Patrick Powers is an interactive media manager at Webster University.
If you’ve ever signed up for a social media account, you’ve seen it. It’s the little tiny box that no one seems to notice. Before any social media site creates a new user account, it’s going to ask for agreement to its terms of service. This innocuous little box may mean nothing to most users when it could mean everything.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube all have terms of service that make it abundantly clear—violate the terms and the company can terminate an account. It’s cut and dry. There is no need for debate.
I know of only a handful of cases when a social media site simply terminated an account for violating terms of service. But the risk is real. So if you’re responsible for maintaining a professional social media presence on any social network, shouldn’t you be familiar with the specifics?
There are scores of examples of violations. Here are five of the most common:
1. Multiple Facebook profiles.
It’s difficult keeping personal and professional lives separate and Facebook is no different. How many people do you know have a personal account where they post party pictures on the weekend and a “work” account where they change tone and act professional?
Facebook couldn’t be clearer:
You will not create more than one personal profile.
In recent weeks, Facebook is offering an out for people in violation of this rule. The social network now allows users to convert personal profiles into professional pages.
2. Screenshots of someone else’s tweets.
There’s not better way to explain Twitter than to show Twitter. If you’re doing so, however, you’ll need to ask permission from the author of the tweets you hope to display. Twitter’s guidelines for use of the Twitter trademark state:
Don’t use screenshots of other people’s profiles or Tweets without their permission.
The company is cool with users taking screen shots of the Twitter home page, the Twitter “About Us” page or even the @twitter profile page. But when it comes to taking screen shots of other people’s pages, you’ll need to ask permission first.
3. Facebook contests and giveaways.
The offending status updates often look like this: “The 100th person to like us wins a free T-shirt!” or “Post a photo of yourself at our location and win a free lunch!” Both violate Facebook’s Promotions Guidelines, specifically those clauses that state:
You cannot: Condition entry in the promotion upon a user providing content on Facebook, such as posting on a Wall of a Page, uploading a photo, or posting a status update.
You cannot: Administer a promotion that users automatically enter by liking your Page, checking in to your Place or connecting to your Platform integration.
Page administrators can use a third-party application to condition entry into a promotion. For example, a page administrator can administer a photo contest on Facebook wherein users upload photos to a third-party application.
4. More promotion than education on YouTube EDU.
When YouTube EDU launched in March 2009, the goal was to create an educational hub built around lectures, presentations and student work. The reality is a collection of university channels weighted down by promotional videos that do little to provide high quality education. Yet the YouTube EDU application still makes the case for education over promotion:
To be considered for YouTube EDU your channel should already be established with a representative amount of educational videos. YouTube EDU is intended for educational materials as opposed to promotional.
5. Logo alteration.
Free social media icons come in all shapes and sizes, ready to fit your university website design. They look like burnt wood, hammered metal, well-kept grass and glossy buttons. And nearly all of them violate published guidelines. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn all provide free versions of their logos for public use and they all offer similar guidelines—you can use the logo as long as you don’t modify it in any way or imply any kind of sponsorship or endorsement. None offer logos that appear to be peel-off stickers.
While you may scale the size to suit your needs, you may not modify the Like Button in any other way (such as by changing the design).
While you may scale the size to suit your needs, you may not modify the “f” logo in any other way (such as by changing the design or color). If you are unable to use the correct color due to technical limitations, you may revert to black and white.
Don’t manipulate the logos unless necessary due to color restrictions (for example black and white)
Don’t use the Twitter bird as a spokesperson to carry your logos or messaging (for example, your logo next to or being carried by the bird).
Don’t create your own buttons or marks using our logos.
The worst you thing you can do is something fake. If you’re doing something that you wish other people wouldn’t find out (posting nasty reviews on your competitors products, “liking” your own stuff, pretending to be someone that you are not, etc.), just stop. You’re just waiting for the day to be exposed, bringing shame on you. Whole Foods, Sony, and other marketers have learned their lessons in this area, so learn from their mistakes and don’t make your own.