve seen, that is squarely in the realm of what marketing needs to succeed these days.

id="author-bio-box"> alt='' src='' class='avatar avatar-80 photo' height='80' width='80' /> class="author-name"> Christopher Budd  ( href="">1 Posts)

This monthly Social Media & Online Security column is contributed by Christopher Budd. Christopher is one of the foremost experts on managing crisis communications for online security and privacy incidents. Christopher combines his prior career as an engineer with his public relations experience as a ten-year veteran of the Microsoft Corporation, where he oversaw and managed worldwide internal and external communications around security and privacy incidents. As an independent consultant he merges these skills to help customers bridge the gap between the technical and communications realms and “make awful news just bad”.

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My Dirty Little Social Media Secret? Content Hoarding Tools.

href=""> class="alignright size-medium wp-image-6343" title="man eating pasta with tomato sauce" src="" alt="social media content management tools strategies" width="200" height="300" />I have a confession to make.  I don’t usually share this sordid obsession, but I feel it’s long overdue.  A cathartic moment is good for the soul, and it doesn’t hurt one’s Google page view rankings either.  So please let me unburden myself, step into my tawdry, secret pixelated world.

I am a hoarder.  I collect things.  Lots of things.  But please do not let your imagination run amok with claustrophobic images of a decrepit, insidious lifestyle.  I’m not making a veiled cry for help, or a pitch to be the next celebrity profile on href="" target="_blank">A&E’s voyeuristic Hoarders show.  Let me explain myself.  I am a digital collector.  I packrat hundreds — if not thousands — of links, PDFs, images, ASCII text files, audio recordings and videos.  I have been collecting what we now call “content” since the proto-Internet, when 300-baud dialup modem connections delivered the first consumer access to online periodical literature via href="" target="_blank">Dialog’s Knowledge Index service.  That’s when href="" target="_blank">CompuServe and href="" target="_blank">public BBS systems offered real-time chat, downloadable information resources and professional forum engagement long before LinkedIn codified the business discussion group.

Leveraging the Hoard

My “hoard” however is not reflective of some pathology or an odd penchant for accumulating digital wealth with selfish intent.  For traditional and now social business applications, my stash has always been a strategic professional asset to promote and manage the perception of companies, brands and products.  To take small, unknown companies and make them look bigger than they really are; as important as major players that generate inbound events virtually on autopilot by the sheer momentum of their already well-established brands.  Each step of the way, leveraging a knowledge hoard has meant the difference between a public relations or marketing opportunity, or continued obscurity on the outskirts of the Department of the Also-Ran.

Your Social Net Worth

“Content is king” used to be a cool marketing mantra chanted by the purveyors of social media services to impress companies and client prospects with the new demands of the dynamic Web.  It didn’t have a very long shelf-life, as these days the expression is largely derided by those same influencers as simplistic and highly ambiguous social media white noise.  But content is still important, and now we can get beyond the superficial sloganeering.  What we really mean is information is power.  Not new, always has been, always will be.  Call it trite, but it’s true.  In every tweet, every blog post, Pinterest pinup, Facebook status or Google+ update, the power of your social business presence can be enhanced by the quality of the information you share and, perhaps more important, how quickly you can share it.  There’s nothing like the potency of an on-target content reference in a blog comment thread, discussion group joust or fast-flowing tweetchat.  Colleague href="" target="_blank">Judy Gombita recently dropped a 5-year-old reference link in the middle of fast-paced exchange.  It made a lasting impression for her personal as well as her professional brand.  Your social net worth goes up a notch or two when you come armed with the immediacy and authority of your knowledge vault.

So, if you dare, come with me into my somewhat secret world as I share a few of my favorite tools and strategies for maximizing the content that you keep.  href="" target="_blank">Vicki Flaugher has groaned that href="" target="_blank">she loathes Top 10 lists, but hoarders love lists — the bigger, the beefier…the better.  It turns out that blog posts featuring lists have very high page views and href="" target="_blank">are practically an institution with readers, which only suggests I am not alone in my passion for savoring, sharing and strategically leveraging my hoard of links and buckets of files.

Tools of the Storage Trade

There are dozens of ways to create and share your hoard.  Most of the tools these days integrate seamlessly with browsers and enable mobile access to your stuff on phones and tablets.  Make sure you leverage browser plugins, toolbars and special bookmarklets (little JavaScript browser links) if provided, which shortstop the drudgery of manually cutting and pasting text and links for storage and social sharing.  I don’t collect or use every available tool, though I admit I must often fight the temptation.  For creating an information repository, rely on tools that emphasize speed, or frictionless processing and sharing.  If you are a heavy consumer of blog and news site content, you don’t have time for apps to churn and store your social business treasure chest.

Here are my Top 6 approaches to managing an online hoard, with some tools and techniques to support anyone’s digital excess:

