Don’t let your campaigns become social media outlaws

Karine Joly is the editor of the blog www.collegewebeditor.com

Have you ever read Facebook Terms of Services or promotion guidelines, Twitter Rules or LinkedIn User Do’s and Don’ts?

If you have, congratulations! You are among the happy few.

How can I be so sure?

I regularly come across examples of institutions (and companies) conducting social media initiatives on these platforms in breach with these rules. And, if you have a closer look at social media practices in higher education and elsewhere, you can also easily spot several of these campaigns breaking the TOS or other guidelines supposed to govern the use of these services.

Don’t want to take my word for it? How about a couple of real examples?

  • The University of Iowa Foundation has been running a great social media campaign on Facebook to help build a culture of philantrophy on campus for almost two years. In July 2009, the Foundation established a Facebook profile for “Phil Anthropy” as part of the campaign “Phil Was Here”. With more than 1,600 friends before its transfer to a Facebook page, it’s fair to say that Phil was quite popular on campus. While the Foundation decided to use a page – and not a profile – to go beyond the limitations on the number of friends, it was definitely a wise move as the campaign was indeed breaking the TOS. According to the terms of use, Facebook users should provide their real names and information. By signing up for the service, they also agree to not “create an account for anyone other than (themselves).”
  • You might have heard about the success of the Mercedes Benz Tweet Race just before the Super Bowl because it was won by 2 higher ed professionals. They got a lot of help from the higher ed web and social media community to win this race as their car was “powered” by their tweets. Yet, some of the race rules set up by the automaker were an invitation to break the Twitter rules for trending topics. The rules call for filtering out tweets for search or even suspending accounts in case of “repeatedly Tweeting the same topic/hashtag without adding value to the conversation in an attempt to get the topic trending/trending higher.”

Both social media campaigns were very successful and, in a way, got away breaking the TOS or guidelines of the social media platforms they used.

But, your next social media campaign might not be that lucky. And, should you really invest your time on an initiative that could be shut down overnight without the possibility of any appeal?

Social media might be a new territory, but it’s not a digital Wild Wild West. So if you’re planning a new social media program on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, don’t just follow your own social media policy. Make sure your initiatives also comply with the following TOS or guidelines:

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