13 Social Media Mistakes Your Business Is Making That Could Result in Legal Trouble

 

Social media seems like fun and games—until it isn’t. There are many legal mistakes that small business owners make daily on social media. Most of the time, they are lucky enough to get away with them. But as the FTC continues to crack down on influencer marketing and sponsored posts, more people are paying attention to what they are posting. If your social media agency isn’t trained in the legal ramifications of social media activity, you can still be held liable if the posting is done from your account. I spoke with three leading social media attorneys for a rundown on the legal mistakes you are making on social media and how to avoid them.

1. Not understanding copyright law. Photographs are protected by copyright law, but it is often difficult to ascertain who owns the copyright to the photograph. Is it the photographer? The person who posted the photograph? Or the person shown in the photograph? It could be any of the above. New York-based Advertising Law attorney Kyle-Beth Hilfer says user-generated content from consumers can expose a company to legal liability for embedded intellectual property infringement. “When using photographs on Instagram for commercial purposes, the poster should make sure that it has the proper licenses to the photograph. This is easy if you’ve taken the photograph yourself and post it directly to your own account. It’s often more difficult to ascertain who owns the copyright to a photograph that you are taking from elsewhere. You also want to make sure that you have appropriate releases from anyone shown in the photograph so their rights of privacy/publicity are not violated.”

2. Regramming without attribution. Thinking of regramming a photo a customer took at your restaurant? Be sure to provide proper regram credit and attribution. “Regramming a photo with attribution may be acceptable, but it may not. If there is a creative commons license attached to the photo that allows for use with attribution, that’s great. But more often, the content on Instagram isn’t sourced by these apps with this in mind. Giving attribution mitigates against copyright infringement damages, but it doesn’t completely solve the problem,” says Hilfer. She adds that brands using Instagram should also develop internal content curation guidelines that account for risk in a variety of different categories.

3. Failure to properly disclose influencer marketing campaigns. Business owners should be aware of recent FTC guidance urging transparency on Instagram. In April, the FTC sent over 90 letters to companies, celebrities and other social media users reminding them of the legal requirements for clarity in influencer marketing. According to Hilfer, endorsers must disclose their material connections to the brand. The federal agency offered specific guidance on how to do that. For example, any disclosure should be placed before the “more” button since many consumers will not click through. In addition, the FTC warned that certain kinds of hashtags would not be clear disclosures. Marketers should work with their legal teams to ensure that influencers, whether they be employees or third parties, make proper disclosures on Instagram and any other social media platform. Penalties for violating FTC guidelines have ranged from $20-$50,000 with a range of other requirements for compliance. The FTC can pursue legal action against both the brand and the influencer.

4. Improper formatting of sponsored posts. The FTC has cracked down on influencer marketing campaigns, including the exact formatting of these posts. According to Hilfer, the mere presence of a disclosure may not be enough to satisfy the FTC. If the post contains multiple hashtags, links or tags, you must separate the legal disclosures to make sure they are clear and conspicuous. “If an influencer includes ‘Thanks [Brand]’ or #sp or #partner, these notations may not clearly indicate to the consumer that the post is sponsored. You have to put yourself in the mindset of the consumer seeing the post,” said Hilfer. While the FTC has been clear that there are many acceptable ways to make disclosures, it explains that any term that has many interpretations will not provide the appropriate clarity.

5. Assuming your social media agency understands legal. Your social media agency is probably amazing at the creative work they do. But unless they have substantially invested in legal training, chances are they are not well versed in what could get your business in hot water. It is incumbent upon brands to make sure they are working with agencies who are cognizant of the law. For example, if a mistake is made on your company’s social media, is it clearly outlined that the agency will take the legal and financial responsibility for the risk? Or are you assuming the risk? “Not having appropriate contracts when working with third party content creators is one of the biggest mistakes I see,” says Social Media Attorney Ruth Carter of Venjuris. “In many cases, unless the contract states otherwise, the creator retains ownership of the copyright in their work, and if the hiring party wants to acquire it, they will likely have to pay for it. Additionally, I recommend that the hiring party have an indemnification clause to protect them if they are accused of intellectual property infringement or other wrongdoing because of the content provided by the third-party creator.”

6. Fake testimonials. Testimonials are great for building trusted authority as an expert. However, they can also land you in hot water with regulators who are watching out for fake testimonials on social media. According to Hilfer, “State attorney generals are enforcing laws against this practice, known as astroturfing. In New York, fines resulting from such investigations have been up to $50,000. In one case, the state settled for $100,000 with a brand that had instructed its ad agencies to post fake reviews online. Influencer marketing can have expensive legal ramifications for a brand if done improperly.”

7. Not reading the terms of service. For any social media platform, check the rules in their terms of service. The legal ramifications vary on each social platform. Many social media sites’ TOS state that you agree to only post images for which you own the copyright or for which you have permission to post. “The terms may state that by posting an image, you give other users permission to share the image on their profiles on that platform (ex. sharing on Facebook.) If you want to use the image of another person in your Facebook ad campaign, be sure to familiarize yourself with the applicable state laws on a person’s rights to publicize their image,” said Carter.

8. Reusing someone else’s license to a purchased stock photo. You found the image you were about to purchase on iStock through Google images (for free!). You directly pull the image onto your desktop and upload it into your content queue for the week. However, this mistake can be costly. According to Carter, you can only use images that you’ve received permission from the copyright holder, either directly or via a license like Creative Commons. “For iStock photos, read the license the person purchased. Your use must comply with the limits of that license. If your third-party creator bought the license, make sure it allows you to use it without having to buy your own license. Many of the agreements between independent contractors and the hiring party state that the contractor isn’t the company’s agent, so they can’t make purchases for the company. Unless the license for the image is transferable, the company has to buy their own license unless the terms of the license state that the agent’s license is sufficient,” says Carter. If you want to use an iStock image, buy your own license and avoid the risk.