  1. Virtually every pixel I hoard is tweeted, and href="" target="_blank">BufferApp, hands down, is my favorite tool to fill my stash and dole it out over time.  Most important, it supports my preferred Twitter habit of cherry picking sound bites from posts, rather than the standard routine of tweeting headlines.  That’s ultimate transparency and a personal branding statement.  To wit: I read what I tweet.  I also religiously seek out and add bylines for authors.  Yes, this is extra work, and BufferApp caters to my hyper-collecting passion.  Suggestion to writers: include easy-to-locate Twitter handles with every post; don’t make me work so hard to credit you in addition to the person who shared your work.  You may also like to try a similar but not as robust offering from href="" target="_blank">Timely.
  2. For packing away all of my favorite links, the trusty social bookmarking veteran href="" target="_blank">Delicious has served me well, though rumors of its demise had a lot of my fellow packrats scurrying for a replacement.  Delicious appears to be safe for now with a new owner, but I am reminded that nothing beats the security and safety of your browser’s built-in bookmark storage system.  I still load up on bookmarks in FireFox, Chrome, Safari and IE, using different browsers for specific business applications.  Alternatives to Delicious include href="" target="_blank">Diigo, with its cool highlighting and sticky note widgets, and href="">Pinboard, though the service has a small one-time fee (around ).  Pinboard connects to my Twitter account, so every tweeted link is stored and, if I like, hashtags can be automatically converted into filter tags.  Plus Pinboard delivers very powerful search capabilities for all the content (tweets and links) you have shared.  Regardless of which solution you pick, the good news is your bookmarks are highly portable.  You can import and export between these services and your browsers, so your “collection” is relatively safe as long as you are diligent about backups.
  3. Speaking of “pinning” stuff, unless you’ve been searching for ancient lakes beneath Antarctica, href="" target="_blank">Pinterest has been href="" target="_blank">trending wildly in recent months.  Business took notice as the visual bookmarking site saw href="" target="_blank">an infusion of major brands and industries.  While some complained about “yet another social media tool to learn,” I was delighted to see more hoarding options and new ways to showcase a collection.  Suggestion to anyone who wants their content to be friendly to Pinterest or competitors such as href="" target="_blank">Gentlemint: make sure you include a good photo or graphic with your post, and preferably not your mug shot.  If your site is only populated with affiliate advertising, you’ll be stuck on the pinup sidelines.
  4. When I was in the newspaper business, we had a room set aside with wall-to-wall file cabinets to store every article ever published — dutifully clipped (with scissors) and filed away in folders.  The digital revolution put an end to that barbaric era.  For literally “clipping” the full content of posts and news articles, or simply jotting down story and project ideas, nothing beats a little tool called href="">Evernote.  This is an app that exists everywhere: in the cloud, on your PC or Mac, your phone or tablet, and all in synchronous harmony.  A benefit of Evernote is that it saves full content for off-line reading, especially handy for when a site goes down or a link disappears forever.  It happens.  And Evernote directly shares to Facebook or Twitter, or you can create unique Evernote links to your “clips” for email, IM or posting on any site.  For a lighter weight clip-it-now-and-read-it­-later alternative, try href="" target="_blank">Instapaper.
  5. If you are already paying for a cloud-based file backup service such as href="" target="_blank">Carbonite or href="" target="_blank">Mozy you may not know that you also have instant remote access to every document, photo, music track and video on your PC or Mac.  For me, that’s a 170-gigabyte hoard — and growing.  Depending on the mobile device, you will have options to email, print or view virtually any file format, as well as play music tracks and watch videos.
  6. You can’t totally trust the Net.  Links die, domain hosting companies have outages and sites go completely out of business.  Plus I often need to share documents, news releases, whites papers, backgrounders and others files with friends, clients, news media and business associates that are too large for email.  So I have created my own cloud-based knowledge base.  If you host your own blog or website, you can use the free file transfer utility href="" target="_blank">FileZilla to copy files to folders on the hosting server, and then provide URLs to your contacts.  If you are not hosting a site, there are quite a few online storage services with free and paid options, such as href="" target="_blank">Dropbox or href="" target="_blank">iDrive.  Concerned about security for your self-hosted shared archive?  Password-protect private files, or compress and encrypt files with a utility such as href="" target="_blank">WinZip.

Though I’ve had fun with the theme of digital hoarding, the fact is that the social business world continues to accumulate and share files and links at a mind-boggling rate.   While you are consuming and sharing, you can also strategically organize this information so it can be selectively leveraged for tactical business objectives.  There’s a lot of power in your hoard.  Let’s just keep this our little secret.

id="author-bio-box"> alt='' src='' class='avatar avatar-80 photo' height='80' width='80' /> class="author-name"> Joel Don  ( href="">2 Posts)

This monthly Social Business Trends column is contributed by Joel Don. Joel is principal of Comm Strategies, a public relations and social media agency. He was formally trained as a journalist, working for newspapers and magazines throughout the country. Before starting his own PR business, Joel worked for several agencies, served as a public information officer at UCLA and UC Irvine and directed business and financial communications at a Fortune 500 computer manufacturer. Along the way, Joel founded a company that delivered an online PR measurement solution at the early start of the social media revolution. His current “sidebar” project is a software application designed to make billing time, tracking projects and client reporting for PR and marketing fun again (really).

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Five Important Social-Media Tips to Boost Your Brand | Digital …

From the value of brand pages to choosing the right management system, we've got answers to the most pressing questions regarding social media.
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Getting Started with Pinterest

href=""> class="alignright size-medium wp-image-6322" title="Pinterest Logo" src="" alt="" width="300" height="75" />Social bookmarking is coming back in a big way, thanks to the popularity of  href="" target="_blank">Pinterest (pronounced to rhyme with “interest”). Dubbed as a “virtual pinboard,” it lets you organize and share photos of the many products, places, and things you find interesting online. You can also browse other users’ pinboards and re-pin to your own board anything that piques your interest.

Pinterest has attracted a lot of buzz, and our own Windmill Networking contributor href="" target="_blank">Debbie Miller‘s recent post on href="" target="_blank">Pinterest for the Hospitality Industry actually has more Pins than Stumbles or Pluses! That being said, there are just as many Pinterest skeptics out there, so before we jump in with both feet, let’s take a step back and put Pinterest into some perspective.

