Monday, July 20, 2009

Of course the TOS is longer than the tweet

Peter Kafka noted that Wal-Mart's corporate page linking to various Twitter accounts includes a Terms of Use down at the bottom that is a lot longer than 140 characters. Kafka:

That long, long, long slug of text? That’s 3,692 words, and 23,105 characters–the equivalent of 160 Tweets.

Here's an excerpt:

This site is provided as a service to our customers. Please review the following basic rules that govern your use of our Site (the "Agreement"). Please note that your use of our Site constitutes your unconditional agreement to follow and be bound by these Terms and Conditions. Although you may "bookmark" a particular portion of this Site and thereby bypass this Agreement, your use of this Site still binds you to the terms. reserves the right to update or modify these Terms and Conditions at any time without prior notice. Your use of the Web site following any such change constitutes your unconditional agreement to follow and be bound by the Terms and Conditions as changed. For this reason, we encourage you to review these Terms and Conditions whenever you use this Web site.

Technically the "Terms of Use" apply to, and the individual Twitter accounts are in a separate domain. Not that I'm necessarily encouraged to review a TOS whenever I visit a site.

More relevant to the Twitter accounts are the Twitter discussion guidelines, a much shorter document that is also linked to from the Wal-Mart Twitter page. Here's an excerpt from THAT page:

* While many of our 2.2 million associates around the world are using Twitter and other social networks, all official Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Twitter users will be identified on this landing page and will have a link back to this page from their Twitter profile.

* Unless otherwise noted, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. approved Twitter users will follow the following naming conventions of “business unit + name/category.” For example, “walmartradio,” “samsclubrobert,” and “walmartgames.”

* We won’t reply to off topic @replies. Personal attacks and foul language = FAIL. Adding to the discussion = WIN.

* @replies should contribute to the dialogue. Please support any claims with links to sources whenever possible. We love opinions. We love it even more when you back them up.

Note that the Wal-Mart people understand the environment (note the use of FAIL and WIN), and that they offer information to help distinguish between official Wal-Mart accounts and unofficial ones.

They have to. Around the same time that Peter Kafka was counting words in a Terms of Service agreement, Francine Hardaway was noting that large companies have to watch what they say in the social media environment. Here's a taste:

[L]arge companies, especially public companies, are still guided by SEC regulations. This leads the CEOs of many publicly traded companies to fear social media, which can be a valuable marketing and customer service tool, and shy away from it.

And here's another:

IR is perilously close to marketing, and a perilously small part of any enterprise. The PR/IR people are the “controlled” bloggers and tweeters, who have absorbed the caveats and best practices of social media, and can probably (if they are good) get away with a fairly wide social media presence without running afould of rules.

It’s when we get into the employee guidelines for social media that we can get into trouble in the enterprise. Every company now needs policy guidelines as to what an employee can and cannot say on a social media platform....

And for those who think that Fortune 500 companies are being too timid, just type "domino's pizza youtube" into your search engine of choice. Clearly not an official communication from Domino's Pizza, yet the company had to defend itself anyway.
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