Social media is a tightrope every brand walks — some confidently running, others crawling blindfolded, about to fall to their peril. I’ll be delving into what to look out for on social, from copyright infringement to influencer marketing, to avoid your brand trending on social, for all the wrong reasons.
You may be thinking: ‘Social media is all fun and games, is it not?’ The perception it holds is of a digital playground for brands to interact with consumers – a content free-for-all. A place where we can post Game of Thrones memes, John Travolta GIFs, re-share other people’s content and get influencers to put their face to our brand’s name for (in some cases) free advertising. You may think: ‘Nobody monitors everything. How can they? What can go wrong?’
Well, the simple answer is that quite a lot can go wrong. Hilarious for everyone but your social media manager and your brand image.
In May 2017, Walkers Crisps found out very quickly what can go wrong on social media – with the launch of their Walkers Wave campaign. The campaign asked social media users to respond to a tweet from the official Walkers Crisps Twitter account with a selfie, using the hashtag #WalkersWave, for a chance to win tickets to the Champions League final. The user’s picture would then be automatically incorporated into a personalised video, featuring Gary Lineker, spontaneously tweeted and captioned by Walkers.
The problem? All it took was one user to set the precedent. It started with the upload of a mugshot of an incarcerated individual, such as the notorious Josef Fritzl, to spark the wrong kind of wave. A social media trolling wave, with Walkers at the centre of it.
Elsewhere, Aldi Australia took to Twitter to ask followers to share what they had tasted that made them love Aldi, by filling in the blank. Now, the inner sceptic in us all would’ve perhaps foreseen what they unfortunately hadn’t — Twitter isn’t a place to leave open-ended questions for the public to answer, as they soon found out.
Almost immediately, a flurry of people began responding with words such as “horse” (remember #HorseGate?), “diarrhoea” and “unemployment”.
A lesson learned, but there remains a more infamous social media fail, one that sticks in the minds of many…
Who could ever forget Susan Boyle’s Album Party Twitter takeover back in August 2007? The Twittersphere certainly hasn’t.
How do you avoid a #SocialMediaFail?
- Proceed with caution when asking the internet (more specifically, Twitter). to fill in the blanks about your brand when there could be even a remote chance of getting a negative response.
- Never let automated posts go out without moderation or quick review.
- Always double check your hashtag, capitalise each word within it.
- Picture the worst-case scenario — ask yourself: ‘How easily could the message be misinterpreted? What would the impact be?’
- Preparation, moderation and customer interaction are key.
Next, social media is awash with people stealing other people’s content. You’ve probably downloaded a Google image without checking its image rights and thought nothing of it, but (to cause potential panic in the heart of all social media managers) is using memes and GIFs copyright infringement?
Copyright law is a well-known type of intellectual property protection that is designed to protect the original creator of works, from others using and profiting from their work, without permission. It extends beyond video to songs, pictures, books, blogs, podcasts, paintings and even software. But what does it mean in the context of social media?
Social media is the Westworld of copyright law, with no rules seemingly in place, where you can do what you like with other’s content. Or, so you thought…
If you took a full episode of a TV show (that’s not your property) and distributed it on your website, you’d expect to have a knock on your virtual door the next day from the legal team of the production company. So what happens if you convert a 60-minute episode into a six-second GIF and post it on your social media channel? I got an answer from the Advertising Standards Authority last year…
“There is currently no legislation in place to say that it is illegal for brands or members of the public to use GIFs (on any online platform) nor that they are infringing on the copyright of the intellectual property of the referred content in the GIF,” said the ASA over a phone call. “As long as the GIF does not show harm, cause offence, feature pornographic material etc – they are fine to be posted by brands” (September 2018).
Essentially, GIFs likely fall under the terms of ‘fair use’ because they are short, transformative and most likely will not hurt the sales of their product / movie / tv show in question. So for now, post away!
“No one, is going to watch a Star Wars GIF instead of the original movie,” said Fortune law and policy reporter, Jeff John Roberts.
We’ve covered animated GIFs above, but we’re spreading ourselves across the whole social media spectrum. Surely, taking a TV episode (running with the example) image/photo and posting it on social media is, by definition, copyright infringement? It’s their artistic creation, after all.
“Even if it might actually violate copyright legally speaking, content owners may not press the issue because it helps ingratiate their brand into the culture to have their work copied all around the Internet…” said Industry Insider’s Arthur Law.
Memes are safe then, for now. As most memes are meant to be parodies or include critical comments in a non-commercialized way, ‘fair use’ will likely save the day. If you use it in a commercial way in advertising or try to monetisze someone’s meme, then you will likely find yourself in trouble.
What have we learned?