A Short History of Pinterest

In December 2009, San Francisco-based  href="" target="_blank">Cold Brew Labs began initial development on the app. A year later, Pinterest launched and soon after proceeded to operate in an invitation-only open beta mode (which continues to this date). By 2011, the company had already raised a million round of venture capital funding, increasing the company’s value to 0 million dollars and gaining 3.2 million monthly unique visitors in the process (note: that number, as of February, 2012, is now href="" target="_blank">10 million). As a testament to its success, the estimated unique visitors to the site  href="">increased by 429 percent from September to December of 2011. To top it off, Pinterest unveiled its own iPhone app in that same year.

Who Enjoys Pinning?

From the onset, Pinterest attracted mostly users engaged in hobbies–like say cooking or arts and crafts–and who want to share their interests and to seek out others who share the same pursuits and tastes. For example if you’re into baking cookies, you can search for fellow bakers and “re-pin” photos in other users’ boards or bookmark the boards that you fancy for reference. It’s also quite popular with women, who make up  href="">58 percent of the traffic into the site. In fact, one href="" target="_blank">Pinterest infographic puts the Facebook Fans for Pinterest at 97% female.

From Hobbyists to Businesses

2011 saw the emergence of businesses creating their own Pinterest pages. Today, some of the top online and offline retailers are already using Pinterest, like  href="">Nordstrom (7,501 followers) and  href="">ModCloth (7,658 followers). Shauna Causey, social media manager of Nordstroms, href="" target="_blank">shares that, “it [Pinterest] allows us to see what trends and styles the community likes based on engagement – likes and repins.” This gives them a pulse on consumer behaviors which they can then use in determining what merchandise to carry or feature in their outlets or on their web store.

Online vintage clothing retailer Modcloth’s Alicia Barnes, in the other hand, sees Pinterest as their best source of free referrals in terms of traffic and revenue. Ninety-nine percent of the approximately 7,000 pins tagged on their Pinterest board comes from advocates of the ModCloth brand and products, href="" target="_blank">she says.

Other big brands that have adopted Pinterest to their advantage include  href="">Whole Foods (they not only focus on foods but related themes including holidays, cooking, recycling, art projects and the Whole Planet Foundation) and  href="">Travel Channel (the U.S. cable TV network taps into interests such as animals, street food, behind-the-scenes personal photos, beaches, landmarks and souvenirs).

Getting Started with Pinterest

Does your business need to be on Pinterest? Not necessarily. But I’ll be honest in telling you that I am including Pinterest in the social media strategy for a client for the first time this month. Why? For one, Pinterest is attracting eyeballs. Lots of them. At the time of writing this post, Pinterest is now the 16th href="" target="_blank">most visited website in the United States, attracting more American visitors than even AOL or Paypal.

Obviously Pinterest is a visual site, so the question you need to ask yourself is: Do the products and services that my company sells have visual aspects to them? If they are visually appealing, Pinterest is a no-brainer for your company to at least establish a presence and experiment with. Similar to how even a B2B social media website like LinkedIn has compelling uses for B2C companies, B2B businesses can also leverage whatever visual aspects they might have to use Pinterest as well. Looking for ideas? Check out the href="" target="_blank">my Pinterest page. Guess what?  Over the last 10 days, outside of search engines, that page (which is very much a work-in-progress) is now sending me the 5th most traffic – more than LinkedIn!

Since I’ve hopefully perked your interest, here’s 5 easy pointers to help you get started with Pinterest:

Once you’ve gotten your feet wet, here are a few advanced tips that will help you in promoting your brands and products through Pinterest:

  • Use it like a focus group to find out how what your followers like (or dislike) through their boards.
  • Run contests, like having people Pin photos of them using your products, to generate buzz. It’s a great way of drumming up interest to a large audience at virtually zero cost and with active engagement all throughout to boot.
  • Promote a lifestyle. Pin photos that capture the culture of your company or its brand essence instead of straight up posting product shots.
  • If you have videos on YouTube, why not pin them as well?

What has your experience with Pinterest been? Any other tips that you’d like to add to the above? And if you need a Pinterest invite, href="" target="_blank">contact me!

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Train Your Team: How to Support Your Social Media Outsourcing Service

href=""> class="alignright size-medium wp-image-6307" title="Learn & Lead" src="" alt="social media outsourcing strategy team" width="300" height="199" />Outsourcing training and strategy is a safe bet when you want to implement href="" target="_blank">social media marketing with your company. Rather than give the reins over to an outside resource, it’s a much better choice to stick with your in house team members and let them be guided by a social marketing expert.

Your in house team will need to be trained in not only the basics but the more advanced aspects of social media management. If you’re using multiple marketing platforms (Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for example), they will need to understand the strategy, approach and experience that your organization is looking to create.

Your team needs to be on track with the best practices of social media, your expectations and the latest trends. Working with a outsourcing service can help, but you’ll also need to train your team internally to stay in line strategy and procedures.

Define Your Expectations

You can stave off a lot of problems with outsourcing by clearly defining the expectations of your team from the start. Getting everyone on the same page can improve the efficiency of your outsourced manager and your internal team. The better your team is able to handle the tasks, the higher your href="" target="_blank">social media ROI.

Here are some of the key questions that you need to answer before you move forward with social media outsourcing:

• Who will be involved in the social media management?
/> • Which responsibilities will the outsourced expert handle and which responsibilities will be covered in house?
/> • Will automation be used and if so, what percentage of posts will be automated?
/> • Who will have final say on what is published and when?
/> • How will the team communicate?
/> • What benchmarks will be used to measure success and how will those benchmarks be obtained?

