Listen Up Kids! Your Facebook Bikini Photos Could Be Featured in the Next School Assembly

Facebook bikini photo

Despite the vast majority of adolescents living and breathing social media, it still seems that many teenagers are either unaware or unconcerned about how information shared online can be accessed publicly and used against them. A recent case* heard by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia drives this point home, as well as how some adults are equally ignorant of when to share potentially embarrassing or damaging content found on social sites.

How One Photograph Can Cause a Whole Lot of Trouble

Not unlike many young girls these days, a teenage student attending school in Georgia posted pictures of herself in a bikini to her Facebook page, which had privacy settings that allowed both her friends and ‘friends of friends’ to access her postings, pictures, etc. The photo was then downloaded and saved by an employee of her school, who then used it as an example during a school-wide assembly of how accessible, and damaging, information shared on Facebook could be. The Georgia school official thought this would be a good way of showing real life examples of students over-sharing as a way to demonstrate the lack of privacy on social platforms. The official had accessed the student’s Facebook page as ‘a friend of a friend’ and though the intent was to teach a lesson, the parents felt it was an invasion of privacy and sued the school.

Social Media & The Law: When Is Over-Sharing Illegal?

Though the student and her parents viewed the school assembly over-sharing as an invasion of privacy, the courts sided with the school district. The U.S. District Court found that the student had no reasonable expectation of privacy because her Facebook privacy was set to allow for “friends of friends” viewing and she had willingly posted the photo to her page. The court noted that the expectation of privacy does not protect an individual from public embarrassment.

Lessons Learned by All

What lessons are hoped to be learned by this? One, students should not share pictures of themselves or make comments they wouldn’t want displayed to their entire school. For me, I take it a step further with my own teenagers and advise them not to post anything they wouldn’t want a potential university, employer, coach or family member to view. Secondly, if you are a school employee, don’t use student examples that could cause harm or raise liability issues on a school wide level. Duh. Really, what was the school official thinking posting a photo that could so obviously raise privacy issues, embarrass the student and be in questionable taste; after all, the female was of minor age and ‘in a state of undress,’ as the court documents politely described the photo. Lastly, parents, if your teen is foolish enough to post incriminating or potentially embarrassing photos they wouldn’t want to go public, let your child learn from the experience instead of making a court case out of it.

If you were a parent of this student, how would you have handled the situation? If you are a parent of a teen, share this information with them.

Also, while we’re speaking of privacy, Facebook has just changed their settings so that all profiles and timelines are now searchable. Make sure to keep your privacy settings updated if you don’t want all your information available to the public at large. Read more from AllFacebook to learn more about the changes and how to update your Facebook privacy settings.

*Chaney v. Fayette Cnty. Pub. Sch. Dist., N.D. Ga., No. 3:13-cv-00089.

Social Media Tip: Using Trademarks on Twitter

To tweet or not to tweet is not the question. With over 300,000 people joining Twitter every DAY and just under 400 new sign ups on Facebook every MINUTE, many businesses across all industries are realizing the need to have a social presence. For brands who are new to Twitter, one of the first commonly asked questions is “What is the industry standard for using trademarks on social sites and how do I stay consistent with all my other marketing materials?”

For the purpose of this article, we’ll stick to discussing the use of trademarks on Twitter. The short answer is that there really is no industry standard and major brands vary in their use of trademarks in their Twitter Profiles and tweets. The majority of major brands do not use trademarks, however you can find a few that do. For instance, Pepsi uses the trademark symbol on its official profile, but Coca-Cola does not. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) occasionally uses special characters in its feed but not always.

If you are a business that feels the need to incorporate trademarks, there are ways you can use special characters in your Twitter profile and tweets, whether to keep your key branding messages cohesive – or just for fun.

Symbols You Can Add to Your Twitter Profile

Twitter’s coding supports the use of special characters in your Twitter profile, although special characters are not supported in Twitter user name fields. Special characters can include:

  • Trademarks: copyright symbols, registered symbols, service marks
  • Brand Recognition: currency symbols, arrows, chess pieces
  • Symbols: hearts, stars, card suits

How to Add Trademarks and Special Characters to Your Twitter Profile

Virtually any UTF-8 Unicode character can be used in your Twitter Profile as well as in your tweets. If you’re not familiar with Unicode, not to worry; it’s just a term for standard text encoding. Most fonts with special characters are Unicode, including WingDings. There are two ways to access the Unicode library your computer already has:

  • Open your most commonly used word processing program and select a font with special characters like WingDings. After typing out the available symbols, copy and paste the symbol you want to the appropriate area of your Twitter profile.
  • On a Windows computer, go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Character Map. This pulls up a window of all of the Unicode symbols stored on your machine. Select the symbol you want to use by clicking, press Select, then press Copy. You can then paste the symbol to your Twitter profile.

