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How to stay out of social media trouble

2 min read

Social Media

Andy Sernovitz, Gaspedal’s CEO and SmartBrief on Social Media editor at large, led a 20-minute speed session at last week’s Word of Mouth Supergenius event on adhering to word-of-mouth ethics, creating social media policies and training your team.

If you’ve met Andy or read any of his books, you know his credo that trust is what makes social media work.  The multiplier effect of viral marketing is not going to happen unless people trust you or your brand.

Here are his ethical guidelines to protect your brand reputation (and your job):

  • Never pay anyone for word of mouth.  People will never again trust you if you do.
  • Don’t lie to your mom.  Is your word of mouth based on honest opinions and real experiences?
  • Disclosure is essential, easy to do, and as of a few weeks ago, the law.  The FTC guidelines for safe social media outreach are:
    1. Require truthfulness and disclosure.
    2. Monitor the conversation about your company and correct misstatements.
    3. Create social media policies and training programs.
    4. Make disclosure clear and conspicuous by the average reader.  “I work for _____, and this is my personal opinion” is an effective way to start.  Also, be sure to include if you were paid or not.
  • Be careful who you hire (agencies, PR firms, social media consultants).  Make sure your agencies and PR firms are vigilant about these ethics.
  • Create an official social media disclosure policy.
  • Be clear and conspicuous, so the average person can understand your disclosures and policies.

Where to turn for legal advice?  If you have to ask, Andy cautions, the answer is no.  The Social Media Business Council has put together a free disclosure best practices toolkit that’s a great place to start. Whatever you do, though, do NOT go to the blogger debate when trying to resolve corporate word-of-mouth issues. There are too many conflicting voices and opinions out there to get you to the right answer.

Image credit, svanhorn, via iStock