Defining expectations on both sides of the fence can prevent future misunderstandings and streamline the entire outsourcing process. A social media management professional will already have experience with defining roles and can help you determine how many team members you’ll need in house and what their duties will be.

Use a Social Media Tool that Allows for Collaboration

If several people will be handling social media management, it’s important that they all have access to the social accounts. A tool like href="" target="_blank">Hootsuite or href="" target="_blank">SproutSocial will let the entire team work together on the social updates, and will track effectiveness as well. Review your options and then choose a solution that makes sense for your company. Most professional outsourcing providers will have experience with these tools and be able to offer a recommendation.

Establish a Group Work Space

Team collaboration is essential to efficient outsourcing but you can only get so far with a series of emails. Create a group work space where any members of your team and the outsourced expert can work together. You can use a formal collaboration program like href="" target="_blank">BaseCamp or href="" target="_blank">DeskAway to manage projects, or something as simple as a shared Google Doc that includes posting schedules, logins and other important details. You could also set up a private Facebook group for team members to communicate. This will help everyone involved in the social media project stay on track.

Create Support Documents

In addition to ongoing communication and scheduling, you will need to have support documents that will help your team understand your goals and your company culture. When you outsource social media strategy, the consultant will help you define policies, create a template for updates and share documents that will help with the process. You can add to these documents to include internal rules for using social media. They will also

Meet Regularly

Your consultant needs to meet with your team regularly in order to touch base and stay on track. It will help internal team members get specific questions answered, and it will give your social media consultant an opportunity to share new tips and best practices. Brief weekly meetings are essential, but you should also schedule more in depth monthly or quarterly meetings to go over new trends and analyze results.

Plan for a Potential Crisis

If a href="" target="_blank">social media crisis hits, it’s important that your team acts quickly and efficiently. Your in-house team needs to be prepared with the right reaction and potential chain of events. Ask for assistance from your consultant, and be sure that a crisis plan is part of your internal documents in your project management system. This will allow your internal personnel to respond immediately and diffuse a potentially damaging situation.

Getting your team on board helps you make the most of href="" target="_blank">social media outsourcing. With your consultant’s help, you can create a streamlined in-house team that can boost your results with Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or other social platforms.

id="author-bio-box"> alt='' src='' class='avatar avatar-80 photo' height='80' width='80' /> class="author-name"> Courtney Ramirez  ( href="">3 Posts)

Courtney Ramirez is a content marketing consultant and SEO Copywriter. As owner and head copywriter at Six Degrees Content she creates optimized web pages, blog posts and other online content pieces for companies in both B2B and B2C industries.

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Social Media 101 for Professional Associations

href=""> class="alignright size-medium wp-image-6290" title="Business People Feet Professional Associations Organizations Social Media" src="" alt="" width="300" height="198" />I frequently get invited to href="" target="_blank">speak on social media for href="" target="_blank">professional associations, and when I do it often seems as if the clocks in the room have been turned back 10 years since before the advent of social media.  Although there are always some savvy users of social media in the room when I present, the associations themselves are usually using the same antiquated medium to promote themselves, both internally and externally: a pre-historic website and email newsletter blasts.

I always say that social media is about the convergence of information and communication. Isn’t this the mission of every professional association: To inform their members and communicate regularly to increase the networking (and business) opportunities for their members? Then why don’t more professional associations embrace and strategically leverage all that social media has to offer, and in doing so also help  href="" target="_blank">increase association membership while retaining existing members?

The answer to this is that, based on my own experience, most associations are 1) either managed by executives who themselves aren’t frequent users of social media and/or haven’t implemented social in their own business or 2) outsource their marketing and other management affairs to companies or firms that who do not understand social media themselves.

For a 101 primer on some easy ways that professional associations can maximize their social presence, here’s a list of 6 checklist items for your association to confirm your current state vis a vis social media:

1. Create and Encourage Engagement in a Robust LinkedIn Group

With a closed href="" target="_blank">LinkedIn Group that is moderated and only open to association members, you can achieve what you do at your in-person events 24/7 online and without local boundaries. Many associations have LinkedIn Groups but haven’t really encouraged engagement inside them. It is the perfect place to share information, generate discussions, and even share job openings that your company might have. If there is any social media website made for associations, it is undoubtedly LinkedIn. Take advantage of it and leverage it as an important supplement for everything that your association does at your in-person events.

2. Sharing Your Information with the World through Blogging

Sharing information encourages current members to keep informed as well as helps introduce your association to potential new members through the power of your content. Instead of taking a walled garden approach to protecting your content to only be accessible to members, strategically summarize your internal information for the outside world to showcase your leadership within your industry and encourage others to join. Blogging has the additional benefit of aiding your professional association’s website to ensure greater href="" target="_blank">search engine optimization (SEO) benefits as well.

3. Social Media Promotion of Your Association Events

Obviously, social as a promotional channel is well known by most associations. But how many associations actually go through the hassle of not only creating a href="" target="_blank">LinkedIn Event or even a Facebook Event for each meeting they have – but also encouraging members to RSVP through these social media channels to help spread the word about the event? The viral nature of social media will only work for the benefit of your promotion if you get your members to spend a few seconds to actually RSVP in social media to help spread the word to their networks. For that reason, point #5 below regarding social media education is equally important.

4. Social Media Promotion During Your Association Events

Anyone who has gone to any professional event is probably familiar with the notion that there are always one or two people in the audience who are updating their Twitter followers through tweeting out quotes and other information shared at the event. Why aren’t more professional associations proactively doing this? By sharing quotes, information, photos and even video from your events, it will go a long way to help promote your association – and inform those members who couldn’t make it to the event. Even if you don’t use Twitter, you can do this from your social presence on other platforms.