9. Not having an internal social media policy. As personal branding and social media become more ingrained in our society, it is imperative to have a social media policy and a promotional clause as part of your employment agreements. For example, if your employee is promoting herself as an expert in the same line of work that you are in, is this a conflict of interest or is it acceptable? If the employee is using social media (LinkedIn) to pursue outside job opportunities while on the clock, are you protected? If the employee builds a substantial following on social media while working for your organization, who owns the rights to this fan base? Many business owners don’t anticipate these issues, and the hiring and firing surrounding these issues can often result in wrongful termination lawsuits. Adam Katz, an employment law and commercial litigation attorney at Golderg Segalla, says that most employers don’t realize they can be held liable if they terminate employees for certain posts and social media activity pertaining to salary and other work conditions. “An employee can bring a lawsuit for wrongful termination and discrimination if they believe they were fired for something that a supervisor saw on social media but otherwise would not have known.” Katz emphasizes that employers need carefully tailored social media policies that limit a supervisor’s social media activity with employees. “A good policy will state that while employees are allowed to associate themselves with the company when posting, they must clearly brand their online posts as purely their own. Additionally, the policy should make provisions for reviews and editorial rights of all posts or blog entries that reference or pertain to the business of the company. The social media policy should also prohibit employees from using derogatory words and racial slurs and from divulging confidential company information such as design plans, internal operations and legal matters,” says Katz.

10. Pulling content from Google Images. Many small business owners do not have subscriptions to iStock or Shutterstock, so they pull whatever they can find from Google Images. However, Google Images is not a free library. This mistake can be extremely costly. Not only will you incur legal fees if the originator of the content decides to come after you, you also may be liable for treble damages under copyright law. “Possession does not yield copyright ownership. There is no 10 percent or 20 percent rule that allows one to take a certain percent of content and use it without a license. This is particularly the case for commercial purposes. The fair use defense requires significant legal analysis. It may not be available, depending on the facts of each case,” explains Hilfer.

11. Not budgeting for legal recourse. Posting on social media may be free, but paying the fees associated with a lawsuit spurned by social media gone wrong is anything but that. According to the experts, social media lawsuits can cost small business owners upwards of $100,000. Many small business owners do not budget for the cost of an attorney if something goes awry with their marketing campaign. “Suing for infringement is complicated, and you have to be ready to front the costs of litigation, even if you’re in a situation where you are likely to be awarded attorney’s fees if you win. If the other side doesn’t have money, you may never collect, and you still have to pay your lawyer. For many people, sending a cease and desist or a DMCA takedown notice is the more effective and cost efficient way to proceed,” says Carter.

12. Making employees promote your company on their personal social media profiles. As a small business owner, your employees are a critical component of your social media strategy. After all, the millennial in your office has way more Facebook friends than you and can definitely increase engagement on your posts, right? Wrong! According to Carter, there is a big difference between making content available for employees to post on their social media profiles if they want to and requiring them to do so. Carter explains, “The former may be permissible; the latter is not. Review the terms of the social media platform where you want employees to promote the company. The platform may forbid people to use their personal accounts to promote a business.” Next time you want to terminate an employee for not complying with your request to promote the business on social media, understand they may be able to bring up an actionable claim against you. If they suspect they are being asked to violate the terms of the platform, they can report their employer to their state’s Department of Labor or the Attorney General’s Office.

13. Running a social media sweepstakes without legal clearance. Everyone loves to win a prize, and involving your followers on social media in spreading the word about your product is great publicity. But running a sweepstakes or contest on social media without understanding the legal issues can cause big problems. In fact, sweepstakes and contests consistently rank in the FTC’s annual top ten list of consumer complaints. And regulators are watching how brands implement them closely. Hilfer explains, “Social media sweepstakes raise legal issues with gambling and lottery laws. Often, brands forget about drafting rules. Or they take form rules that don’t cover them adequately. Refer a friend, text to enter, public judging: all these mechanisms have legal implications that can make your giveaway illegal.” In addition, even if you’ve done everything correctly to set up the promotions structure and draft rules, your marketing messages promoting the game can still get you in trouble. The FTC has numerous guidelines that affect how you spread word about your prize promotion, and the various state attorneys general enforce state laws that mirror the federal rules. According to Hilfer, “You will want your marketing teams advertising and promotion of the game to match up with the legal rules. This often means crafting disclosures in space-constrained posts. Ideally, marketing teams will plan ahead and work hand in hand with legal counsel to pre-approve messages.”

Don’t assume you understand the legalities of social media. Read the applicable terms of service and work with an attorney to understand the legal ramifications before clicking post.

Kris Ruby is the CEO of Ruby Media Group, a Public Relations and Social Media Agency. Kris Ruby is a frequent on air TV commentator and speaks on social media, tech trends and crisis communications. For more information, visit www.rubymediagroup.com or www.krisruby.com


10 Embarrassing Social Media Mistakes Your Business Is Making

Prior to launching a social media marketing campaign, you need to outline clear objectives. Are you aiming to increase followers? Build a community? Optimize content marketing distribution? The key to having a successful social media presence for your business is developing a digital strategy. Without this, you are basically throwing things against a wall—no pun intended—and hoping something sticks.

Your social media channels are the most front-facing part of your company. Whereas you used to have to buy ad spots, now you can post content, surpassing traditional media gatekeepers and directly controlling the message. But to do so effectively, you can’t cut corners. If large, successful companies have poor social media channels, they can appear mismanaged. On the flip side, small companies with great social can develop cult followings. If you make a misstep or don’t invest in a strategy, followers will doubt your authenticity and authority. If you want your business to shine on social media, avoid making these 10 mistakes.

1) Your graphics are amateur. Are your photos high resolution or are they out of focus? Are they creative or generic? Does your Instagram grid have a cohesive identity or does it have poorly lit photos with text overlay saved as a screenshot in Microsoft Word? Social media sites are visual, so having great graphics is half the battle.

