Have you been thinking about plunging into social media? Plan first.

by Ballard Spahr LLP
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Tightrope WalkerOrganizations that want to engage with tenants, decision makers, or the broader public increasingly find it important to engage through social media. Some organizations have found it necessary to have an active social media presence because fewer people are aware of issues or events unless they see them through a social media platform. For example, Pew reports that about 30% of people in the U.S. get their news from Facebook. YouTube also has eye-popping numbers: approximately 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute to the site, which is reviewed by about 1 billion visitors each month.

So should you just open an account for your organization and start posting, tweeting, and liking? Ask yourself three questions first.

1) What do you want to accomplish?

If you want to just have an additional channel to send out announcements, then you can probably get by with just a Twitter account or simple Facebook page. If you want to truly engage with the public or open a community forum, then you will need policies and staff to handle questions, feedback, and even complaints. Whatever you decide to do, you should document the governance and objectives for your social media program so everyone in your organization is aligned.

2) Will you be hosting or posting third party content?

Obviously, you could be liable if you violate the copyright or trademarks of someone else, but you could also be liable if you post or host content from a third party where that third party violates another’s copyright or trademarks. In these cases, you will at least have obligations to immediately take down the content when you are notified of the problem. You will also need to be careful about appearing to endorse other people or groups when you do not intend to do so.

3) How should you document your social media program?

After you ask the first two questions, you need to decide upon the best way for your organization to document the objectives and controls needed. The governance document will specify the purpose and objectives of your social media presence and who is in control. You will want to document what content is acceptable for your organization to post and the process for reviewing content. If you will be actively engaging with the public, you will also need internal moderation guidelines and a public-facing policy on acceptable content and your rights to take down content. Finally, if you will be posting third-party content or allowing third parties to post on your behalf, you will need procedures on monitoring the third-party content and correcting any issues that arise.

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