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Changes to Facebook editing rules could leave individuals and companies red-faced

Individuals and companies risk potential embarrassment or damage to reputations following changes implemented by Facebook. The new function introduced at the end of September gives users the ability to alter their status updates, bringing the popular feature of the site in line with the titles and comments posted on users’ photos uploaded online.

A simple like could land you or your company in hot water

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Source: http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4107/5223030643_a18fa2f066.jpg

Under the previous way of operating, if a user wanted to change their status update they would need to delete and repost it. This would mean that any comments and “likes” on the original status would be lost in the process. As a result of the changes, individuals can alter their status updates without notifying people who have interacted with it and this could leave both individuals and organisations vulnerable to reputational damage.

Motivation for change

As increasing numbers of Facebook users move to posting updates from their mobile devices, the chance for errors increases. Typos and autocorrect mishaps are so common you can find whole websites dedicated to the hilarious unintended meanings in messages one’s mobile phone dictionary has seen fit to alter and was not proof read with sufficient diligence. It is this issues that Facebook intended to address with the changes to its editing function, allowing users to amend statuses after posting and correct any unintentional errors.

Concerns have been raised by Marketing and PR consultants who spotted the potential for malevolent use of this apparently innocuous update to protocol. While Facebook have allowed the user who posted the status to amend it after publication, those people who interacted with the original post with comments or clicking to “like” it are not notified that the text has been changed. This, say experts, is a potential cause for concern.

Changing context

In editing the text of a status update, there is no limit to the alterations that can be made. This is what causes consultants in social media and marketing strategy great concern. By interacting with a status update, a Facebook user is visible to anyone else who looks at that content, which if the association is positive can have a beneficial effect on the commenter.

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If you’re not careful, your apparently innocent Facebook activity could come back to bite you

Source: http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4101/4815259737_765783aa0d.jpg

However, if the content of the original post changes, this can alter the light in which the comments are seen and can leave Facebook users in a very sticky situation. What may have once been a “like” on a post that said ‘I love this sunny weather!’ could be taken a completely different way if that original text is altered to something totally different or even outright offensive.

By not including a system that allows notification of the original commenters, anyone who interacts with another user’s posts on Facebook is potentially exposed to unfortunate consequences if the tone or content changes at a later date.

Minimising risk

In branding and marketing, Facebook has become an important platform for building reputation. The people and companies with whom a brand chooses to interact and the way it does that can form part of an integrated branding and marketing strategy to reinforce image and increase recognition. The introduction of Facebook’s editing function introduces a degree of risk that was not previously a concern for marketers and one that needs to be managed carefully.

Retreating from Facebook entirely may in itself be counter-productive and reduce the ways in which a company or brand can interact with its audience and is probably not proportional to the likely chances of being caught out. Companies and individuals would be well-advised to look a little deeper into the activities of other users before committing to an interaction that could later turn sour.

Image Credits: Maggie.byroo and dkalo

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