Facebook has around a billion users, Twitter has many millions, Instagram, LinkedIn, and the many other social media sites have millions themselves. While this is great, enabling people and businesses to be better connected, it is also a significant problem for brands. Trademark infringement is now easier than ever, in fact.

The Dallas Example

There are around 700,000 businesses in Dallas that currently have a Facebook page. Here, they can show their public personality, their products, and their organization, while also communicating with their target demographics. People can effectively have a voice about each of these companies, simply by speaking to them through Facebook. But how do you really know that those 700,000 businesses are the ones they claim to be?

Of course, there are proactive methods available. For instance, Facebook and Twitter now allow pages to be verified. However, not everybody looks for this yet and particularly not with small mom and pop stores, where it is almost expected that they do not have the time or ability to become verified (although it is very easy). Yet, there are a few things that all businesses, regardless of their size, should engage in, and verifying is one of those. Luckily, this process is very easy to complete.

Matthew Knouff, an expert on issues such as social media ethics, wants to ensure that businesses know exactly how to protect themselves and their brand online. Hence, he has set up a number of ways to ensure this is possible.

How to Develop a True and Ethical Online Brand Image

One of the problems Knouff has come across, is that many small businesses simply haven’t had the time to set up their profiles yet. When they finally do have the time, they often find that their name is already taken. In these situations, it is important to peruse the terms of use policies offered by the social media site. Impersonating someone else is usually illegal, definitely if it is done to purposefully deceive the rest of the public.

Sometimes, litigation has to follow. However, this can be damaging to a reputation as well. Being ethical and responsible online is hugely important, so embroidering yourself in a variety of legal issues is not always the best way forward. Knouff believes that, instead, a simple writing to the owner of the name should be sufficient, asking them to demonstrate when and how they chose the name. This can be done under eDiscovery rules.

Indeed, being aware of the various rules and regulations is also very important. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) are both very useful in this. They have strong codes of ethics that mandate people have to comply with certain rules, be honest, and disclose their identity. In fact, they are working towards setting up social media law, something that Matthew Knouff is also involved in. Put together, this may just make the online world a safer, fairer place.

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