2) Your messaging is generic. Can anyone in your industry post the same content you are posting? Or do your posts have an angle? There are companies that sell stock social media imagery and posts. Could your posts be seen as interchangeable with this content or are they unique? If your content could be used on any other practitioners Facebook page in your industry, then what you are paying for is worthless. Social media requires hours of planning, graphic creation, boosting of posts, A/B testing and long form content creation. If what you are posting could be posted by anyone else, don’t bother. Until you’ve identified the overall message you want to convey, you shouldn’t be posting.

3) Your brand identity is misaligned. Do your posts follow core brand guidelines? Do you have a clear idea of what is on-brand versus off-brand? So many companies with beautiful branding completely ruin it when they hand the keys to a new, inexperienced social media manager. There needs to be a cohesive strategy that unites traditional and digital branding.

4) You lack a clear social strategy. Are you trying to be everything to everyone? Are you hopping on Snapchat even though your core demographic is females age 60 and over? Instead of trying to be on every social platform, pick the ones that your target demographic uses. Use your resources wisely to target your customer more effectively.

5) Your office manager is running your social media. This is the most common mistake small business owners make. They want to save money, so they hand over the keys to anyone under 30 that already works for them. Let me be clear: Social media is a real job. The skill set required to be an effective community manager includes impeccable writing skills, image creation abilities and strategic vision. Would you trust the office manager to build a new website for you? No. So why would you trust them to essentially build a micro site for you on social media?

6) You post too often. Do not post for the sake of posting. Once you have laid out your goals, you need to reverse engineer a social media strategy. Sometimes less is more. On social media, that is the case now more than ever before. When I originally launched Ruby Media Group, a PR and social media agency, clients wanted daily posting on social media. Now clients want three to five posts per week.

7) You don’t add editorial commentary. This isn’t 2009. It is not enough to post an article link and say that your social media account was updated for the day. Social media requires meaningful effort. You can’t just wing it. Plan out your content with editorial calendars and content planning. If you are going to share something, you need to add to the conversation. In terms of content mix, it should be 40 percent engagement (thought leadership), 35 percent news and updates, and 25 percent offers. For many small business owners, their Facebook page comes up as the third result on a Google search. Facebook pages are often updated much more frequently than your company web site, so every post should demonstrate your thought leadership. You need less generic content and more authentic content specific to your brand’s value proposition. Think of your company as a media publisher. To get some inspiration, look up your favorite magazines’ Facebook pages to see the tonality they use to create engagement with fans. They don’t just curate content, they add in brand perspective and original commentary.

8) You don’t use hashtags properly. The majority of business owners misuse hashtags. The goal of hashtags is to be found by prospects—not by others within your industry. For example, if you are a surgeon in Manhattan, using hashtags such as #NYCSurgeon or #topdoctor helps others within your industry find you, but new prospects who are researching health issues won’t find you. Think about the hashtags that make the most sense for your prospects versus for your own industry. Also, hide the hashtags in the comment section instead of including all of them in the caption. It looks better aesthetically.

9) You aren’t using Facebook advertising. Facebook changed the game in terms of organic reach. If you are looking to build a business page on Facebook, it is very difficult to do so without advertising or boosting posts. Boosting posts should be only a small component of the ad campaign. The majority of your business’ resources allocated to social media should go towards running regular ad traffic to get more people to your page. Cater these posts towards your target audience. Assuming that people will magically find your Facebook page is unrealistic. In the initial stages, you need to use a solid ad campaign to give your page a boost.

10) You aren’t playing to your strengths. Social media is the place to show off your strengths. If you are great on video but not at writing, then Facebook live and Youtube should be a central part of your marketing strategy. If you are great with graphics but not with writing, Instagram makes more sense for your business. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. It is painfully obvious on social media and dilutes your brand equity. It’s better to have two great channels than five mediocre ones.

ABOUT RUBY MEDIA GROUP

 

Ruby Media Group is a strategic Public Relations, Social Media and Management Consulting Agency in Westchester County, NY. Ruby Media Group helps companies increase their exposure through leveraging social media and digital PR. RMG conducts a thorough deep dive into an organizations brand identity, and then creates a digital footprint and comprehensive strategy to execute against. Specialties include content creation, strategic planning, social media management, and digital public relations. RMG helps clients shine in the digital space by extracting their strengths, developing story ideas, and crafting compelling news angles to ensure journalists go to their clients first as story sources and thought leaders. Ruby Media Group creates strategic, creative, measurable targeted campaigns to achieve your organizations strategic business growth objectives. If you are looking for social media management, content creation of media consulting to drive your business forward, visit www.rubymediagroup.com


10 Ways to Leverage Social Media in Commercial Real Estate

Once a building is completed, the next task is to fill it with tenants. As every power broker knows, social media can be a pivotal force in a property marketing plan. But before figuring out which social media channel makes the most sense, it is important to understand the target audience and to study the demographic.

Kris Ruby, CEO of Ruby Media Group, a public relations, social media and corporate consulting agency, has seen the power of social media for real estate marketing. Here are her top 10 ways CRE professionals can leverage digital outlets.


1. Employ drone photography for Instagram Strong photography is critical to the success of any Instagram marketing strategy. Photograph properties from all angles and post them on Instagram. Images taken with drones can improve the production quality.

2. Leverage influencer marketing Search on Instagram to see if any influencers in that area cover all things related to the property in the neighborhood. Direct message influencers and invite them to do a tour of a building and feature it in their feed. Ask to see a copy of their media kit, as many influencers will want to be paid for a post. It is also possible to organize a meetup with several of the most prominent social media stars in the area.

