Marketers to brands: Be brave on social media

Marketers are not shying away from their use of social networks, even as the platforms - and their sometimes controversial privacy policies - continue to evolve.

Marketers are not shying away from their use of social networks, even as the platforms – and their sometimes controversial privacy policies – continue to evolve.

Facebook-owned Instagram shifted its privacy policy last month to allow the site to sell users' photos for ads. It quickly backtracked on the plan after customer backlash. Foursquare also released new terms of service last month stating it will display users' full names.

John Bell, global MD of Social@Ogilvy, says the flare-up about Instagram's terms of service brought an issue to the forefront that will likely affect other social sites as they move to monetize their memberships and content. He notes that Twitter may only be slightly affected because “in some ways, it's the simplest of all of the platforms” since it only allows 140 characters per post.

Bell says he will continue to advise clients to post content on social media because it helps to engage fans of brands.

“Most of the big brands out there are trying to get as much shareablity as possible, and they're using all of these platforms largely to get the most earned media, so [the fact that] others may grab their content and publish it is generally in their best interest,” he explains.

Altering content or using it for advertising purposes would cross a line, but Bell says social networks are working to make sure posts are not taken out of context. And the fact that social platforms are learning from their mistakes is teaching brands to adapt to a changing environment, he adds.

Late last month, the confusion that social network privacy policies can cause was on display when Randi Zuckerberg, former marketing chief at Facebook and sister to the social network's famous cofounder and CEO, found herself in a dispute over the privacy settings of her own Facebook photos.

Zuckerberg reacted after a photo she posted of her family was tweeted by Vox Media marketing director Callie Schweitzer to her 40,000 followers. Zuckerberg contended the picture was private because it was on her personal profile, but Schweitzer tweeted that the image had popped up on her newsfeed, making it appear public. The tweets have since been taken down.

Jared Hendler, EVP and global director of digital and creative at MWW, agrees that rule changes continue to challenge brand marketers as they work to drive value to their online communities. He adds that brands need to be brave when dealing with social media privacy and allow consumers to take some control because their voice matters the most.

“The ultimate compliment in social is to let the fans be the programmers of your networks,” he explains.

Companies must keep an eye on how new or changing privacy policies affect consumer engagement, cautions Laura Tomasetti, CEO and founder of 360 Public Relations.

“For brands, it is a reminder that your website and the places where you can own and distribute your content in an owned way are still really important,” she notes.

Although some brands are wary of using Instagram or Foursquare, which will begin to display users' full names starting January 28, Tomasetti says she advises clients to use the services to their advantage. For instance, Instagram and Pinterest are great networks for companies to use at launch events because they can act as a brand's news stream. 

Christopher Barger, SVP of global programs and social media at Porter Novelli's Voce Communications, contends the Instagram privacy controversy is a strong argument for companies to grow their own “digital depositories,” such as a brand site or microsite, and then push that content on to Twitter or Facebook.

Knowing the rules
Barger adds that brands should continue to leverage social platforms, but they must “know what they are getting into” in terms of privacy.

The same goes for internal marketing and communications teams. Specifically, he says Voce's staffers understand the guidelines and stay aware of any changes in social privacy policy so they can inform clients.

Automaker Nissan North America, which uses Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, makes sure its staffers are up to date on privacy policies for the company's own legal protection, as well as for the best interests of its “brand evangelists,” says Erich Marx, director of interactive and social media marketing at the company.

“Anytime you lose control over assets, there's always a little bit of anxiety about that,” he adds. “So you maybe have to think a second or two longer about what you share in the social space, but it's not necessarily an awful thing if people are sharing more pictures of the 370Z and if they're being reused and repurposed.”

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