There is nothing more appropriate than fighting fire with fire.  Unless it is water.

The hot topic amongst us marketing people is “Social Media.”

Everyone wants to figure out how to use social media to hit the home run with their marketing communications.  While nearly everyone claims to be experts; the reality is very few, if any, get it.

At first it was like a land rush, a gold rush, with everyone running off at top speed without considering the risks associated with how things were executed.  The thinking (if there was any) was “first in wins!”

The scary side of social media, and a part that few companies considered, is that participation on-line turns everyone into a broadcaster or publisher with all the risks of being a media outlet.

Sure there can be benefits, but there are also risks.

While many buy advertising space and time from the media, few companies realize the risks that are associated with being a medium.  They are not small.

The established media already understand their risks.  Broadcasters have systems to pre-clear all purchased advertising with respect to legal issues, truth in advertising, slander, use of licensed materials and so forth.

But when you host a Facebook page, or encourage your customers to create materials for you, or comment on your sites, you become a publisher.  Sometimes with little or no control over the material that is being published on your behalf and creating risks for you.

You have become a medium at large.  (Bad pun).

As an example, here is an area that is fraught with danger:  Run a promotion asking customers to create a commercial for you.

The public loves this stuff; particularly younger people.  They are already irreverent and understand that unless you go over the edge and get noticed, you won’t win anything.

So they go ahead and get edgy.  And then, they not only submit their entry to your promotion, they post their work on YouTube – unbeknownst to you.  But wait, according to the lawyers, you are the instigator of this and if these commercials slander, steal copyrighted materials, or are obscene, you are the publisher and so you are liable.  Ouch!

Scary thought.  And what about your employees’ Facebook pages?  What if they slam the competitors?  Well there is an economic gain for you, so again you are the publisher and you are the money bags that competitor will go after.

If you are going to run off into use of social media, you need to have a social media strategy in place and articulated.

You need to be monitoring what is being said about your company.

You also need to be ready to remedy any problems quickly and appropriately.

So a word of caution as everyone leaps forward.  Yes, social media lets loose the hounds.  But there are pit bulls and legal beagles in the mix.  So watch out for the lines you cross that can come back and bite you.

And here is a blog about it.

And if that isn’t enough for mixed metaphors, I don’t know what is.

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