3. Take advantage of the Instagram carousel The new Instagram carousel feature lets users upload up to 10 videos and static images in a single Instagram post. Try doing a before-and-after carousel to show from construction to the completion phase. Utilize pictures of the exterior and images from inside the property with staged furniture. Including a quick video tour around the property will also add to the visual experience.

4. Use Instagram Live Instagram live is one of the latest updates to the app, giving users a 24-hour real-time glimpse into daily life. Instagram live should be used to show videos or text that is happening in the moment. This feature can be a great way to highlight behind-the-scenes events. An Instagram live Q&A while doing a walk-through of a property makes it easy to answer prospects’ questions.

5. Publish on LinkedIn Figuring out how to translate building features into engaging content that people will want to read will promote the property in a more dynamic way. Strong pieces will often tie in to a roundup article on the top reasons why a tenant would live in that area. LinkedIn is a great outlet for short-form pieces, especially for brokers with access to a strong professional network.

6. Do hashtag research Finding which hashtags are popular in the area surrounding a property is a quick way to get on a prospective tenant’s radar. Search for everyone in the area who is already using a location-specific hashtag, and look for every variation of that hashtag. Be sure to add in the location of every post to increase the geo-tag searchability.

7. Engage in Facebook groups Facebook groups are powerful, targeted audiences. For example, if there is a new property in Westchester County for families, engage in the mom groups for each town. Overt advertisement can lead to a ban, but if someone has already posted that they are looking to move, this may be a great place to drop a comment about that new building nearby.

8. Offer an exclusive walk-through on Facebook Live Utilize Facebook Live to offer a virtual walk-through of a property. Hit record and walk people through every room. Throughout the Facebook live feed, encourage people to share and “like” the content. Encouraging viewers to ask questions about the listing will increase engagement. By sharing a live video while walking through the property, interested tenants or buyers can take a tour of the property without stepping inside.

9. Use Facebook Messenger Day to preview a new listing Facebook Messenger Day’s timed video option is perfect for teasing a listing without giving too much away. Previewing it on Facebook allows friends to see it on the same platform instead of making them go to Snapchat or another social media platform.

10. Snapchat building amenities Snapchat is the photo sharing app dominated by Millennials and Generation Z. Post photos and videos to show building amenities including the gym, restaurants, coffee shops and rooftop lounges. If there are building events, showcase them on Snapchat.

ABOUT RMG

Ruby Media Group is a strategic Public Relations, Social Media and Management Consulting Agency. Ruby Media Group helps companies increase their exposure through leveraging social media and digital PR. RMG conducts a thorough deep dive into an organizations brand identity, and then creates a digital footprint and comprehensive strategy to execute against. Specialties include content creation, strategic planning, social media management, and digital public relations. RMG helps clients shine in the digital space by extracting their strengths, developing story ideas, and crafting compelling news angles to ensure journalists go to their clients first as story sources and thought leaders. Ruby Media Group creates strategic, creative, measurable targeted campaigns to achieve your organizations strategic business growth objectives. RMG Founder Kris Ruby is the “go to” consultant for top commercial real estate executives for PR and social media strategy. If you are looking for social media management, content creation of media consulting to drive your business forward, visit www.rubymediagroup.com



How to Pick the Best Social Media Platform for Your Brand’s 24-hour disappearing ‘Story’

On March 9, Facebook rolled out a new feature merged into its Messenger chat application called “Day.” Inspired by Snapchat, it allows you to post video or image content that lasts for 24 hours. Afterwards, your posted content disappears.

Facebook is not the first social network to copy Snapchat’s innovative Stories feature. Instagram has done the same (also calling their feature “Stories”). The previous month, WhatsApp followed suit, adding an update to their “Status” feature.

As a business owner, you can use these features to capture a sense of spontaneity and engage with your customers. But which network should you choose? We explore the pros and cons of each platform.

Facebook Messenger Day

Facebook Monthly Active Users: 1.23 billion daily active users

Facebook Largest Demographic: 25-34, followed by 35-44, 18-24, and 45-54

Facebook Messenger Day Pros: Because it’s brand new, fewer people use Facebook Messenger Day, which means your posts may not get lost in the crowd. This is ample livestream “real estate” to broadcast your day to people who otherwise may not use livestreaming platforms. Additionally, Facebook is still the most popular social network with the largest overall reach. As Messenger Day matures, this may ultimately result in a broader reach than you will find elsewhere. Facebook’s demographics are well distributed among middle-aged users. If your business is targeting a middle-aged demographic, this would be the perfect livestream feature to capture their attention.

Facebook Messenger Day Cons: Because Facebook Messenger Day is still new, your reach may be limited. Functionality is lacking in a few areas as well. There is still no indication that Frames are available for use with Day posts, which restricts geographic discoverability. Day also does not work with Facebook pages right now; it’s only available to individual users. That means you must use a personal account, which may be difficult if all of your business content is on your company fan page. Facebook Messenger Day is also still missing features that exist on Snapchat and Instagram, such as 3D stickers, swipeable filters and brush styles.

Instagram Stories

Instagram Monthly Active Users: 600 million

Instagram Largest Demographic: 25-34, followed by 18-24

Instagram Stories Pros: Instagram is arguably the best overall choice for most businesses. This social network has more monthly active users than Snapchat. While it has fewer active users than Facebook or WhatsApp, Instagram Stories is far more established than Day or Status. For right now, it provides the best reach. Instagram is particularly popular with millennials, making it ideal to reach the younger generation. Like Snapchat, Instagram is well established and sports numerous features like brush styles and GIF capture. So, you can customize your posts—perfect for letting your employees showcase your corporate culture.

Instagram Stories Cons: Instagram is a particularly popular network among marketers, so you may find yourself vying for attention. This is because Instagram is well established as a visual platform and provides a broader reach than Snapchat.

