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Social Media and the Law – Or, ‘What Not to Say Online’

Today, Tom looks at what you can, and can not say, on social media:

 

Imogen Thomas' football lover was hot gossip on Twitter in 2011If you’ve read Paul’s recent blog post concerning Chris Brown’s Twitter PR disaster and subsequent departure from the platform, you’ll be aware that what you say online can have a real impact on your reputation. That might sound obvious – after all, much of the time, anything you put your name to online is in the public domain, for better or for worse. Much to the chagrin of those who treat social media sites as forums for political debate (or, in some cases, pure mudslinging), anything you write in a public place online is treated as being ‘published’ in the same way that a newspaper article or book is published, bringing millions under the weighty gavel of defamation law. But this simple truth can distract us from the fact that the line between public and private in the online world is becoming increasingly blurred.

Is a Facebook Status Private?

What if, for example, you post a defamatory status update on Facebook; one that is only viewable by your friends? Is this to be classified as public, and thus subject to the full force of the law? Or is it more similar to the oft-referenced ‘conversation in a pub’? What if your privacy settings mean that your friends’ friends can also see the message? For the moment, it would appear that the law is falling on the side of free speech – see the case of Adrian Smith, who expressed a belief that gay marriage is ‘an equality too far’ and who won his case against an employer that penalised him for saying so. It seems obvious that this is not a problem which will go away, and that advocates of free speech will have a difficult fight ahead as test cases are fought in the courts.

Libel in 140 Characters or FewerTwitter and the Law

Twitter seems much more black and white. Though the average user might not think of it as such – after all, people are always braver behind a keyboard than in person – it is a completely public platform which warrants care. However, because of the fact that so many users ignore its public nature, the law faces yet more test cases. If 10,000 English users retweet a defamatory phrase, are they all liable? Practically speaking, how would a claimant gather the details of so many users in order to sue them? Could Twitter itself be held responsible for a failure to censor offending tweets, and if so, is there a certain number of retweets beyond which it is safe to assume that the site knows something is going on?

Steer Clear of Trouble with Social Media Advice

The law almost always lags behind evolving cultural trends, and the increasing usage of social media is no exception to this rule. Libel law is just one more reason why it’s essential to have a solid social web strategy. Users of these platforms would be wise to watch their words, and social media management professionals should be careful not to get their clients into hot water.

Snoox, Google+ and How Social We Really Are

What is Snoox?

Today I read about Snoox; a new social network which allows you to view recommendations from your friends on things like films, books or places. It is very similar to a network like Letterboxd which does the same, but specifically for films. Snoox goes further than Letterboxd with what you can recommend,  but isn’t quite as focused on being a timeline or personal history.

Snoox allows you to follow others, whether you know them personally or not (nothing new there). Twitter took the Facebook status and amplified it into its own model. Similarly, Snoox adopts the ego-maniacal activity of  “liking” a film or TV show on Facebook to show that you’ve watched it and/or are cultured and/or hip. If it can remove the necessity for all those Netflix updates on Facebook courtesy of friends, providing a specific place to go to find out what people are listening to/watching etc., then all the better.

Would You Trust Your Friends?

Snoox and its facility to recommend provides the opportunity to users to write a mini-review in the same vein that Google+ Local invites users to rate local businesses. This got me thinking about how much I would trust my friends’ opinions. As someone who has a very diverse set of online friends in terms of socio-economic status, location and tastes, this would probably not help me find something I like. Taste isn’t based on these factors exclusively of course;  a good film is a good film, and transcends barriers. However, I definitely have those friends who I would consider as having “bad taste”. I like most of my friends for the people they are, and not what they watch. There are a handful of exceptions; those friends of friends who I can put up with because we have a TV show in common to save the conversation. Generally, though, I wouldn’t take the advice of a majority of my Facebook or Twitter friends about where to go to eat or which books to read, because there is a big gulf between what we respectively enjoy.

Google+ and The Question: ‘How Social Are We?’

