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VOL. 127 | NO. 28 | Friday, February 10, 2012

Social Media Compliance at Heart of Seminar

By Sarah Baker

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Glen Gilmore won the crowd over within seconds of taking the podium at The Daily News’ social media seminar Thursday, Feb. 9, at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

“I love Memphis. I love the people, the way the people say hello, you've got great character in your businesses and on your streets,” Gilmore said.

Gilmore is a globally recognized social media expert, consultant, professor and attorney. He resides in New Jersey, but visits Memphis often for his role of senior social media advisor to Amy Howell of Howell Marketing Strategies LLC – a connection he made through Twitter.

Gilmore was named recently by Forbes as a top 50 social media power influencer. But he knows Memphis’ track record with Forbes isn’t as rosy.

“I love this city, you've got an incredible story to tell, and social media has a great power for you to tell that story. I have faith that once that story is told by those who know the city best, Forbes will get it right.”

The conference, sponsored by Jackson Lewis LLP, tackled the power of business web interaction as well as social media legal and compliance issues. Gilmore said it’s important for all businesses – from mom and pops to Fortune 500 companies – to have some form of social media policy in place.

It all boils down to protecting a business’ brand – including what its employees say about it on blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

“Social media is going through an evolution from social media to social business,” Gilmore said. “Know the rules of your industry and follow them even when you’re in the social space.”

An early adopter of this concept was the Federal Trade Commission, which came out in 2009 with guidelines that address the social space. Yet 76 percent of companies do not have a social media policy, Gilmore said.

“For those who are in regulated industries, it’s not an option,” Gilmore said. “Once you’ve made the investment to understand the rules, there is a return on your investment.”

It’s an avenue Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. is addressing, following an announcement Thursday that his administration is reviewing its social media policy, after a Memphis firefighter made insulting comments against the city online last fall.

Labor employment law is a major topic these days, said Jim Mulroy, managing partner of Jackson Lewis. In fact, the National Labor Relations Board has recently come out with white papers about what employees can and cannot do.

“It used to be the law repeats itself every 10 years; well the law is moving much faster now,” Mulroy said. “This is just one more thing that employers need to put on their agenda. Train employees on bad blogging or other users of social media. You don’t need to find a template online, you need to find someone who knows what they’re talking about to write it for you.”

Sharing that sentiment was Eric Epperson, vice president of corporate culture and communications at Pinnacle Airlines Corp. Just because a company has sophisticated software tracking, he said, doesn’t mean it’s truly aware of how many mentions and hash tags it’s generating, and whether they’re positive or negative.

“Those programs have got some fascinating elements, but it’s an expensive way to do it,” Epperson said.

Pinnacle is one of many publically traded, Memphis-based companies that Epperson has worked for, including FedEx Corp. and Autozone Inc. Over his tenure in corporate communications, he’s watched social media monitoring become a game changer in the hiring process.

“Twenty years ago, I could do a background check,” Epperson said. “Employers are getting a lot more creative.”

That’s why it’s important for young adults to learn the lay of the land early on, said Howell.

“Learn the rules, get a mentor and read,” Howell said. “Our kids’ digital footprints starts now. Eleven or 12 is not too young. You could lose a scholarship or lose a job. When hiring for clients, I’ll check out their social sites.”

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