Snapchat

Snapchat Monthly Active Users: 301 million

Snapchats Largest Demographic: 18-24

Snapchat Pros: Twenty-three percent of Snapchat users are between the ages of 13 and 17. So, if you’re targeting gen Z, Snapchat will provide you with fine-tuned visibility. It has many advanced features like 3D stickers and the ability to export to other platforms, so you can customize your posts. Another advantage is that Snapchat is well established and was the leader in developing this feature. Because it was the original livestream, it still has the most “authentic” vibe.

Snapchat Cons: Snapchat is not as useful for reaching baby boomers and Instagram stories may be a more ideal platform for reaching millennials who are already active users of the platform. For this reason, its utility within a B2B context is limited.

WhatsApp Status

WhatsApp Monthly Active Users (as of January 2017): 1 billion

WhatsApp Largest Demographic: 25-34, followed by 35-44

WhatsApp Pros: As with Facebook Messenger Day, WhatsApp Status is relatively new in its current incarnation and not yet oversaturated. WhatsApp has a large user base and gives you access to a wide age distribution. Status updates are encrypted, perfect for reaching out privately to a single customer or associate. Another interesting feature about WhatsApp is that it was designed specifically for use on mobile devices, which may make Status the perfect choice for B2B posts in an industry, such as construction, where mobile technology is pervasive.

WhatsApp Cons: Like Messenger Day, this version of Status is not well established, which will restrict reach in the immediate future. Because it’s still in the early stages, it lacks the advanced features available on Snapchat and Instagram Stories.

Ruby Media Groups Picks:

  • Best for overall reach: Instagram stories
  • Best for targeting Millennials and gen Z: Snapchat, Instagram stories
  • Best for targeting baby boomers: Facebook Messenger Day
  • Best for privacy: WhatsApp
  • Best for mobile reach: WhatsApp
  • Best for customization: Snapchat, Instagram Stories
  • Best for geographic discoverability: Instagram Stories, Snapchat

Differences in demographics and reach make one platform more appropriate for your brand than the rest. Evaluate your target market and choose the platform that will best reach your customers.

The days of static social media are long gone. It’s no longer enough to post a photo and hope for the best. Every social network is clamoring for your attention and encouraging users to livestream their day. Without taking advantage of these livestream features, you may be missing out on a core functionality of where social media is headed.

Kris Ruby is the CEO of Ruby Media Group, a public relations and social media agency. Ruby is a frequent on-air TV contributor and speaks on social media, tech trends and crisis communications. For more information, visit rubymediagroup.com or krisruby.com

 

Photo Credit: Kara Hendrick, Women in Digital


PR Don’ts: 11 Ways to Annoy a Journalist

These common faux pas will ensure that you’ll get cut from their story

Congratulations! A reporter wants to include you in a story. Whether it’s because your site is optimized or you’re highly visible on social media, a journalist has found you and is interested in writing about your business. However, a journalist finding you is just the starting point. Every word you say to a reporter from the second they reach out to you until the story goes live matters.

Here are the 10 most common ways to annoy a journalist and risk getting cut from a story.

  1. Speaking in industry jargon. There is a reason people hire publicists: They know how to speak journalists’ language. Publicists know what journalists are looking for, when they are looking for it, and how they want to consume it. If a reporter reaches out to you, do not start speaking in industry jargon. A reporter wants the simplest version that their readers will understand. They want you to break down your story in a way that makes sense to consumers—not to other people in your industry. They are coming to you because you’re an expert. Boil down your points so they are digestible to the masses.
  2. Answering 10 hours later. Reporters are working on deadlines. Typically, a reporter is working on several different stories at once, not just the one they emailed you about. The sources that get back to them the fastest are most likely to be included in their story. If you answer them 10 hours later, they might already be working on their next story. If you see an email with “Press Request” or “Jane Doe from X News,” be sure to prioritize it.
  3. Referring them to your publicist who doesn’t answer. If you hire a PR person to handle your media, make sure they are responsible. The worst mistake you can make as a business owner is referring a journalist to your press person, only to have them answer a week later. If you notice your PR person hasn’t answered a reporter within one to two hours, it’s time to find someone new. Your PR person should be optimizing your chances for press coverage, not diminishing them.
  4. Blowing their story on social media. If a reporter invites you in to film a segment, listen very carefully to what they ask you to do. If they say, “No photos or videos from this can be leaked on social media until after the story is published,” do not post anything. Recently, I filmed a behind the scenes segment for a story I was working on and the source leaked the entire story on Instagram Live. I will not include them in any further stories. If you’re that impatient for a story to go live that you have to leak it on social media, you don’t deserve to be in the story.
  5. Asking them to pay for things. If a journalist is interested in featuring your product in a story, it’s important to pay any associated costs that go along with this. If you don’t, you make it very difficult from them to try the product and ultimately feature you. If a journalist wants to feature your product, do not ask them to pay for the product, the shipping of your product, or your travel expenses to get it in their hands. If you are lucky enough to be considered, bite the bullet and pay the associated costs.
  6. Asking multiple times when the story is coming out. Once a story is filed, a journalist has to deal with several other departments. First, the story has to pass through their editors. Then, the story may have to go through the art department. When the story comes back to you, there may be new edits you want, which starts the whole process again. A journalist does not owe you an explanation of when their story is live. If you’re concerned, set up a Google alert for the journalist’s name and outlet so that you receive a notification when it comes out. Don’t annoy a journalist by asking when an article is coming out. Most of the time, they don’t know.
  7. Promoting a story without tagging the journalist on social media. Journalists are all competing to get eyeballs on their writing. If you’re lucky enough to be included in a story, journalists want to see that you’re promoting the link on your social media accounts. Don’t make a faux pax by promoting the link without including the journalists handle on Twitter or Instagram. Journalists pay attention to which sources are social media savvy. If you push their content, it doesn’t go unnoticed.
  8. Copping an attitude. If a journalist is including you, do not harass them. A journalist is featuring your product and helping you increase sales, so if you cop an attitude with them, why would they ever want to include you? A journalist is not concerned with how prominently your product is featured; they’re concerned with the facts of the story. The more you make it about you, the less credibility you have.
  9. Sending PDF’s. If a journalist asks for your press kit, do not send them a PDF. If a journalist has to copy and paste your PDF into word, many times the characters don’t show up or there is a break in the code. You want to make their life easier, not harder. Also, be sure to include product “blurbs” or descriptions in whatever press materials you give them. If you ever wonder why certain products have longer descriptions than others, this is why. If you don’t give a journalist source material to pull from, your paragraph will be shorter.
  10. Sending broken Dropbox links. If a journalist asks for your press kit and you send them a Dropbox link, do not deactivate the link after one day. Most of the time, the journalist may not open up the Dropbox link until the night before their deadline. If you deactivated the link, how are they supposed to pull your information for the story?
  11. Asking for changes after a story is published. Finally, if a journalist includes you in a story, do not badger them about making changes after the story goes live. If you want to ask them to change the spelling of your company name, that’s fine. But do not ask them to change what they have written about your company. Also, do not ask them to change website URL’s and descriptor text because your marketing manager said it would help you rank better on Google. This is a completely inappropriate ask. You have control over your assets on your site, not over another publication’s.