Google and their outlook of ‘Search n’ Social’ seems to have this belief that we’re all a trendy bunch, with money to burn at the whim of seeing a friend post a five star rating for a bar; that we’ll jump straight online at a moment’s notice to find a restaurant at which to spend all this free time that we have falling out of our ears. This was parodied brilliantly when Google Glass was previewed earlier this year. That’s just not the reality for many of us, who are struggling to save money, like to stay indoors or just don’t live very interesting lives.

The social aspect of search seems more applicable to a wider segment of users (provided they are logged into a Google account) when it comes to essential services, like looking for a respectable plumber, than leisure. Indeed, this is one of the ways that we can help with managing social media for your business. ‘Social’ feels the wrong word for these services.  Those who do leave constructive business reviews, are very much appreciated and this can make a difference; but in terms of empowering users to shape Search, its utility is somewhat limited.

 

 

Social Media & the American Elections

Social Media and Politics: Going Where The Crowd Is

Some interesting points on social media have arisen from the American elections, from which Barack Obama has emerged the winner. According to experts, social media has played a major hand in encouraging more people to vote, which is always a positive notion. As in business, if you want to speak to a particular audience, like the younger voter, go where they are. For a business stepping into social media, this requires entering certain key conversations where your clientele are. For political candidates, this can equate to simply having a Twitter presence.

Is Your Use of Social Media Biased?

Looking at my Twitter feed last night, I had the impression that Obama could not lose the election. It seemed to reflect the opinions of many pundits who saw the election as Obama’s to lose. But then Obama is incredibly popular with younger voters, who are the main proponents of social media. Perhaps there’s a reason why the two juggernauts of Facebook and Twitter share the blue of the Democrats….

Maybe this is a little too broad a statement to make. It’s important to consider that anyone’s feed is already skewed by who they follow or are friends with. This effect is seen most strongly on Twitter, which is more of a passive tool used to absorb the opinions of others. At least this is the case when you compare to Facebook which is generally more focused on back-and-forth interaction between friends. If you are a young Republican at university, and your social circle revolves around your fellow society members, then the chances are that you’ll see more in your feed who are pro-Romney (or at least there would be more of a balance).

Limitations of Social Media

There are some limitations to the relationship between social media and politics. While this is changing increasingly, social media tends to be a young person’s playground. Many websites made infographics and maps to plot what Twitter was saying about Obama and Romney in the run-up to yesterday. These are useful but somewhat inaccurate. While The Guardian said that Obama was on the lips or fingertips of everyone on Twitter across America, who says they were all saying good things about him? Let us remember also, that Twitter is only 140 characters; the decision of who to elect to lead a nation should depend on many more factors.

Lessons For the Future

We can take a lesson from this and perhaps be a bit more open as to who we follow. Twitter was an important tool for all political candidates to speak directly to the electorate. But how many individuals followed both? Isn’t it more likely that individuals followed the person they always backed or the candidate who represented the party they voted for in 2008? Why bother with the person you don’t agree with, right? It’s a fair assessment, but unfortunately this slightly taints the statement that social media has allowed candidates to speak directly to the voters; they’ve only been able to speak to voters who would listen. To un-follow someone is just the click of a button; so in the future we ought to at least consider both sides and make our feeds a two-horse race.

Similarly, businesses with a Twitter presence would be wise to follow competitors and critics as well as customers. This allows you to take stock of opinions and strategies from all corners, which can only be good for your bottom line. If you want help in setting up or managing your social media accounts, contact us here for advice.

Barack Obama's Twitter profile

 

 

2012: Mixed Fortunes for Facebook

We thought we would let the newest member of the team, Tom, loose on the blog this week. Here’s his take on Facebook in 2012:

Facebook is the symbol of social media. Its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has firmly entered the public consciousness following the success of 2010’s quasi-biographical film, The Social Network. Much is made of the company’s meteoric rise, which has made the lack of a Facebook profile a cultural taboo and earned Zuckerberg a place as the youngest billionaire in the world. Following the company’s disastrous IPO, observers have noted that its development is being used as a barometer by investors seeking to judge the continued viability of social media companies.

