Fitting law into 140 characters

Social media and law

When it comes to technology and the law, the tech world often leaves the law trailing behind. It can be hard to link the world of Facebook with the world of contract law – even for businesses which use contracts on a regular basis. 

Nevertheless, if a company is going to engage an outside party to run a social media campaign, there are some very good reasons it should start with a strong agreement, rather than a friend request.

 

Wherever there’s a business relationship, there should be an agreement

When a company engages an agency to manage their social media accounts, it seems pretty straightforward – for a fee, the agency tweets, posts, shares, and likes on behalf of that company. 

But what seems simple can become a source of discontent if the two parties have different expectations, and don’t record, discuss, and agree on those expectations.

Since social media management is something of an intangible service, it can be hard to discuss direct performance expectations. And because one party knows a lot about the service, and the other does not, it is very easy for expectations to be misaligned.

For example, Jane owns a clothing store which has an online shop. She wants to boost performance of her shop, so she engages Delta Digital Marketing Agency to manage her social media accounts, and her site’s blog. Jane may come in with unrealistic expectations of how much difference social media can make for her sales, and how quickly it can do so. Because major brands with huge numbers of followers get a lot of traction through social media, it can be very easy to think that social media presence equals profit.

If they had discussed those expectations, Delta Agency would have told her there’s no way to promise how effective a social media campaign can be. 

A good social media campaign agreement should cover performance level in concrete terms – what the agency will post, on which channels, at what frequency, and for how long. It should also cover the level of involvement the client has. Delta Agency might expect that Jane will read and approve every blog post, and when she doesn’t, they are unable to fulfil their side of the agreement. 

The contract should also clearly spell out what level of involvement the agency has. Does Delta Agency just create and upload content, or does it also engage with Jane’s customers through comments or direct messages, moderate replies, and weed out spam?

 

Brand reputation is on the line

Because once something is on the internet it cannot be taken back, the client’s image should be paramount. Social media can be a great image booster, but it can also cause a lot of harm very quickly.

Maintaining the client’s reputation isn’t just the responsibility of the agency. The client needs to uphold their part of the agreement too. For instance, if the agency makes a post containing incorrect information because the client didn’t send feedback.

This is why if the agency will speak on behalf of the client, very clear protocols need to be in the agreement. What can be said in messages and comments, what posts should be deleted, what kind of replies should be ignored.

If one of Jane’s shop assistants is rude to a customer, then Jane’s shop loses that customer. If Delta Agency is rude to one of Jane customers on social media, even once, Jane’s shop could lose a huge number of customers, and her store’s reputation could be damaged worldwide.

 

There are issues around ownership

When an agency posts content on behalf of a client, who owns that content? The client, the agency, or the individual writer? An agreement should clearly state who owns the content in blogs, tweets, and posts. There should also be provisions around whether the content can be reused in other places and media, what attribution is required, and who is responsible for updating old content which may be out-of-date.

 There are also issues around who owns the various social media accounts, and what access the client has. If the agency creates an account, are they obligated to provide the client with the password to that account, and should the client be an admin of that account?

 

So social media, despite first impressions, has quite a lot to do with law. And without guidance it can be hard to know what a social media contract should cover – especially if one party doesn’t know much about what social media entails.

IT Contract Templates makes the process more transparent and easy to understand with an agreement created specifically for social media campaigns. For clients this means the ability to get a good understanding of how their social media campaign will be carried out. And for agencies it offers an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand contract that can be customised to suit each client.


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