When you are communicating with journalists, remember to be appreciative. Journalists work hard to put together stories. Many of the journalists today are contributing writers for publications, in addition to having full-time jobs (such as myself). Journalists are very aware of the promotion you’re getting (for free) by being included in a story. Having a basic understanding of this dichotomy will take you far. If you are lucky enough to be included in a story, follow these tips and don’t blow it! If you make these mistakes, don’t be surprised if you “die on the chopping block floor” as the old saying goes.

Kris Ruby is the CEO of Ruby Media Group, a public relations and social media agency. Ruby is a frequent on air TV commentator and speaks on social media, tech trends and crisis communications. For more information, visit rubymediagroup.com or krisruby.com

 


The Edible Selfie Experience: 10 Delicious Ways to ‘Share’ Your Face on Social Media

These are the best choices for printing your social media photos on food

Remember how hard it used to be to have a custom made birthday cake with your photo on it? Now—thanks to the rising edible selfie industry—a few companies are changing that. Through portable experiential technology and social media integration, it’s easier than ever to have your social media photos printed on edible items. Long gone are the days when you had to email a photo for these items manually. Now, you can upload them and have them delivered the next day with your edible selfie at your doorstep.

Edible selfie experiences are changing the event industry. Several companies have created portable experiential technology that can print your on a macaroon or a latte on the spot. Edible selfie machines are even replacing photo booths at weddings.

To test this trend out, I reached out to the top players in the edible selfie world. I handed over my Instagram handle, and the rest was history! As more companies discover how profitable it is to offer edible selfie experiences, this will become an increasingly competitive business.

From macaroons to Rice Krispies treats, this list of the top edible selfies is sure to leave you hungry. Eat your heart out (or face!).

Selfie Macaroon

Selfie Macaroons by Makelab

Forget regular photo booths; selfie food photo booths are all the rage. MakeLab, an event technology studio in Toronto, offers 3D printers, laser cutters and food photo booths. Their designers, technologists and food scientists create interactive events around the world. Guests grab their camera, snap the perfect selfie, and watch as their photos are laser-caramelized onto colorful French macaroons. If you’re looking to have edible selfie macaroons at a big event, these are the perfect choice.

Selfie Latte

Selfie Latte by Selffee

Using only FDA approved and flavorless dyes, consumers can sip their image, which is printed directly onto a drinkable latte within minutes. Selffee, a startup, has plans to expand to meet the growing demands of the public to “eat their face.” Currently, the company can print edible selfies on iced coffee, iced tea, cookies, cupcakes, milkshakes and marshmallows. Simply snap, print and sip! Founders David Weiss and Farsh Kanji launched the company specifically to create edible selfies at live events. The coolest part? They can even print your selfie on coffee! Now that is Instaworthy.

Selfie Marshmallows

Selfie Marshmallows by Boomf

Boomf is the ultimate edible selfie digital machine. Simply upload your Instagram photos directly to their website, and they’ll mail you customized selfie marshmallows or even selfie chocolate. Their packaging is especially clever. Boomf is the ultimate gift for the Instagram addict in your life.

Selfie M&M’s

Selfie M&M’s by My M&M’s. 

My M&M’s has created an entire site for designing your own set of personal selfie M&M’s. I was extremely impressed with the user-friendly experience. You can design your own M&M’s by choosing custom colors, uploading your selfie, and adding in your favorite hashtag. The best part is that you can see an image of what your custom designed M&M’s will look like before you purchase them. Simply design it, package it and share it. My selfie M&M’s arrived in a stunning round acrylic black gift box surrounded by satin mesh. I personalized my M&M’s with the hashtag #Instaworthy.

Rice Krispie Selfies

Rice Krispie Selfies by Edible Gifts Plus. 

If you want to see your selfie on a jumbo rice krispie treat or 8 x10 cookie card, Edible Gifts Plus is a perfect choice. I was shocked to see a crystal clear image of one of my photos placed on a giant rice krispie treat picture sheet laced with white chocolate. I could never imagine eating it because it looks just like a real picture. Edible Gifts Plus will also take your photos and put them on rice krispie selfie photo pops. All of their edible selfies come beautifully wrapped and look top notch—perfect for client gifts. This company gives new meaning to the term “edible art” as an artist truly designed each piece.

iPhone Instabites

iPhone Instabites by Kellies Baking Co.

Kellies Baking Co. has been so successful with edible selfies that they launched a collection called Instabites. Instabites includes iPhone photo cookies, Instagram selfie cookies and a specialty selfie instacookie gift set. The instacookie gift set is beautifully packaged and features all of your Instagram photos on miniature cookies. All of the instabites are far too pretty to eat, but perfect to include in your Instagram stories to make your friend’s jealous of your Insta deliciousness!

