—Debbie Laskey, MBA
From Ashton Kutcher to Lady Gaga to President Obama’s White House staff to John Q. Public, Twitter has developed a loyal following. If you haven’t become addicted to the social media site known by its bird and fail whale, accept the fact that a member of your family or a close friend will probably convert you sooner rather than later.
While there are conflicting reports as to the number of Twitter users, there is no dispute that Twitter is the water cooler of the 21st century. At this modern-day water cooler better known as the Twitterverse, you can meet people from all over the world and share thoughts about life, business, and family – all topics that bind us, regardless of nationality. Twitter welcomes its users (known as Tweeps) to send messages (known as Tweets) into cyberspace that form an infinite stream, and all tweets are created equal and are formed with 140 characters or less.
But what happens when a user’s name is similar to someone else’s? I know an expert in the information security industry who uses the Twitter handle of @Tips4Tech. A year-and-a-half after he began tweeting, a company in India created a Twitter page with the handle @Tips4Tech_blog – which wouldn’t really be a big deal, but my contact also has a blog with his Tips4Tech brand. When he contacted Twitter about the brand violation, Twitter sent a response that said, “There was no violation of terms.” Another professional in the online privacy industry tweets with the Twitter handle @PrivacyProf – but surprisingly, Twitter does not consider either @ThePrivacyProf or @ProfofPrivacy to be violations of its terms.
To avoid this situation from happening to you, visit the following two websites to reserve your name or brand on a myriad of social media websites: http://knowem.com or http://namechk.com. While you may wish to reserve your brand or brands, you should also consider reserving common misspellings if they are frequently used on search engines to find your brand, brands, or website.
All this talk of brand names makes me wonder about the legal enforcement of brand violations due to social media. Lawsuits in the news have focused on identity theft or identity defamation, security breaches, information from Facebook posts for divorce proceedings, and inappropriate comments by employees (remember Chrysler?) or celebrity spokespeople (remember Aflac?).
So, the question becomes, do you have a social media policy? If you do, great, but if you don’t, start writing one immediately that includes the following:
- Employee Code of Conduct for Online Communications
- Employee Code of Conduct for Company Representation in Online Communications
- Employee Personal Social Networking Policy
- Employee Facebook Usage Policy
- Employee Personal Twitter Policy
- Employee Personal Blog Policy
- Employee LinkedIn Policy
- Corporate Blog Policy
- Corporate Blog Post Approval Process
- Corporate Blog Comment Policy
- Corporate Facebook Brand Page Usage Policy
- Corporate Facebook Public Comment/Messaging Policy
- Corporate Twitter Account Policy
- Corporate YouTube Policy
- Corporate YouTube Public Comment Policy
- Company Password Policy
While we’re not all legal eagles, we can be prepared for the potential of brand violations in cyberspace – but only with sufficient planning. What do you think? Tweet your comment to me on Twitter in 140 characters or less @DebbieLaskeyMBA.