–Dan Kelly, Attorney

In February, you may have seen this story by Michael Werch in Ad Age about Mr. Werch’s deliberate effort to “Twitter squat” on the Heinz brand with the handle @HJ_Heinz.  It’s an entertaining and instructive read, and, if you’re in a rush, I’ll cut to the chase:  it didn’t work, at least for long.  Two weeks after he started, Twitter changed his handle to @NOThj_Heinz, and he now tweets at @Mike_Werch, which is worth a visit, at least to see the background.  Heinz?  At this point, @HJ_Heinz is not much to look at.  Perhaps that will change.

I find two things really interesting in this story.  First, how easy it was for Werch to build a following and tap known, obvious sources of goodwill, like Pittsburgh residents.  (So much for globalization–the roots of marketing (like “all politics”?) are evidently still local.)  Second, the two week response time.  As Werch points out, had he been acting maliciously, imagine the damage that he could have done in that time.  On the other hand, in the world of legal enforcement, shutting someone down in two weeks is, in many contexts, lightning fast.  Had he been acting maliciously, the response time might have been days or hours–who knows?  And it might not have had quite the same relatively benign ending.

Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and even the entire blogosphere, counsel strongly for good lines of communication between legal and marketing.  After all, you wouldn’t want legal clamping down on an Internet channel that’s actually being run by someone in the marketing department, and if marketing spots something damaging, it may need legal to respond quickly.

Despite my previous dire predictions about the future of social media websites, it may be time to review some of Brad’s previous posts (here, here, here, and here) and get social media working for your company before some one else does.