August 13 2012 Editor Assistance Newsletter
I just finished reading a pair of books on social networking. The first was a generic book on using social networks. Much of the information is what I cover with you normally in my messages. But the second one was enormously useful. It was "Navigating Social Media Legal Risks" by Robert McHale. I highly recommend you look it up in a library or grab a copy. It is written in easy to understand language and covers a wealth of normal activities we all tend to do on the web. It helps make clear where you might get into trouble.
I'll mention a few specific areas that I know a number of editors are involved in.
First, sweepstakes. Did you know that to run a sweepstakes you should have all of these things? Rules must say no purchase to win. A start/end date. The sponsor's complete name and address. Any age / other limits. Retail value of prize. How winners will know they won. Where the winner's list will be. "Void where prohibited". And that's just to start. McHale highly advises it being US only, since rules vary wildly from country to country and in some countries it is completely illegal.
A sweepstakes can't have ANY "payment" by the user to enter, and that includes an investment of their time or energy, too. So if a user is required to send a message to their own fans, or do something like that, it suddenly becomes illegal.
Not only that, but different social networks have their own rules. Twitter wants restrictions of only 1 entry per day, and only 1 entry per human (no multiple account entries). Facebook says you MUST use their platform app, and it must only be done via a fan page like, checking in, or connecting to an app. It can't be for liking a wall post, commenting, or uploading a photo. Not only that, but a "like" can't auto-enter a person. The person must ALSO fill in a separate entry field. And you can't notify winners via Facebook.
Especially with Facebook cracking down on people who use them without following their rules, this could be another area where violators get their accounts shut down permanently, without warning.
Next, reviews. Did you know if a person who writes a review or testimonial of a product knows the product's maker, the relationship must be clearly disclosed in the review? Or that, if you're sent a free product to review, you MUST disclose that in the review? If the review is a YouTube video, and it's primarily a talking video, the disclosure should also be done verbally. On Twitter, he recommends using a #paid-ad hashtag to indicate there was compensation (even if just a free item) and linking to a more full description in the profile link.
If you run a website, like a product sales site or write a personal blog, McHale highly recommends it feature an easy to find social networking policy that lays out how the website uses social networking. If the site has employees or volunteers, the social networking policy should ensure that feeds should never be used to harass, bully, or malign others.
It's easy to say, "well but everyone else runs sweepstakes on Facebook". It could easily be that you're the one page Facebook happens to find, for whatever reason. Do you really want your fan page that you carefully built up from zero fans to suddenly vanish entirely, all because you did something illegal? It's always better to do things properly.
Let me know if you have any questions at all, and you can always post in the boards too for suggestions!
Lisa Shea, owner
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