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How a 21-year-old can humiliate your brand and cause a world of legal trouble

Do you know what your marketing assistant is doing online?

1700 people outed a Sports Illustrated staffer for trying to rig Digg by bribing people to pump up the votes for his site — while asking them to hide the relationship. See it here and here.


This is against the law. It’s not a matter of debate between social media experts — it’s the law. Read this detailed explanation of the FTC rules.

This one employee has now embarrassed the brand. Angered the fans. Broke the law.

How did it happen? According to his LinkedIn profile, the staffer graduated from Wesleyan in May. I’m sure no one gave him social media training. I’m sure they have no corporate guidelines. I’m sure he thinks he is doing well for the company. I’m sure no one at Time Inc. has any idea what he’s doing.

There are two simple steps to protect your brand:

  1. Create a training program.
  2. Have a written policy. The FTC tells us that your company will be protected from liability if a rogue staffer violates a formal policy.

It’s long past time every large company got this under control. No more excuses, folks: The law is clear — if you solicit people in social media to promote your brand, you’re legally responsible for their actions.

If you need help with either of these, download the free tools at the Social Media Business Council or come to our BlogWell event.

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  1. Andee Sellman, One Sherpa October 27, 2009 at 3:10 pm #

    Wow, so easy to make a mistake and I bet he thought he was helping too!!!

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