Thursday, September 6, 2012

Is Facebook’s star fading for marketers?

The doomsday theorists have been at it again. If you listen to them, they’ll tell you that recent court action in both California   and Australia   signals the end of the world as we (ie. brands and marketers) know it for Facebook.
Once again, let me be the voice of reason:

Image borrowed from Wikipedia

1.       While the US ruling that Facebook should allow users to opt out of having their names used in social context is significant, we all know that only a small percentage of people actually opt out. Most won’t see it as an invasion of their privacy, or won’t care enough to invest the time in finding out exactly which box on which screen to tick to turn it off.

2.       The Australian ruling is also significant but here’s a newsflash for you – the same rules apply to Facebook as apply to other media. Has it ever been ok for a brand to create a conversation which results in laws being broken or people being offended? Case in point is the recent “vagina” ad, or the recent social campaign run by Hell Pizza – it didn’t take many complaints to get those taken off air and apologies issued. The one thing Facebook has on its side is that it’s search functionality sucks. Good luck to anyone who tries to search Facebook for slanderous things being said about them. However it is a timely reminder to assume that your competitors will be fans of your page and only too keen to report any misdemeanours.
3.       While we’re on the topic – it’s also never been ok to ‘take’ images from Google search and associate them with your brand without owning (or renting) the copyright. So what makes it ok for brands to do this on Facebook? I do agree there is a big difference between taking responsibility for the content posted by the brand, and the resulting comments posted by  fans – but there is also a connection between the two. If you don’t want your fans to slander competitors/celebrities/other brands – don’t create conversations that make this likely to happen.
For me these two court rulings signal one thing – social media is no longer the Wild West where anything goes. However it is also just another media and communications platform and as such can be governed by existing rules and legislation.
Keep calm, and carry on.

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