Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

Whose Account Is It Anyway?: The Potential Pratfalls of Social Media Marketing

Okay, yes—we all know content marketing is awesome. The numbers don’t lie.

Businesses who blog, for instance, see a whopping 67% more leads generated, as compared to their non-blogging counterparts.

Similarly, a recent report showed organic search leads to be over 7 times more effective at closing the deal than outbound marketing leads. Pretty wicked, eh?

The problem with all of this, however, is that good content isn’t just hard to generate—it’s also notoriously tough to protect.

On one level, as Ian Lurie of Portent.com noted, if you guest-write an outstanding blog post for a well-known website such as the NY Times, most of the viral traffic will centre around the much more famous name, leaving your own website with only a few crumbs from the table.

Deciding to publish the post on your own page doesn’t help matters much either—at any moment, a bunch of lazy jerks might come swooping in for your content, either reproducing it wholesale on their content farms or oddly paraphrasing it through article spinning programs.

Piracy, you cry! Except without a devilishly camp Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley in a fetching corset. It’s a long drop off the plank down the SERP, is what we’re saying.

"Theft, you yell! With the exception of without a maliciously camp Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley in a getting bodice. It's a long drop off the board down the Serp is what we're stating."
“Theft, you yell! With the exception of without a maliciously camp Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley in a getting bodice. It’s a lengthy descent off the flat and wooden constructed board down the SERP, is that of which we’re stating.”

In recent years, Google have been working to solve some of these problems.

Early 2011, for example, saw the new Panda algorithm introduced, which—though seemingly harmless and huggable—had a devastating effect on unscrupulous content farms.

Similarly, as we noted in an earlier blog post, Google’s new Authorship function now allows all your articles to be traced back to a centralized Google+ profile, a feature which also serves to reward good content on your part with SEO benefits. Yay!

For some of the retailers we spend our time hanging around with on the forums, however,  this new development only serves to throw up another set of issues.

Having your web content tied to a personal social media account might be an awesome way to combat copycats, they say, but it also calls up another question: who does that account belong to, the company or the employee?

On the surface, it seems like a ridiculous question to ask: of course every human being deserves to own his own Facebook timeline! What are we, North Korea?


ALL YOUR TWEETS ARE BELONG TO US! Along with your bacon. Show me the bacon.
ALL YOUR TWEETS ARE BELONG TO US! Along with your bacon. Show me the bacon.

On the other hand, when personal social accounts are being used during work hours for what are, essentially, business purposes, things can get tricky very quickly.

Your employer’s Twitter followers could, for example, double up as a valuable customer list. Similarly, that Google+ Author Rank could, over time, become an invaluable SEO asset.

This might provide a benefit in the short-term. In the long-run, however, this could very well place you in a potentially vulnerable position.

It’s unpleasant to think about now, but what’s to stop your employer from removing their Contributor status from your blog posts, causing them to plummet in the search rankings?

One doesn’t even need to be on murderous terms with their employee to see the possible pratfalls of such a situation. Even the best working relationship can turn sour quickly, and complications can also arise if your employee is approached by a competitor in the industry.

Such a scenario might seem unrealistic, but that’s exactly what happened to a certain Mr Noah Kravitz. Mr Kravitz—presumably no relation to Lenny—found himself the subject of a lawsuit from his former employers at Phonedog.com, who alleged that the 17,000-followers-strong Twitter account he had set up under their employment was their property. The damages sought? A cool $340,000.

This heartbreaking tale of soured friendships and bitter betrayals prompted a response from intellectual property lawyer Henry Cittone, who, having presumably never heard a single attorney joke in his life, proceeded to gleefully declare that he had been “waiting to see such a case” happen. Unfortunately for Hank, the case was eventually settled out of court, depriving the world of its long-awaited statutory precedent. Bummer.

Thanks for being mature and civil adults capable of peacefully resolving disputes through mutual compromise instead of litigation, YOU SELFISH BASTARDS.
Hey, Kravitz & Phonedog, thanks for being mature adults who peacefully resolve civil disputes through mutual compromise instead of litigation, YOU SELFISH BASTARDS.

So what do we do in the absence of a judgment from our courts to guide us? One partial solution might be Google’s little-known Publisher tag.

Much like its better-promoted cousin, the ‘rel=”Publisher”‘ tag works to tie your website (on which you publish your blog posts) together with your business’s Google+ page.

This has the beneficial effect of centralizing all of your web pages under a centralized Google+ brand identity, resolving the diffused IP problem of Google Authorship in part.  Google Publisher also grants you a pimped up SERP wherever you’re mentioned, with a nice and prominent rich snippet pointing Googlers your way.

Of course, it’s not a perfect solution. The Publisher markup doesn’t fully match the SERP functions of Authorship—it only shows up on searches for the business’s name itself, as Ben Holbrook from Vervesearch wisely pointed out. This solution also doesn’t account for the fact that some people might be hired for their very own pre-existing web following and the AuthorRank that comes along with it. In those scenarios, the ultimate value would still be located in the author’s account itself.

Still, the line between the personal and professional has always been a grey one, and we expect it to stay much the same, regardless of how technology develops. Watch this space for any updates.




Samuel Caleb Wee

Samuel is an intern at ReferralCandy. In his free time he enjoys making things up and writing them down.

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