Five tips for customizing your TOS

Five tips for customizing your TOS

credit: Wikimedia Commons

Every company that allows users to post content on its website should have User Guidelines or a Terms of Service (TOS) agreement in place.  These guidelines outline what your tolerance is in terms of what can and can’t be posted. Don’t want cyber bullies? All you need to do is customize your TOS agreement, which usually users are prompted to read and agree to when they create an account on your website.  Spell out that you are a bully-free zone and that your moderators will remove content.

Your TOS gives you control, provides a structure and offers your users fair warning of what will be disallowed or removed from your site.

Here are some tips on creating your Terms of Service agreement:

1) Keep guidelines short: Most users never bother to read any or all of the TOS, unless their comments or uploads have been declined.

2) Keep it general enough to cover any situation. People do the darndest things.  Beware that users could post pictures of themselves in their underwear or pose in only their six-guns and a big smile.  Unexpected circumstances will always arise.  A general TOS keeps the door open for you to make appropriate determinations.  For example, disallowing “hate speech” covers a lot of ground in terms of racist, sexist or homophobic posts.  You can be specific, however, about issues that directly impact your campaign or site (i.e., age or image requirements).

3) Don’t forget about damaging photos. Protect your brand from damaging posts of photographs or illustrations that would be harmful to it, such as anything that highlights or links to competitors’ brands.

4) Do not allow copyrighted material. Educate yourself about copyright violations and other legal issues affecting social media.  Violations could include a user uploading pictures of people wearing T-shirts with Coca-Cola or Mickey Mouse on them.  Depending on how the image is perceived, you could be held liable for these violations.

5) Protect the privacy of your users. Let your users know that your moderators will not approve content that would include private information such as anyone’s email address, telephone number, street address, or any other personal information.

If your social media team is ready to launch a killer app to engage your customers and fans, mitigate the risk of opening up your site to user-generated content by drafting a comprehensive and effective TOS.   Think through your guidelines carefully and craft a TOS that is simple, clear and broad.