- Seek permission to use the original creator’s content, whenever possible.
- If you’re going to use other content that doesn’t belong to you, check the exceptions to copyright infringement e.g.
- for uses of social commentary
- parody, caricature or pastiche.
- Without consent, don’t advertise/monetise content (e.g. GIFs, memes) that doesn’t belong to you, if you are benefiting commercially.
‘Rules are meant to be broken’ is the rebellious adage that still gets used to this day. However, when it comes to running competitions on social, they most certainly are not. Not unless you want the channel you’ve invested time, effort and resource in, shutdown without trial. Guilty. No chance of parole. Bye-bye, 1.2 million followers.
What can go wrong?
- At best: Nothing – to a warning from the social platform.
- At worst: Your account could be deactivated.
You might ask yourself: ‘Doesn’t a multi-billion pound company have more important things to do? With billions of accounts, how would they find me?’. You might be right, sure, it’s unlikely – but would you risk it all for a quick #win?
I’ve compiled some ‘rules of the road’ for running social competitions.
- DO: Always include a link to full T&Cs.
- DO: Make it clear that your competition is completely independent of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
- DO: Read Facebook, Instagram & Twitter’s guidelines for reference.
- DON’T: Ask users to create another account to enter.
- DO: Ask for comments, fill in the blank (careful now), find the answer, post likes, video / photo submissions
- DON’T: Run Facebook competitions with entry mechanics that require entrants to like your page, tag friends or share the post.
- DO: Allow tweeting a particular update or hashtag to enter.
- DO: Only use Instagram & Twitter for “follow to enter” competitions.
Indispensable in the current age of social media, paid media is often built into every new social media strategy. This is unsurprising when your organic reach is at the mercy of algorithm-tinkers, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & co, ever-reducing the newsfeed real estate available to brands.
What can go wrong?
If you build up enough negative user feedback on your adverts or fall foul of your social channel’s ad rules – your ad account could be disabled.
There are, of course, countless case examples of what you can/can’t promote on social media. I’ve highlighted below some key takeaways and ‘useful links’ to educate anyone interested.
- Don’t promote any prohibited or restricted content — check the Twitter and Facebook advertising policies to see if your content (or targeted country) falls into this category.
- Avoid referencing personal attributes, such as age, beliefs, sexual orientation, religion etc e.g. “find other old white men in your local area!”.
- Ensure your content won’t get flagged as ‘adult content’ by avoiding sexually suggestive content or even images focused on individual body parts, such as abs, even if not explicitly sexual in nature.
- If you need copy on your ad creative – keep it short and sweet, otherwise your ad could be rejected. Test the advert before going live.
- Gambling brand? Don’t place/promote urgency and seek prior advertising permission from Facebook & Twitter.
- Facebook Advertising Policy
- Facebook Community Guidelines
- Facebook Ad Review Test
- Twitter Ad Policy
- Twitter Rules
We’re in the ‘golden age’ of influencer marketing. Everyone wants to be a social influencer, every brand wants to work with one. With 88.4% of businesses in the State of Social Report 2019, according to Buffer, aiming to work with influencers in 2019, it’s clear that influencer marketing remains a key tactic amongst future marketing plans. However, only 44.8% of those surveyed found current influencer marketing regulations even ‘somewhat clear’. So, what can go wrong when it’s not managed properly? Quite a lot actually…
What can go wrong?
- Potential to be banned from working with influencer(s) and influencer(s) could be banned from repeatedly working with brands.
- Potential to be fined by ASA.
“If the brand has control over the content of the post and rewards the influencer with a payment, free gift, or other perk, the post becomes an ad,”said the ASA, “Consumers should always be aware when they are being advertised to.”
- Review the ASA’s social media influencer guidance (September 2018) to know how to handle brands and consumers.
- Ensure you have a contract (in some written form e.g. email, paper, text) between you and the influencer.
- Review the influencer content before it is posted (whenever possible e.g. Instagram Stories) to ensure it meets expectations and advertising guidelines.
- Make sure every post clearly highlights to viewers that it is a paid for / sponsored post AND uses hashtag #ad or #advert (#spon isn’t enough) in a very obvious way – don’t hide it.
- Case Study #1: Snapchat Lenses
- Case Study #2: Instagram – Britvic
- Got a question? Freecall the ASA: 020 7492 2100
In short, for every brand success story sailing across a sea of social, all it takes is just one typo or unchecked hashtag to create a PR *expletive* storm that can send your brand spinning into a cyclone of social media trouble.
Now, you’ll hopefully be best prepared to ensure you/your brand are ready to appear in the trending topics, for the right reasons. Bon voyage! I’ll leave you with this:
You can delete the post or shut down your account, but social media never forgets.