Facebook has taken the initiative, though. Aware that the pathetic demand for its stock was driven by a lack of faith in its ability to attract advertising and other commercial revenues as more and more users turn to mobile devices, the company quickly sought to refine its platform to allow for easier commercial usage. For starters, American users logging in from their phone will now see an opportunity to send friends gifts as Facebook integrates its birthday reminder feature with an e-commerce element. The site is also now offering businesses the opportunity to sponsor search results, allowing them to boost their app or page above their competitors’. The most important innovation, though, is the new dedicated mobile advertising network. This major development means that mobile ads will now be targeted to users in the same way as the regular Facebook ad service is – that is, by using information drawn from the user’s profile, including their bio, ‘likes’ and chosen apps. Though in its infancy, this change is already making its presence felt, as the company’s third quarter earnings revealed a 32% growth in revenue compared to the same period last year. This is extremely impressive, especially given that the new ad network has only just been rolled out and so we cannot expect to see the full results until the end of the next quarter. The market was obviously pleased; Facebook’s shares shot up by 10% following the earnings report.

Social Media Heading into 2013

Assuming that these measures are a success in the long term, and investors begin to see greater and more stable returns, we can expect to see more excitement around social media platforms in general as commercial entities. The exposure of Facebook to the forces of the market was a risk, and one which some people thought had been miscalculated. If those people are proven wrong, it could be that others in the sector also open their companies up with a public offering. This change would fundamentally alter the course of the web’s development, as social media sites would become accountable to shareholders as well as users. The potential of the internet as a catalyst of economic growth is just beginning to be realised. Interested parties would do well to keep tabs on the market leader’s progress.

Social Media Management

If you’re not on Facebook yet, what are you waiting for? With hundreds of millions of users, it’s a great way to get into contact with potential customers. We can help you manage your social media to make sure that you see the biggest increase in customer engagement, website traffic and sales. Just give us a call or pop us an email – we don’t bite!

 

What is “Distasteful Content”?

The recent story of an individual in America, who was “outed” for moderating content deemed to be offensive on Reddit,  has sparked yet another round in the debate as to what is and isn’t allowed online.  Should internet users suffer real-life repercussions, such as the loss of their job and negative worldwide public attention, when they haven’t done anything illegal?

This brings me to the subject of content and what you put out into the public sphere. Usually, we talk about what kind of content you should post to encourage more followers. This requires looking at the audience you wish to appeal to and developing a marketing plan, with clear objectives, strategies and metrics. What are they talking about and where? Usually for us, this begins with speaking with your business and working closely on this, before slowly taking the reins as you feel comfortable with what we’re doing.

Just as important is what NOT to post. This would definitely be anything that might offend or cause controversy, and of course this can be very subjective. Some say that ‘controversy creates cash’, but this is a bit over-the-top and can be dangerous; especially so when you run a simple business with a traditional customer base. A good rule of thumb is not to post anything related to drugs, sex and violence, but you may also wish to stay away from issues such as race and class which can be a minefield to navigate.

Though you can bet your competition is already making full use of the various social media networks out there, there are those out there who aren’t (that might even be including you). In some cases, this is because they don’t know what they would tweet, or what photos to post if they did have an account. This can lead to some treating the company Twitter as their own personal dalliance with social media, which can be risky. While it’s always important to be personable, how long is it before you start bringing into play your personal social or political views? Could you be alienating a section of your customer-base with what you’re tweeting? The point of social media is for new customers to get to know you, invest in you and turn to you when they require your services; not to learn why you disagree with the Tories. It is possible that you can put a bad taste in the mouth of your audience if you affiliate yourself too closely with a particular ideology. No one wants another person’s views pushed on them.

Many who come to us looking for social media services simply require their networks to be maintained, with queries answered and to build an audience. We can also help with driving traffic to websites and establishing relationships within key circles in your industry. Most clients aren’t looking to set the world on fire, or become the next Martin Luther King; but simply grow their business and stick their flag in the social media moon.

 

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