The Internet and, for the past decade, social media have enabled connections for traditional brick-and-mortar entities that grow revenues exponentially. Facebook's algorithm has advanced over the years, making it more difficult to gain viral popularity among actual or potential users while maintaining a good ROI. But that does not mean that inventive content creators cannot achieve great performances depending on how well their content is received by the audience.
But producing the best content tailored to your customers needs is a daring endeavour, because preferences and customer personas vary in real-time, and the question of ROI is not only connected to the money you put into it, but also the time you invest - and this is most painful when the expected results are not what was envisaged. So, at least when researching content, it would be best if you could select any piece of content available and add it on your brand's account.
And thus, a question arises: can you really publish any type of content you source off the Internet? This is where the difference between copyrighted and public domain work surface. Actually, there are three types of rights over works, apart from copyright, to be taken into consideration here:
- public domain - any works which are either not protected by copyright or for which copyright has expired and was not renewed may be used freely; usually, valuable pieces of content are protected accordingly (especially distinctive designs or photography, which are prone to being copied), so if you ran across an award-winning photo on National Geographic's website, be wary and do some research before using it;
- creative commons - this means that works are in the public domain, but with some more limitations: the author gives people the right to share, use and build upon a work, protecting them also along the way against potential infringers if they abide by conditions of use pointed out by the author. There are various creative commons licenses with specific use condition - some may only require you to credit the source, while others expressly restrict commercial use;
- fair use - although only expressly provided in common-law countries (the US, the UK and other former Commonwealth members), this is the one you could argue in case of a copyright infringement. Fair use is based on a belief that you are entitled to use parts of copyrighted material for free, if this is done for commentary and/or criticism purposes. This is however limited in scope and it is difficult to conceive a case when fair use could be a defense for social media content - which is meant to attract customers by showing brand unique value proposition and positive traits rather than blast at the competition. Plus, the fair use argument may be easily rebutted by the author, leading to liability for damages.
Simply put, just play fair - creating content for social media accounts is hard, but may be fun once the lucky streak is won. Who knows, maybe you could create some content of your own and be on the other side of the barricades in the end.