Instalolli

Instalollis by Vintage Confections. 

Vintage Confections launched a line dedicated to creating customized lollipops with your Instagram photos. To make your very own “Instalolli,” choose your favorite images from your Instagram feed and connect your feed directly to their site. They will produce nine lollipops with your Instagram images.

Selfie 3D Chocolate Lollipops

Selfie 3D Chocolate Lollipops by Candy Mechanics. Kaitlyn Flannagan for Observer

Candy Mechanics created a 3D consumable edible selfie product that can be made directly from your smartphone. If you’re looking to see a 3D version of your head made out of chocolate, then this is for you. To make your cranial selfie chocolate lollipop, take a video of your head and upload it to their site. It’s then rendered as a 3D model and carved into chocolate. It’s so fun to see your head in chocolate!

Selfie Cookie

Selfie Cookie by DeelishableKaitlyn Flannagan for Observer

I was first exposed to the edible selfie world when I received a box of gourmet Deelishable selfie cookies when filming my show for BRAVO. In addition to your selfies, Deelishables will put magazine covers, book covers, and full-blown TV appearances directly on cookies. These selfie cookies come custom wrapped with ribbon and sprinkles, making them extra glamorous.

Gluten Free Selfie Cookies

Selfie Cookies by #Selfiecookie. Kaitlyn Flannagan for Observer

#Selfiecookie is touted as one of the first companies to tie edibles into not just pictures, but the entire modern sensibility around photos and social networking. It was created as a physical extension of existing social media activity. With #Selfiecookie, you can put your best Instagram moments on cookies from New York and send them anywhere in the world for next day delivery. Bonus: customers can choose from chocolate chip, red velvet, sugar, oatmeal, double chocolate chip, and gluten-free chocolate chip for their #selfiecookies.

Kris Ruby is the CEO of Ruby Media Group, a public relations and social media agency. Ruby is a frequent on air TV contributor and speaks on social media, tech trends and crisis communications. For more information, visit rubymediagroup.com or krisruby.com


10 Ways to Leverage Instagram Albums for Business

Utilize the new feature to increase your visual storytelling capabilities

One of the most buzzed about social media changes in 2017 is the new Instagram update known as “Instagram galleries,” “Instagram albums,” or simply “carousel.”

You may be familiar with carousel ads, which Instagram had as a paid feature. Now, that same feature is available for free to all users to share their stories. The carousel feature lets users upload up to 10 videos and static images in a single Instagram post. This feature is ideal for social media managers and content creators who are looking to increase visual storytelling capabilities on social media platforms. It’s also ideal for those who struggle to choose just one image for an Instagram post.

How can you take advantage of the new carousel feature to promote your business? Here are 10 ideas.

  1. Team member carousels. This helps your customers build a relationship with your business. Take a picture of each team member and post it in one carousel along with a group shot at the end to showcase your corporate culture. Utilize the “Boomerang” feature to make this carousel come to life.
  2. Before-and-after carousels. Does your brand run photo challenge contests on Instagram? Put a new twist on the tried and true idea by challenging your customers to submit before-and-after shots, showing how your product has transformed their lives. If you are a cosmetic dentist, you could share a series of before-and-after cosmetic makeover photos, demonstrating your services.
  3. Case study carousels. Use a carousel to showcase your best case studies. Figure out how to bring your work to life by leveraging video and photography, and showcase your top 10 case studies in a carousel. This is a great way to show off your success by leveraging a visual medium. Get creative with how you want to tell the story. No one wants to read basic case studies, so use Instagram to make them come to life. Tag customers and brands that you are referencing for an added bonus.
  4. Thematic album carousels. If you are business-to-business (B2B), the ability to create themed carousels is a great way to take advantage of Instagram albums. For example, you can create a carousel on your company’s top press moments or a carousel with the best photos at your company’s Breast Cancer Walk.
  5. New product carousels. Post a carousel with close-ups and a video of the product in one album. This will allow your customers to see your product from all angles without feeling like they have been spammed with a bunch of posts in their feed. Imagine being able to show off a clothing item from all sides or demonstrate how to use a complex appliance in a single post.
  6. Behind-the-scenes carousels. Buyers who are passionate about a brand love to get the inside scoop into how a product is manufactured and how a creative team brainstorms ideas. The carousel format is perfect for sharing these behind the scenes moments. Behind the scenes footage will make your customers and associates feel like they were right there with you.
  7. Product demo carousels. If you are looking to promote a specific product from all angles, Instagram carousel is a great option. Post close-up photos and a demo, and customers will be able to visualize themselves using your products, which may give your bottom line a crucial boost.
  8. New line/collection carousels. If your business involves clothing, use a carousel to pinpoint each item in a look. This is great for your new spring arrivals. Highlighting each item of clothing from your spring collection will inspire your customers to try out new styles and imitate what you share. This is the perfect opportunity to tag brands so your customers can find other clothes they might enjoy from the spring collection.
  9. Sequential tutorial carousels. If you sell a cooking ingredient or kitchen appliance, you could use a sequence of images or videos to walk followers through a recipe, which might inspire them to purchase your product. If your company sells surfboards, you can share a sequence of videos and images to help new surfers get started with their first board. This may be all someone needs to take the plunge and make a purchase after seeing how to use the product.
  10. “Best of” album carousels. If you are a celebrating your companies fifth anniversary, put together a “best of” album showcasing your top moments over the years. For example, you could choose one image to represent the best of each of your five years in business.

After you have chosen the images for your Instagram album, be sure to tag all featured brands in the post. Also, if you are including multiple photos or videos in a carousel, remember to shoot in a horizontal format. If you want to reorder the slideshow images, tap and hold an image to move it from the beginning to the end. You can drag it to change the order or delete a photo from the post altogether. You also have the option of filtering all the posts with the same filter or individually.

