Tagged: instagram marketing

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


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


30 Tips to Boost Your Instagram Marketing

30 tips to boost instagram marketing

There are 300 million active users on Instagram every month, and every day 1 billion photos are liked. Quality posts are better than quantity, especially on Instagram. According to Forrester research, Instagram user interactions with brands is 400% higher than on Facebook and Twitter, delivering 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter.

The facts speak for themselves – Instagram is a must for building and branding your business. However, if you are an Instagram newbie, here are 30 tips to help you maximize your Instagram exposure.

For starters, make sure your handle is recognizable and easy to search.

1. Use popular hashtags every day of the week to increase searchability. These include #motivationmonday, #transformationtuesday, #wisdomwednesday, #tbt, etc.

2. Search for people who are mentioning your brand and use the Repost app to re-gram any brand mentions. Be sure to @mention customers and tag them in posts.

3. Connect with businesses using hashtags & geo-tags and be sure to utilize the location feature on each post.

4. Create a unique hashtag that is relevant to your business that followers can use and TELL people to use it. A custom hashtag is worthless if you don’t tell anyone to use it.

5. Tag brand names, users, and locations in posts to increase searchability.

6. Show followers what is taking place in your business behind-the-scenes” and hashtag it with #BTS.

7. Increase visibility by liking and commenting on prospect’s photos. If you like and comment on photos, people will come back to check out your account and are more likely to follow you back.

Golden Rule: like and leave a heartfelt comment on ONE photo per day.

8. Offer exclusive content – if you are launching a new product or service line on Instagram, try creating an exclusive offer and offer followers a unique code to track how effective the promotion was.

9. Leverage user-generated content by running a photo contest. Use all images, even those that do not win, to help promote the brand as fresh content.

10. Run Instagram celeb “takeovers” with local celebs or influencers to drive more traffic and engagement back to your page.

11. Focus on the entire post, not just the image. The image may be the star, and the hashtags may offer context, but the caption tells a specific story and gives insight into you as an expert and the context of the photo.

12. Use apps, such as Afterlight, VSCO, Whitagram, Pic Stitch, Aviary, Lumify, Hyperlapse, Quick, Bokehful, Snapseed to edit photos. Studies have shown photos using the follower filters get more likes: Mayfair, Inkwell, Amaro, Walden and Lo-Fi.

13. Post and re-post images that show your product or service in use, while also using hashtags in conversation where your optimal follower will be.

14. Follow/monitor top trends to grow your brand’s awareness and stay on top of specific industry trends.

15. Get to know your followers to make posts more relevant to them. When someone follows you, follow them back and then analyze what your followers are interested in, what hashtags they use, etc.

16. Run engaging contests. Have an incentive for your community to share content and promote your brand with the use of prizes and giveaways. For example, National Geographic hosted a #MyAWAY Contest where users could upload photos of places that, to them, are an escape. On Instagram, they would tag the photos with #MyAWAY and at the end of the contest period, one lucky fan wins a digital camera plus goodies from NatGeo and Go RVing.

17. Reward your followers: Create lasting relationships with followers by using discount codes. Reach out and connect with influencers one-on-one. Brands that go the extra mile reward their Instagram followers see better success rates.

18. Connect your Instagram account to your website, and link all social channels to expand your reach to new or existing communities. This creates an avenue of traffic for each social media site. For example, make your Instagram account visible on Facebook. Post photos that show the lifestyle of your customers, while staying relevant to your brand. Your account should be a balance of fun pictures (pictures of cute animals or funny pop-culture references), mingled with promotional business photos).

19. “Feed speed” is a critical factor in your brand’s Instagram success. There is a fine line between agitating your followers with a daily clogging of their newsfeed and posting so infrequently that your followers forget you exist. Create a posting schedule that allows you to track what works and decide which direction to take next.

20. Post at peak times. According to a study by TrackMaven, the most effective days to post are Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Another study found that posting at 5 PM EST yields a higher engagement rate.

21. Leverage video. Use diverse visual formatting, such as 15 seconds of video or a cinemagraph (still photographs in which a repeated movement occurs.)

22. Add locations to all your post to increase searchability and geo-targeting.

23. Plan posts in advance. Use services such as Latergram, HootSuite or TweetDeck to help with this process.

24. Show appreciation for your followers by featuring them using your products or service. For example, Sharpie powers their Instagram account with fan-submitted doodles created with their line of markers & pens.

25. Like your followers photos and comment on their posts.

26. Make sure all of your graphics are consistent using a graphic design software such as canva.com Be sure to use canvas “magic resize” tool to resize images to spec to fit the Instagram specs.

27. Respond in real time to the latest trending content. Keep your followers entertained and engaged.

Think of Instagram as a vision board for your business. Post photos that will inspire your prospects to be part of the lifestyle that is associated with your company.

28. Include a call to action- tell people what you want them to do. This may seem simple- but it is often overlooked!

29. Reverse Engineer. If you are trying to get prospects who may be interested in your services, think about their hobbies and demographic profile. Search for hashtags that align with their hobbies, such as #yachting #countryclub or #hamptons. From there, like and comment on their photos and follow them directly. They may even follow you back! You’re welcome 🙂

30.  Measure, Measure, Measure! Observe when your followers are online. What images/posts do your followers respond best to? Where are your new followers coming from? Is your brand growing or shrinking on Instagram?  To refine your Instagram strategy, it’s important to know what resonates best with your audience.

By following these tips, you will maximize your Instagram exposure and, as a result, increase your brand awareness.