With the rising popularity of social media aggregation tools like Stream, customers are rightly concerned about their privacy. As the New York Times eloquently explained, showcasing customer interaction with your products and services is not as simple as plucking public content from social media users and broadcasting it on your website.
As demonstrated by leaders in the industry like Lush Cosmetics, shoppable social media content can be engaging, effective and legal. Repurposing Instagram, Twitter and other public content from social networks that include your brand hashtag or handle is completely legal with attribution. Providing proper attribution protects you from disgruntled users and social networks - because no one wants to get into a legal battle with Facebook (spoiler alert: you'd lose).
What is Attribution?
Attribution varies by social network, but the going standard is including the original network’s official logo, the author’s username, profile picture and a live link to the original content.
However - just because attribution makes sharing fan posts legal, doesn’t mean everyone will be happy about it. People take great pride in their content, as it’s often a reflection of their very personal lives and thoughts. Although social networks are technically public, most people aren’t expecting their content to be seen beyond their (comparably small to most brands) followers list. Repurposing user-generated content without explicit permission is begging for backlash.
When NOT to Reuse Content:
Repurposing fan photos is especially risky and tactless when:
- Children or minors (especially faces) are present
- The photo is obviously taken in or near a person’s home
- There is nudity or implied nudity in the photo
- Illegal or questionable acts are being committed
- The author of the photo is a visual, musical or performance artist
- The photo is deliberately decontextualized (no caption, etc.)
Social media users are jusitifed in their concern for their privacy. However, this does not mean that social aggregation is impossible, unethical or inappropriate.
Many people would love to be recognized by the brands and public figures they idolize, and would be honoured to be featured on your website, mobile app or large screen display. You must simply distinguish between these super fans and those who simply mentioned you to provide context in their post to their trusted followers, family and friends.
How to Legally Repurpose Fan Content:
Explicitly and transparently requesting permission for the rights to your fan photos can be done in three easy steps. Here you'll see our client Disney rocking legal social for their D23 Expo.
Step 1: Collect public user generated content that uses your brand hashtag with an aggregator like Stream and specify your Granted Rights hashtag:
Step 2: Reply to their post manually or automatically, praising their photo and asking that they grant you rights by responding with your granted hashtag (like Disney's #YesD23EXPO).
Step 3: Actually go back and check, either manually or automatically with Stream, to see if they replied/commented with your rights hashtag. If they have, you're set to approve their post!
Now you can use their photos, videos and comments worry-free!
Warning about Rights Policies
Although this is an easy policy to implement, we do advise that you really think before deciding it’s right for your brand. After promoting your new rights policy, there is no going back. You absolutely cannot use any non-granted photos after you put this policy in place, otherwise people will get very upset and make a fool of you in the New York Times.
However, if you do decide to create an explicit rights policy, your business will be much more competitive, authentic and safe. Wouldn’t you rather be showcasing your true brand advocates anyway? If people know you’ve explicitly asked permission for every wonderful user-generated content photo you share, their praise means so much more to potential customers.
Are you ready to establish a rights granted policy for your user-generated content? Contact us to start today.