5 Considerations: Taking your brand social

Recently, a team member here at The Archer Group pointed out an article that ran on Adage: “Clorox Seeking Attorney to Oversee Social-Media Programs: Marketer’s Move Seen as Testament to Importance of Twitter and Facebook”. The article went on point out how companies are becoming more aware that their organizations are moving to the next realm of marketing by diving into the social media scene. As a result they should be aware of the risks they may encounter. You can read the entire article here: http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=141712.

Thinking about this – I did a quick search on Google on the legal issues facing social marketing and found surprisingly little quality material – have the lawyers gone silent? I somehow think not – but I do believe they’re trying to catch their breath. 2010 seems to be the year that social marketing becomes mainstream and heavily integrated not only in the marketing and advertising departments – but also in every other department of the organization. In The Archer Group’s upcoming book The Engaged Brand we discuss how the very concept of social marketing is turning organizations upside down and making marketers out of your help desk, your research engineers, and even your customers!

In general, there are 3 types of conversations that your legal team must focus on: (a) those conversations that are taking place between members of the organization, (b) those conversations that are taking place between members of the organization and the outside world, and (c) those conversations which are going on about your brand in the outside world that don’t involve members of organization. Each area touches various unique issues and separating the conversations this way can help organize and effectively guide the legal team in the brave new world of social media.

Legal issues are sure to come up just as quickly as social marketing did itself and your legal team needs to get out ahead of this major shift to prepare the organization for both a procedural and cultural shift. Here are 5 things the legal team should consider when supporting a brand that is just about to go social:

  1. You can’t have the rubber stamp on everything anymore. If your legal team wants to review every tweet, every facebook post by anyone under your control – you’ll be joining a conversation 2 weeks late – and will do more harm by postponing it; better to just keep silent. What you can do is give your team the tools they need to make some of the same judgments you do.
  2. When your organization jumps into social – your legal team can’t be locked up in their offices with a company involved in social. In order for the legal staff to be able to protect the organization and your customers, they need to be actively involved in what conversations are happening. Just don’t ask for a transcript to approve – get out there and participate in the conversations that are going on. The legal team will be perceived as just that – a participant rather than an impediment to forward progress (as we often are).
  3. The mission of your Legal team may need to be reaffirmed and changed. It’s a quickly changing world, and your brand is becoming the topic of many conversations. You may want to ensure the legal team’s duties are properly aligned. For example, you must protect the organization’s intellectual property rights, guard against any false claims made by your organization, and ensure that you’re following the law with regards to the constantly evolving privacy issues for starters.
  4. The Law may not be new – but the medium is. Just as the legal issues on the internet were based on the same fundamental principles of law – social marketing will need to be supported by the same fundamentals. But the medium by which the fundamental issues are played out are new – and you need to keep up with them. Make sure when you engage help – that you’ve enlisted the help of  a team member that is well versed in all that is being developed.
  5. Constantly be on the look out for new laws or federal regulations that are promulgated with very short notice. There are several sites I monitor – such as Mashable, AdAge, This Week in Law from Twit (http://twit.tv/twil), and other various social media sites that monitor legal developments in the corporate community.

Social Media Marketing is a great opportunity to build any organization for the better. It’s not until recently that companies have been able to effectively speak and listen to what their customers are saying. Since the conversations are now 2 way when it comes to marketing, the legal team of your organization needs to be ready to guide the company as to what can be said and not said. It also needs to be ready to protect the organization when conversations go astray and have the potential to damage the brand. By getting involved early, being seen as a resource rather than an impediment, and by becoming educated on this new medium, the legal team can help drive the organization through this new approach to marketing.

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