Twitter’s Policies on Special Characters in a Twitter Profile

So to use or not to use special characters? Here’s some points to consider: If your tweet, Facebook post or email uses special characters and is then read from a computer or mobile device that does not support them, the characters are converted into random and sometimes unrecognizable symbols that can be confusing for the reader.  For instance, the trademark symbol ™ can turn into a hashtag, question mark or some other totally irrelevant symbol.  Bottom line, it comes out looking funky and unprofessional.

Another reason is that the most commonly used characters (trademarked (™) and registered (®)) are for companies that already have well established web presences and brand identities, therefore there is little need to reiterate the point that their branding and materials are copyright protected. Twitter’s trademark policy provides strict guidelines on the use of trademarks, making it clear that individuals and companies should only use trademarks in ways that do not “mislead or deceive” – in other words, don’t impersonate or misappropriate the trademarks or brand affiliations of others.   Twitter Support has been very responsive to brands that report trademark violation when such allegations are valid.

In the end, there is no hard and fast rule whether or not to use trademarks in your business profile or tweets. Write by Design’s only recommendation is that each company make the choice and then consistently apply it across all social networks.

Need help setting up your business social media accounts on the most popular platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube, Google+, Pinterest)? Call Write by Design at 415-218-8560 and let us put our experience to work for you.


“HELP! I Need a Writer”

This is the often overheard cry of the small business owner who needs some great content written for their website, blog, or social media accounts but either lacks the skill, time or desire to write it.  With content being used as a powerful marketing tool, many small business owners are in need of a writer who can create content that not only gets the attention of customers, but also encourages their customers  to connect and do business with them versus a competitor.

Creating great online content has become one of the leading ways businesses brand themselves, advertise goods and services, and establish their expertise, with the aim to garner a customer’s business and loyalty.

As an experienced copywriter, the first step I always take with clients is to create an effective content marketing plan based upon what purpose/objective the content is intended to fulfill.  To do this, I meet with the business owner and ask these 3 main questions:

-What is the product/service you are marketing, and who are your competitors?
-Who is your target audience and where can they be found online?
-What is your core message and how can we use it to drive business?

The next step is to build up some content pieces, including a variety of sources such as videos, photos, white papers, how-to guides, testimonials, press releases, marketing sheets, etc.  I highly recommend clients have a blog as it is one of the easiest ways to keep content fresh and relevant, which improves a website’s search engine rankings.  Ideally, content would be added to the blog on a daily basis, but even adding one post a week will get content built up over time and strengthen their online position.

A word of warning- creating content without an overall plan and/or creating content that is amateurish or poorly written can be a fatal mistake.  Although quantity helps with search engines, quality is what keeps customers returning AND sharing – which is key in today’s market where social media plays such a strong role.  If you either don’t have the skill, time or desire to write quality content, hire a good copywriter who can provide a steady stream of well-written, informative and engaging content that has real value for your targeted consumer.

If you are a small business in need of hiring a quality content writer, contact Write by Design  today at 415-218-8560.  With years of experience creating unique and optimized content for a variety of industries, we can help you get well on your way to advertising and growing your business with either on-going or single project assignments.  We have some clients that we re-write their entire website content due to a redesign, but we also have clients that we write one blog article per week with postings to their social media sites for the mere cost of $50-$100 per post – a very affordable way to get started!  If you’ve been wanting to get started, but feeling stuck (aka the cartoon,) let us help you!

Clever Visual for Improving EQ

The wonders of Facebook!  I came across this post by a friend… of an acquaintance… of a close friend… of a family member…that’s how you can now categorize the people in your life on the new timeline- sorting people into lists, creating more lines of separation – the antithesis to this simple visual that demonstrates how easy our mind can become cluttered with negativity, stress, and worry.

How does this relates to business writing, online marketing and social media management?  Anything that increases emotional intelligence, whether my own, yours or of those around you, increases creativity and productivity, leading to increased happiness, goal accomplishment and personal and professional success.  (For evidence of this, read Six Seconds Business Case for EQ) Just pick any one of the nine below and try it out…see what is possible when there is clarity, stillness and an open mind.