5. Teach Your Association Members Social Media

I speak to associations for this very reason: Social is a tool that is beginning to permeate every discipline within an organization and transcend every industry that exists. Most association members are asking their leadership for more information about social media because they need it for their own workplace. More importantly, teaching your members about social media will not only ensure that your association members will become better equipped to handle social media-related issues at their own company, but it will also make them more willing participants in everything your association does with regards to social media. It is the “secret sauce” that will ensure positive ROI in your social efforts – and a more satisfied and engaged community of association members.

6. Rebrand Your Presence from an Analog, Static one to a Digital, Social One

Just as adopting social will undoubtedly change the culture of companies as they slowly evolve into a “ href="" target="_blank">social brand,” the same will happen to your professional association. The information sharing and communication that occurs will become much more dynamic and social, and it will be seen in very short time that your own branding on your digital properties needs to be revised to better reflect this.  Becoming a digital and truly social professional association will require you to look and potentially revise many visual elements that are associated with your association – including your website – as well as beckon you to include more social elements into your digital presence in a creative way to help further foster dialogue and community.

For many professional associations who have fallen behind the times, all of the things you can, and should, do vis a vis social can seem overwhelming. A great place to start is to href="" target="_blank">contact me and let me help get you started on the right path.

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How the Hospitality Industry Can Use Pinterest

href=""> class="alignright size-medium wp-image-6287" src="" alt="" width="300" height="300" /> href="" target="_blank">Pinterest has emerged as a social platform to watch as more businesses jump on board (no pun intended). It lets users organize things they find on the web by creating pinboards then “pinning” items onto boards of each corresponding category.

My first thought upon learning about businesses trying Pinterest was that it’s a perfect platform for title="The Time is NOW for Social Media in the Hospitality Industry" href="" target="_blank">travel marketing since there are so many (independent and collaborative) components people consider when planning a vacation.

Plus, so much of leisure vacationing is taking in scenery, so there is already a very visual association with travel planning.

Here are a few ways the hospitality industry can utilize Pinterest –

Pinterest for Destinations

Destination marketing organizations (DMOs) can easily put Pinterest to good use! The intent of DMOs is to relay the various aspects of the city they represent, to entice visitors to come stay.

Destinations can uniquely convey their stories by sharing pinboards for numerous components of their cities: Hotels. Dining. Shopping. Attractions.

One brand that already has a solid Pinterest presence is  href="">Visit Savannah, responsible for marketing the Savannah area for leisure tourism, meetings and conventions. They began using Pinterest in November as an experiment, and, in just three months, have attracted nearly 12,000 followers.

The DMO has a variety of boards, including staples like hotels, dining, beautiful architecture and shopping, along with other themes like “haunted Savannah,” “let your hair down” (featuring  nightlife spots and libations), “Southernisms” plus one dedicated to St. Patrick’s Day, a major happening that includes an annual parade and various other major local festivities.

By including an array of visual content, Visit Savannah is allowing people to literally visualize various elements of the city and what may be of their vacation.

Pinterest for Hotels

Like destinations, hotels and resorts can also showcase their various offerings through Pinterest, via creating boards for topics like in-house dining options, amenities, spa services, meeting space and weddings.

href="">Four Seasons hotel in Austin has created boards for the city itself, weddings, adventures, day trips, travel tips and tools and more, allowing their potential visitors to evaluate what features they’d want to include in an upcoming vacation. A traveler could even theoretically plan their entire trip with this page as the starting point, since so much information is available in one place.

Another angle hotels could utilize is targeting a specific niche. href="">The Ritz-Carlton Chicago made a Pinterest page specifically geared toward the wedding market. Their boards include ones displaying the hotel’s ambiance, food and drink options, wedding accessories and honeymoon suites, plus linens, flowers and cakes.

While the audience has been broadening, Pinterest began with a strong female following, with ladies still being extremely active. Many women, single and married alike, have boards themselves dedicated to rather visually stunning and creative topics such as weddings. With that in mind, it’s extremely wise for venues to position themselves as a wedding hub as women will probably be drawn and prone to sharing the images.

Pinterest for Restaurants

Restaurants can create pinboards of various pertinent categories (food, events, cocktails, meeting rooms, etc.), similar to the way they might with Facebook albums.

While href="">Whole Foods may be a grocery store, they’re setting solid example for many brands, especially restaurants. They’ve created boards for different genres of food, kitchens, food art, gardens, recipes, food for certain holidays, etc. Food photography seems to have become an ever-popular trend and people in the social space love sharing romanticized photos of the food they enjoy.

Whole Foods also does a great job of thinking outside the box. Beginning another social platform can feel intimidating and overwhelming, and it may seem that you don’t have “enough” to share on Pinterest. But, there are really tons of ways to broaden the scope of what would be suitable topics for you to share.

What other brands have you spotted on Pinterest?

id="author-bio-box"> alt='' src='' class='avatar avatar-80 photo' height='80' width='80' /> class="author-name"> Debbie Miller  ( href="">2 Posts)

This monthly Social Media and the Hospitality Industry post is contributed by Debbie Miller. Debbie is the Founder of Social Hospitality, a blog which outlines the ways businesses in the hospitality industry are using social media. She works for HyperDisk Marketing managing social media accounts, writing website copy and executing SEO strategies for clients. Prior, she was with a destination marketing organization where she maintained the website along with launching and managing their social media presence. She is very active in the social networking community in southern California, has enjoyed watching social media emerge over the past several years and is fascinated by its continuing evolution.

