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Legal Compliancy

Most leaders are not aware of the range of risks that lurk behind the shiny pull of many Social Media sites and activities.  Many can be mitigated if identified in the planning stages, through training, policy, or through changes of internal process. Monitoring can catch others; early detection can lessen their impact. Finally, some risks are just too high, and should be avoided completely.

The list below identifies some of the risks we’ve encountered over the years.


  • Legislative Risks (CASL, Accessibility)
  • Identity Theft and Brand Hijacking
  • Auto-generated Profiles
  • Mistaken Identity
  • Disengaging key audiences
  • Social Media consolidation
  • Poor (or no) community management
  • Ghost Town
  • Embarrassing posts
  • Social Engineering
  • Competitive Trouble-making
  • Crisis management
  • Keyword matching
  • Profile counter-messaging (using PPC ads)
  • Stakeholder expectation mismatch
  • Comment spam
  • Listening without hearing
  • Contest fraud


  • No Policy or Guidelines
  • No training
  • No monitoring or measurement
  • Employee productivity
  • Risky employee use
  • Improper use of Social Media for candidate sourcing or reference checks
  • Bad hires
  • Departmental Social Media “expert” or intern becomes a lone cowboy
  • No integrated Contact Center capability (Click to Chat, Twitter, etc.)
  • Unempowered Contact Center or Social Media group staff
  • Non Social Media-savvy people as official spokespersons
  • Underestimating the influence (and speed) of Social Media
  • Senior leadership misuses it (or doesn’t use it at all)
  • Website/Blog attacks
  • Ownership of Followers, especially when an employee leaves
  • Not using it to engage stakeholders…

This week’s action plan:  How many of these risks do you recognize?  This week, identify the top 2-3, and take steps to mitigate them.

PS:  Are there more risks to add to the list?  Let us know and we’ll update the post…

PPS:  We have developed social media risk mitigation policies for many organizations.  Interested in a short conversation on the topic?  Please reach out at, or 416-256-7773 x101

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


There has always been a fringe element in society; and now, Social Media has provided an unwitting channel to help advance their agendas.  Short of regulating Social Media explicitly, can anything be done about it?

In the traditional channels, there have long been built-in checks-and-balances to prevent abuse.

  • With so few TV and Radio stations, newspapers, and magazines, these channels developed policies for who they would accept as an advertiser. And as journalists, their reporting was both objective fact-checked.  It was hard for fringe elements to squeeze in.
  • The cost of advertising would self-limit the reach of these groups.
  • Government laws and regulations (health, financial, libel, and consumer protection) would limit what an advertiser could say, if the fringe group actually had the money to spend.
  • Industry groups (advertising standards Canada, for example) would further define acceptable ads, while also providing a forum for complaints.

Advertising Standards

The internet, and Social Media in particular, have rendered these checks and balances impotent. We now live in the million-channel universe; anyone can create a website or a Social Media profile. And anyone can post their opinion or comment on just about any post.

The challenge for organizations

The challenge for bona fide organizations occurs on many fronts; how to cut through the noise? How to successfully fight a rearguard defense against these fringe elements? And how to differentiate their “truth,” when fringe groups often use these same techniques to propagate their truth?  These challenges ring especially true for regulators, but also for academics, public health officials, and financial institutions, amongst others.

Some ideas to prove legitimacy:

  • Use referenced evidence in all claims.
  • Provide a chain of authority to prove legitimacy. For example, a financial institution may note they are regulated by OSFI and insured by the CDIC. A broker might note they are regulated by IIROC.
  • Build a strong Social Media community around the organization. Not only will this provide legitimacy in and of itself, but this “tribe” can advocate on your behalf if needed.
  • Use a content marketing/thought leadership approach to provide depth for those who need it.
  • Use celebrity spokespersons of your own.
  • Monitor (and actively address) Social Media fringe messages with facts and details of your own.
  • Report fringe posts and initiatives to “traditional” regulators when appropriate. Flag their posts to Social Media sites when they appear contrary to the sites’ terms of service.
  • Spend on advertising: fringe groups often do not have the budget, and compete only in free venues.

As Social Media has become ubiquitous, and fringe groups have developed increasing sophistication using it, the problem of legitimacy will continue to grow.  Indeed, unless legitimate organizations actively defend their turf – and educate their target audiences – they will eventually sink below the radar, and be unable to fulfill their mandate.

The challenge for individuals

For individuals, there is a similar challenge: who to believe? The answer seems simple: friends and family, traditional authorities, government, celebrities, and Google. And not in any particular order. And so, unfortunately many people are taken in by financial hucksters from Nigeria, celebrities who are shills for commercial sponsors, “Google” medical remedies, racist rants, and dubious product pitches with even more dubious testimonials.

Decoding the claims is not that difficult, but it does take some work. Consider these questions:

  • Does the claim sound too good to be true, or does the claim try too hard to be legitimate?
  • What is the basis for a particular claim? Is it peer-reviewed published research? Legal statutes? Industry regulations? Or maybe just someone’s opinion?
  • What is the background of the spokesperson? Are they a hired mouthpiece – or do they have the education and authority to make the claim?
  • What are the motives of the spokesperson and their organization? Is it profit, or to promote a particular religious view, or promote a public service?
  • Can the claim be verified by an independent (and trusted) third party?
  • What is the Social Media buzz, especially by the detractors? While it is too easy to create phony posts and sham reviews, what are the detractors saying? And are there any posts by trusted organizations setting the facts straight?

In today’s loud, hypercharged marketplace, competing for attention is becoming harder and harder.  Marketers should remember that it isn’t just how much louder they must shout to be heard above the fringe, but that it is the quality of their arguments and quality of their evidence – that will change a cynic into a believer.

This week’s action plan: What concrete steps can your organization take to demonstrate legitimacy? And what other ideas do you have to either showcase legitimacy – or sniff out the fraud?

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

 Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


Four Tests for Auditioning your Posts

by Randall Craig September 19, 2014

Have you ever considered whether you should comment on a post that mentions you or your organization? As a leader, have you ever been concerned that someone in your organization might choose to respond inappropriately? If so, consider these four tests that a post needs to pass: Is the post legal? Many organizations operate under […]

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Increasing Newsletter Registrations

by Randall Craig August 29, 2014

Are you really satisfied with the response rate of your newsletter registration form on your website?  Do you think that, just maybe, your list could be bigger? Instead of thinking of the sign-up form as a sign-up form, think of it as a transaction.  The user – a prospective client – is paying for your […]

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CASL: Double Opt-in is not Express Consent (and vice-versa)

by Randall Craig June 20, 2014

With seven-digit penalties, many marketers are looking carefully at how they are addressing the new Canada Anti-Spam Law (CASL). Unfortunately, many are making a critical error that may later haunt them – and cost.  They are assuming that an email “double-opt-in” constitutes Express Consent. Sometimes it does – and sometimes it doesn’t. First, some definitions.  […]

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Action Bulletin: Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL)

by Randall Craig May 14, 2014

There is no doubt that SPAM – unwanted commercial electronic messages – is a major problem.  It consumes internet bandwidth, clogs our inboxes, and saps productivity.  The solution – spam filters – often makes the problem worse by wrongly filtering legitimate communications into the junk mail folder. Another solution, legislation, has existed on the books […]

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