In-House Practitioners Idea Exchange: Social Media Best Practices

Published: July 1, 2019

Helen Omapas Harman International Industries, Incorporated Northridge, California, USA

INTA’s In-House Practitioners Committee hosted an Idea Exchange session on social media best practices during INTA’s 2019 Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

This year, the team took a different approach than in the past: In preparation for the Idea exchange, the team collected social media best practice tips from Committee members. Those tips then formed the basis of the discussions at the idea exchange.

Moderated by volunteers from within the In-House Practitioners Committee as well as friends of the committee, the Idea Exchange brought together corporate practitioners from a wide range of industries.

Substantive discussions ensued, resulting in a number of best-practice tips, including:

  • Establish brand and content guidelines that are well-communicated, and develop a reposting/retweeting/hashtag strategy.
  • Ensure cross-departmental training throughout the organization. It’s not feasible for the legal department to review each and every social media post.
  • Provide customer care departments with fresh ideas and tools for responding to complaints made on your company’s social media accounts.
  • Review a platform’s Terms of Service or Acceptable Use Policy to determine if there are any other provisions that an offending account may be violating.
  • Take advantage of platform monitoring and internal, platform-specific tools by which brand or content owners can supply information that can then be used to proactively monitor and address infringement by platform users.

Industry Considerations

Social media practices vary greatly by industry. Some industries require companies to employ practices to align with regulatory compliance, and such companies may have a higher standard to uphold. Several companies regulate their franchisees by implementing policies and/or reviewing all content before publication. Some companies that engage influencers or brand ambassadors face challenges ensuring that third parties adhere to company guidelines and comply with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission guidelines. In short, enforcing social media guidelines takes a village. The IP team plays a significant role, but so do regulatory and marketing teams.

Internal Guidelines

A common practice among companies, regardless of industry, is to establish social media guidelines. Such guidelines may include how and what to post, employee- and consumer-facing disclosure policies; how to respond to customer complaints; awareness of possible public relations issues, prohibitions on third-party uses; trademark clearances; and content review. Whether a company outsources social media marketing management or handles it internally, internal guidelines should be incorporated into all third-party contracts. An essential strategy for all groups, however, is to conduct trainings and educate the business and marketing teams on the various legal issues around social media and how to mitigate risk.

Additional Considerations

Structural differences among companies were also discussed. Not all trademark teams are responsible for social media, nor do they have visibility into their organization’s social media marketing issues. When it comes to who manages and how to respond to a social media crisis, approaches and the responsible teams varied among participants. In general, participants agreed that brand teams need to work with public relations and marketing teams to ensure that a crisis plan is in place before a potential social media issue arises.

Throughout the discussions, it was evident that social media is rapidly changing and constantly evolving-and it is therefore vital to continue the conversation and sharing best practices.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

© 2019 International Trademark Association