Instagram albums are brand new, so jump ahead of the competition and leverage carousels to gain visibility for your business before everyone else starts doing it. The goal is to figure out how to take content and use social media to tell the story in a new, social media friendly way. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the changes in the social media networks. Instead, focus on the story you want to tell, and leverage the networks to help you tell your brand’s story.

Kris Ruby is the CEO of Ruby Media Group, a Public Relations and Social Media Agency. Kris Ruby is a frequent on air TV contributor and speaks on social media, tech trends and crisis communications. For more information, visit rubymediagroup.com or www.krisruby.com


10 Workplace Etiquette Mistakes You’re Making on Social Media

You walked into work this morning and headed to your cubicle as usual, but you couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. When you went to get your coffee in the break room, several of your co-workers looked at you and whispered. When you passed your boss in the hall, she made an excuse not to talk to you. You can’t help but wonder: Was it that political post you made on Facebook last night? Was it your weekend party photo on Instagram? Was it that late night drunken tweet?

Most importantly, is it going to cost you your job?

Workplace etiquette has always been a nebulous, confusing social territory even before the days of social media. Professional boundaries and personal boundaries of behavior are very different. Social media further blurs the line between the two, making it harder than ever to know the appropriate social cues and responses.

If you worry that you’re making gaffes with social media that could cost you your job, you could be right.

Here are 10 workplace etiquette social media blunders to avoid:

1. Posting photos during business hours

There is nothing wrong with posting endless photos of your baby or your dog in private, but steer clear of posting all of this during business hours. After you have posted the 500th photo of your baby, your employer may begin to question what your top priority is. Of course, not every post should be about work; balance is essential.

2. Friending co-workers you don’t know

If you know your colleagues well and you chat a lot at the office, it might make sense to add them on social media. But if you don’t have a close relationship with a colleague, adding them on Facebook or Snapchat might just be awkward. After all, you avoid talking in the break room, so why would you want to connect online?

The basic rule is this: online boundaries should be a reflection of offline boundaries. If you try to cross one of those lines on the web, it could potentially lead to an uncomfortable situation.

3. Not understanding how each social media network works

LinkedIn is the best social media platform for connecting with colleagues and staying in touch. However, it should not be used the same way Facebook or Twitter is used. Your LinkedIn connections want to see work anniversaries, business blogs and press mentions. They don’t want to see party photos or personal content. If you’re going to be on the social media sites, follow the rules for what is socially (and professionally) acceptable to post on each one.

4. Being overly personal on social media

This is perhaps the biggest workplace blunder I hear people complain about behind co-workers backs. The people who work with you do not want to hear an endless saga from you about your failed marriage or your financial woes. It makes them see you in a different light. Eventually, they will unfollow you on Facebook because it’s nicer than unfriending you altogether. Therapists are for venting, not Facebook.

5. Not being discreet about your Facebook groups

Joining groups on Facebook is one of the primary reasons people like to use it. However, most people don’t realize that your groups can often be visible to your Facebook friends. If you don’t want your co-workers to see that you’re part of the Overeaters Anonymous Facebook group, you may want to consider joining other groups. Even if you’re able to successfully hide your groups, when someone goes to join a group, it will still tell them which of their friends are in that group. Additionally, anyone in the group can screenshot your private posts in the group, which can leak out beyond social media.

6. Mis-using live stories

This pertains to Facebook Live, Snapchat, and Instagram Live. All are these are great if you want to embrace live sharing. However, if you start watching a previous co-workers Instagram Live story, remember that they can see who is watching them. At some point, it begins to look stalker-ish if you watch peoples stories that you had a bad relationship with. The same is true for any of the live sharing social media sites. When you look at an Instagram photo, no one can tell unless you like it. When you look at an Instagram story, the poster knows who is watching.

7. Breaking dinner table rules

Just like your mother said, you should never discuss politics, sex, or religion at the dinner table. These rules apply to the office, and, if your boss or co-workers can see your posts, that means they also apply on social media. We don’t always think about what we are doing when we comment on someone else’s political post online. But if those posts are in public, you could end up regretting it the next day when someone screenshots it and uses it against you. In today’s divisive political climate, the wrong political remark could cost you your job.

8. Not filtering your posts 

On Facebook, you can filter your posts, and on Google Plus, you can add people to different Circles. These systems allow you to only share content with certain people in your life. Filters allow you to share things with family or friends that you aren’t comfortable sharing with your co-workers. If you aren’t using filters, groups, and circles, you are publicly posting everything.

9. Sharing without reading

How often do you re-share a video or an article without actually watching or reading the entire thing? Our online profiles are curated reflections of our personalities. But while we are busy skimming content and re-sharing what we think reflects our views, we can sometimes miss key details. For example, you might share an article because you like the headline—but later you find out the headline is misleading and the content does not represent your feelings at all. Always read or watch content in full before you share it so that you are clear on what you are endorsing.

10. Not checking up on what your friends and family are posting

Finally, you aren’t the only one who can destroy your professional reputation; friends and family can too if they are indiscreet with their tagging. Adjust your settings so that people need to ask your permission before they tag you. Your boss may have very different political views than your mom does, so keep them separate to be safe.

Social media should tell a story about you that you would be comfortable sharing with your boss. Regularly post updates that help to cultivate a story of professional dedication and success, and avoid sharing content that tells a story you don’t want bosses, co-workers or headhunters to hear.

Kris Ruby is the CEO of Ruby Media Group, a Public Relations and Social Media Agency. Kris Ruby is a frequent on air TV contributor and speaks on social media, tech trends and crisis communications. For more information, visit rubymediagroup.com or www.krisruby.com

Follow Kris Ruby on Twitter @rubymediagroup and @sparklingruby

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