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Do Your Social Media Accounts Belong To Your Business? Why Worry, When There Are Safeguards You Can Take Now

href=""> class="alignright size-medium wp-image-6261" title="Non disclosure agreement with lock and pen" src="" alt="" width="300" height="200" />While many people have been hoping to get some resolution to the question of who owns the followers of a Twitter account from the href="" target="_blank">ongoing litigation between PhoneDog and its former employee Noah Kravitz, this federal case in the Northern District of California is unlikely to provide clear answers.  The href="" target="_blank">district court has recently held that PhoneDog can pursue its action for misappropriation of trade secrets and tortious interference with economic relationships based on new allegations concerning the alleged disruption of PhoneDog’s relationship with its advertisers.  Thus, the dispute is moving away from who owns the Twitter account.

The original complaint attracted so much attention because href="" target="_blank">PhoneDog, a mobile news and reviews resource company, was suing a former employee over who owns a Twitter account that was started in association with PhoneDog, and is now being used by Kravitz as his own Twitter account.  .

As will be discussed more fully below, PhoneDog did not enter court with the best of facts in order to decide the issue that attracted so much attention from employers and the social media community.  However, the shortcomings in PhoneDog’s case are instructive in terms of steps employers should take to better demonstrate ownership over their social media sites.

1.  style="text-decoration: underline;">PhoneDog Lawsuit

The crux of the lawsuit is that Kravitz was paid as a product reviewer and video blogger for PhoneDog from April 2006 through October 2010, and that this position included posting tweets on a Twitter account called @PhoneDog_Noah.  After Kravitz left PhoneDog, he changed the name of the account to href="" target="_blank">@noahkravitz, and kept its followers instead of relinquishing the account and its followers over to PhoneDog as was requested of him.

What PhoneDog does not allege is that it had an employment agreement or confidentiality agreement with Kravitz that would have protected this information, or clearly stated that this information should be treated as confidential, proprietary information.

2.  style="text-decoration: underline;">The Importance Of Having Written Agreements With Your Employees  style="text-decoration: underline;">Concerning Use Of The Company’s Social Media Accounts

In a href="" target="_blank">statistical study of trade secret litigation in federal courts with issued written opinions from 1950 through 2008, it was found that employees prevailed more often than the employers with employees winning 54.1% of the summary judgment motions, and employers winning 34.7%.  The study also found that while there is no bright line rule for what reasonable measures an employer must take to protect its trade secrets, the most important thing an employer can do is to have a confidentiality agreement with its employees.

3.  style="text-decoration: underline;">Social Media And The Internet Present Unique Challenges To Demonstrating  style="text-decoration: underline;">Something Is A Trade Secret

With the growth of the internet, we are also finding that the universe of trade secret information is becoming smaller.  This would seem to be especially true in the case of Twitter followers who are on a public list that can be viewed by anyone with a Twitter account.  Indeed, a federal court in the Eastern District of New York held in August 2010, that a customer list of an executive search consulting firm was not a trade secret given the fact that the list and needs of the firm’s clients could be pieced together through internet searches of FX Week, Google,, and LinkedIn:

“The information in Sasqua’s database concerning the needs of its clients… may well have been a protectable trade secret in the early years of Sasqua’s existence when greater time, energy and resources may have been necessary to acquire the level of detailed information to build and retain the business relationships at issue here.  However, for good or bad, the exponential proliferation of information made available through full-blown use of the Internet and the powerful tools it provides to access such information in 2010 is a very different story.”  href="" target="_blank">Sasqua Group, Inc. v. Courtney, href="" target="_blank">2010 WL 3613855 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 2, 2010).

4.  style="text-decoration: underline;">Act Promptly To Remove Employees From Social Media Accounts When You   style="text-decoration: underline;">Know The Employment Relationship Is Ending

In the trade secrets study, another reasonable measure for protecting trade secrets that an employer should take is introducing computer-based protections.  These protections may include requiring personalized logins and passwords for users having access to the information; monitoring their access and use of the information; and terminating access when a user no longer needs access to the confidential information or their employment has been terminated.  In the PhoneDog action, the complaint is vague on who established the Twitter account, and whether the plaintiff PhoneDog had the login and password information for the account used by Kravitz.  PhoneDog alleges that its confidential information included the passwords, but then alleges that it requested that Kravitz “relinquish use of the Account.”  If PhoneDog had the Twitter account login with password, then one of the reasonable measures that PhoneDog should have arguably taken was to change the password, and take back control of the Twitter account when Kravitz quit in October 2010.

In general, companies should to the greatest extent possible register social media accounts in their own names or through a senior marketing person and/or social media manager if the account needs to be in the name of a person.  Further, on social media accounts such as Facebook pages, where you can have more than one administrator, companies should take advantage of this option and have several administrators.  Having several administrators, and asserting control over the account, is another way to demonstrate “ownership” of the account, and also avoid some of the problems experienced by PhoneDog.

Indeed, the time gap between when Kravitz left the company in October 2010, and the filing of the legal action in July 2011 is another hurdle for PhoneDog in its case.  Reading between the lines of the complaint, and theorizing from there, it appears that there may be some credence to Kravitz’s argument that PhoneDog asked him to “tweet on their behalf from time to time,” as reported in the href="" target="_blank">December 25, 2011 New York Times article.  In the complaint, PhoneDog also alleges that, “[o]n information and belief, from October 2010 and December 2010, Kravitz free-lanced for a variety of media outlets before obtaining a full-time position with href="" target="_blank">TechnoBuffalo“, who is described as a competitor of PhoneDog.  In other words, PhoneDog also seems to be pursuing this action because Kravitz is now working for a competitor of PhoneDog.  PhoneDog does not allege that there was a non-compete agreement with Kravitz. 

