Marketers Need to Talk More about Rights Management on Social

Social media can be a wonderful medium for marketers to connect with their customers, and is a goldmine for engagement, with the proper strategy in place, of course. “Proper” social strategy is a big topic in this industry, but one aspect seems woefully under-reported: rights management.

“Rights management is an integral part of the digital age and presents a very real challenge for marketers. The mentality of ‘post now; apologize later’ can be disastrous for brands without proper rights management processes in place,” says Jason Arena, CMO at Northplains.

Social media has become something of a digital wild west, with copyright infringement rampant, and with little or no consequence. Of course, much of this infringement is happening within the context of the post-web 2.0 world, where piracy has been normalized and sharing photos and videos is part of the fabric of digital culture. But there are steps marketers can take to insulate themselves, because — as was the case with Getty Images following the 2010 earthquake that rocked Haiti — not having a solid rights management policy in place can quickly lead to million-dollar lawsuits.

Marketers should be well versed in some of the more general ways that they can protect themselves and their brand:

  • Understanding why you’re on a particular platform, and who you hope to reach; having a clear social workflow and a content plan;
  • Ensuring brand assets are relevant to the channels they’re used on, and
  • evolve as the brand itself does.

These are things marketers should be doing already. But concessions are often made in the name of expediency.

“You commonly hear the saying, ‘If you have to get approval on a social post, you’ve missed your opportunity.’ While speed is critical in maintaining fresh posts that are on point, allowing people to post without adhering to internal digital asset standards is a branding or legal accident waiting to happen,” Arena says. “Marketers should remember that everything must be done within the context of their brand and that rights management can be applied effectively and with automation to ensure it is done properly and with brand security in mind.”

Automating asset management can be a good way to streamline social workflows, but doesn’t fully address the cultural issue at hand. Marketers, like many consumers, often get caught up in the moment. Social media is a very reactive environment. That real-time quality is one of its largest draws for brands. Afterall, who wants to miss their moment on social? While this impulse is understandable, it’s not conducive to good asset management protocol.

“Getting approval on assets for social posts can create roadblocks and impede timeliness, but there are best practices to mitigate these issues – namely developing social media guidelines and templates inclusive of assets and rights management, so people can easily determine which assets are appropriate for specific platforms, how they should be used, and for how long to avoid legal recourse,” Arena says.

While there are certainly solutions out there that can help brands establish asset management protocols, this discussion is primarily one of fundamentals.

“It’s easy to get swept into real-time, spontaneous posts, but taking the time to proactively establish asset guidelines will provide much-needed assurances for ongoing brand security as well as relevance for varying social audiences,” Arena says. “Keep workflows lean, but include key team players who can quickly make judgment calls to sign off on content.”

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