When it comes to social media engagement, protection and enforcement, any policy has to be practical if it is to be successful. The increasing importance of social media channels means this area cannot be overlooked.
Creating an internal social media policy
Lisa Greenwald-Swire, principal at Fish & Richardson, which specializes in U.S. and international trademark counseling and prosecution, recently told the editors of World Trademark Review that a company’s social media persona “communicates a great deal to its consumers.”
Because of this, firms should treat that persona as another face of their company, which means measures designed to safeguard its usage also have to be created. A written policy should apply to everyone employed by the organization.
“At its most basic, a good social media policy should advise employees to use good judgment, be respectful and be transparent,” Ms. Greenwald-Swire stated. People have to make sure any opinions that are posted are clearly marked as not representing the company, because content cannot be easily removed once it is online.
Clear guidelines also have to be put in place so employees know what they can and cannot say about their employer–and what the consequences of breaking such a rule are.
How does a company police this?
Firms can create any number of policies, but unless properly enforced and policed they are pointless.
Malia Horine, director of business and product development at CSC, noted that a social media policy should be put in writing and included as part of every organization’s employee handbook.
Thanks to the social media monitoring tools now available, it is much easier for businesses to stay on top of content being published about them and to monitor it. Additional programs can also be used to find out what websites staff members are looking at during the working day.
Protecting a brand
Social media is a pivotal marketing tool in today’s increasingly online society and because of this, companies should involve their marketing departments and encourage collaboration with trademark experts.
As a rule, Ms. Greenwald-Swire thinks a company should determine whether a brand is available or can be acquired as a username on key social media websites before it begins the trademark process. There is no point investing so much time and money in developing a brand if its name is unavailable on Facebook or Twitter.
Monitoring social media sites
According to Ms. Horine, companies should track two things: third-party infringement of usernames and trademarks or content misuse within actual social media posts.
Regardless of how well informed a company is about social media, it is likely that its brand will be discussed online and so effective monitoring is vital. Ms. Greenwald-Swire said that either an in-house or outside counsel can be used to make sure trademarks are not being infringed upon.
“Monitoring typically involves conducting regular searches on social media websites or via search engines such as Google or Bing for infringement or misuse,” she added. One issue that firms need to be aware of is “typosquatting,” where third parties use slight typographical errors to exploit a brand name.
Stay on top of any issues
Every company needs a defined social media approach. Depending on the size of their budget, companies can develop either a proactive or reactive strategy.
Ms. Horine added that organizations need to treat usernames as they would a domain portfolio or trademark portfolio, as they can contain valuable intellectual property.
Finally, if there are any issues, it is best if firms deal with them in a timely manner to prevent any further brand confusion or tarnishing of their image.
To read the entire World Trademark Review article on social media, visit the CSC website and download it now.