5.  style="text-decoration: underline;">If You Have A Social Media Non-Compete Or Confidentiality Agreement With  style="text-decoration: underline;">Your Employees, Make Sure Your Intentions Are Clearly Stated

It does not appear that PhoneDog had any written agreement that would prevent Kravitz from continuing to tweet about mobile news and reviews after he left the company.  If there was a non-compete agreement, or a confidentiality agreement concerning PhoneDog’s purported trade secrets, then the agreement needs to be clear about what the parties intended, and the terms of their agreement.

For example, a federal court of appeals held that an ex-News Corporation employee did not breach his post-employment agreement in a trade secrets case by sending 55 pages of internal documents from his former employer to a U.S. Senate staffer because the documents were mailed one day before he signed the agreement in which he promised not to disclose NewsAmerica’s confidential information or disparage the company.  href="" target="_blank">News America Marketing v. Emmel, D.C. Docket No. 07-00791-CV-TCB-1 (11th Cir. June 8, 2011).The court’s decision turned on the post-employment agreement only referring in the present tense to future acts.  Robert Emmel agreed that he “will not disparage, denigrate or defame the company, ” and that he “will maintain in complete confidence” the company’s confidential information.  The court held, “If it had wanted the agreement to cover past acts or future inaction, New America should have written the agreement to say that.”

The News America Marketing case highlights the importance of title="Why Your Company Needs a Social Media Policy and 14 Corporate Social Media Policy Examples" href="" target="_blank">having an agreement with employees concerning their access and use of social media accounts on behalf of the company, and ensuring that the agreement clearly spells out the relationship and the parameters for it because some courts will literally interpret agreements with employees.

id="author-bio-box"> alt='' src='' class='avatar avatar-80 photo' height='80' width='80' /> class="author-name"> Michelle Sherman  ( href="">2 Posts)

Michelle Sherman is Special Counsel with Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, and consults with business on their social media activities and the use of social media by their employees. Michelle also teaches communications law at USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism as an adjunct professor.

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Much Ado About Social Media Followers Who (May) Turn Into Customers

Business was so much easier during the Middle Ages.  Establish your fiefdom, keep the serfs happy, collect taxes and fend off the occasional barbarian hoard or the jealous younger sibling.  Oftentimes a monarch with a large domain to protect couldn’t afford a standing army or a well-stocked armory.  Thus was born just-in-time defense and the invention of the “freelance”— knights expert in the art of war who would sell their battlefield prowess to any lord or baron with enough gold, precious stones or land to render payment.

So what does this WayBack Machine story have to do with social media?  Actually, quite a bit.  Today, businesses large and small operate with the assistance of “freelancers,” outsourcing services and tasks to a cadre of consultants, advisers, agencies, specialists or just plain outside contractors and vendors.  Add to that the new career ethic, which encourages employees to stay no longer than a few years at any company, the antithesis of the job-for-life dynamic of prior generations.  It all works quite well for businesses looking to save on payroll expenses, leverage unique or special expertise and remain competitive in the global economy.   But it may not always work so well in the realm of social media, unless you structure your business hires, partnerships and relationships for this new dynamic in public relations, marketing and sales.

The Portable Pixelated You

In recent news from the front pages of social media, litigation is brewing between a company called PhoneDog and a now former employee named Noah Kravitz.  It seems Mr. Kravitz set up a Twitter account called @Phonedog_Noah (combining the company brand with his personal name) and proceeded to help market the company’s products and otherwise engage with the Twittersphere as a paid employee.  He attracted upwards of 17,000 followers, and apparently did a pretty good job of helping the company expand its market presence.  So far, so good.  Then Mr. Kravitz decided to leave the company, and take his Twitter account followers with him.  (He renamed the account to @NoahKravitz.)

The company is naturally none-too-pleased.  From its view, the Twitter follower list is tantamount to a customer list.  And therein lies at least one of the hotly debated social media issues, with well-reasoned arguments on either side.  The last time I checked, companies usually frown on employees who walk away with corporate assets such as customer lists or sales databases.  But a group of Twitter followers is more than a list; it’s a unique construct in social media.  Followers are wedded to an individual Twitter account – and that’s usually a person.  After all, people like to engage with other people, and not the veil of a company logo (that is, if you are doing your social media right).  And Twitter accounts are obviously highly portable.  Mr. Kravitz reportedly has claimed that he had a separation agreement with the company (let’s hope it was in writing) indicating he could keep the Twitter account and occasionally tweet for the company.  PhoneDog now reportedly claims those followers represent a 0,000 corporate investment.  Mr. Kravitz then countered with a claim against the value of the company website’s gross advertising revenue, along with back pay for work done as a video reviewer and blogger.  The fur flies.

The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2

When news of the lawsuit spread, the obvious reaction was to advise companies to lawyer up, rewrite employee and vendor contracts, set new corporate social media policies, and call it a day.  That should take care of any business hiring or contracting with a social media specialist toting an established portfolio of followers.  More or less, it’s a prenuptial agreement with provisions for when (not if) the divorce clause kicks in.  So contrary to Mr. Shakespeare, the lawyers actually do come in very handy in this situation.   But the law may have reached it limits when it comes to the nuances of marketing products and services via social media.

Will The Real Follower Please Stand Up

It’s hard to tell where PhoneDog v. Kravitz will end up, though I tend to think the company will probably lose this round because the relationship between the two parties seems a bit murky.  Plus the notion that followers are intellectual property opens the proverbial Pandora’s Box.  Which followers?  Acquired when?  What about non-business friends?  And do we count the purveyors of get-rich-quick schemes, automated bot follows, bogus “follower wins” via Twitter gaming apps and those very friendly “ladies” with few followers and even fewer tweets?  If the individual prevails, do companies then circle the wagons even further in an effort to prevent employees or hired experts from walking away with a bounty of social media wealth?

But we’d still be missing the larger issue.

Social media influencers, especially the good ones, increasingly are becoming celebrities in their own right.  They may be followed and liked and +1’d for who they are as much as whatever company, client, product or service they work for or represent.  They are, effectively, their own brands.  Social media marketing is still relatively young as a new business paradigm, and in time companies will hire employees or contractors who will bring more to the game than a good education and a robust resume of job experience.  Businesses will be recruiting PR, marketing and sales employees or contractors with a global social media marketing presence that is recognized, valued, marketable and — for good or ill — highly portable.

Take Your Marbles and Go Home

When the PhoneDog v. Kravitz dustup first hit the social media news radar, in a tweet I used the example of Scott Monty, the well-known social media representative for Ford Motor Company.  Not surprisingly, Scott was (and probably always is) listening and jumped into the stream (duplicate information edited):

@joeldon If @scottmonty quits Ford, do the followers stay with the automaker or shift gears into his new gig? #pr #marketing

@ScottMonty @joeldon They can follow @Ford #pr #marketing

@joeldon Yes, but your brand has intertwined w/ Ford. A complex separation.

@ScottMonty But we had each established brands before we came together. As did Alan Mulally. #pr #marketing

Scott indeed makes my point.  He had an established brand before Ford.  But when people talk about and cite examples of success in social media, invariably you can’t showcase Ford without mentioning Scotty Monty.  They are virtually synonymous in any Top 10 list of social media business done right.  And maybe this relationship is forever.  Or maybe not.  Hired by Mercedes or GM or even Apple Computer, Scott’s 68,000+ Twitter followers go with him.  As do the blog readers, the Facebook friends and the Google+ circles.  Scott Monty is a brand, strong in its own right, yet currently intertwined with a company like a braided candle fueling a united flame.  Separating the braids is none too easy, but it can be done.  And each piece, i.e. each brand, will continue to glow and will more than likely prosper.  Sure followers of Ford not particularly interested in Scott’s thoughts and exchanges can gravitate to other Ford Twitter handles, as Scott suggested.  After all, companies jettison brands and divisions and products all the time.  At the risk, of course, of antagonizing or even losing longtime customers, who today may also be “friends” and “followers.”  Look at Netflix and its now-failed attempt to shunt DVD disk renters to a new domain called Qwikster.

What’s Mine is Mine, What’s Yours is Mine

Now Scott Monty (and other social media celebrities) might argue that if or when he leaves Ford, the followers can stick around or unfollow him.  This is very true; no one is held hostage after all.  But let’s take a look at the current case.  Mr. Kravitz didn’t do so badly after jumping ship from PhoneDog.  As we say in public relations, good PR or bad PR, it’s all good.  His Twitter followers have swelled by more than 40 percent, now exceeding 24,000.  Sure social media is not supposed to be a numbers game.  But Mr. Kravitz, and not the company, has the numbers.  Breaking up is so hard to do, but it didn’t hurt the metrics.

So you just hired an employee with a sizzling social media resume or consultant/agency boasting a marquee online presence.  What do you do to protect your social business investment?   You could bring in the lawyers, or I can save you a lot of money.  Lay the “before and after” on the table and have a very special kind of conversation.  If you hired the right social media expert, that person will be able to map out the ground rules for the commingling of the two brands, and the graceful way that the two will part company.  Not comfortable with what you hear?  Then perhaps you should seek outside counsel, ideally an attorney active in social media who understands the terrain.  But remember that your social media expert is not a traditional employee or a typical outside contractor.  By definition there is a symbiotic relationship between the two brands; so recognize that you don’t have a hired gun who will evaporate when the contract concludes.  Your social media champion is effectively your partner, and you each have vested interests in mutual, long-term success.

It’s one thing when a company changes it products or services, dispenses with a brand, or merges or acquires new assets.  But when you hire a social media expert or celebrity, the personal brand is part of the package deal.  Leverage it, grow with it, maximize your conversions.  But have your well-devised exit strategy in place and have it prepared well in advance.  Terminating an employee in the social media realm showcases the transparency of new media; it is a public strategy.  So the separation of the two brands should be spelled out in your PR and marketing plan before contracts are signed, before you convince, convert and celebrate the ROI.  The last thing you want is for your social media lightening rod to turn his or her lance in your direction.  Legal should be the last recourse.  The kings and lords of the Dark Ages knew this well, or at least the ones who lived long, healthy lives.

Joel Don  (1 Posts)

This monthly Social Business Trends post is contributed by Joel Don. Joel is principal of Comm Strategies, a public relations and social media agency. He was formally trained as a journalist, working for newspapers and magazines throughout the country. Before starting his own PR business, Joel worked for several agencies, served as a public information officer at UCLA and UC Irvine and directed business and financial communications at a Fortune 500 computer manufacturer. Along the way, Joel founded a company that delivered an online PR measurement solution at the early start of the social media revolution. His current “sidebar” project is a software application designed to make billing time, tracking projects and client reporting for PR and marketing fun again (really).

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