I feel like such a hypocrite. Just days after saying I'm boarding the social media bus and not looking back, I looked back. I knew I was doing it as I typed that post, I published it anyway, and David Gammel called me on it. I do think it's important for people to be aware of the Catch 22, but I didn't provide the proper context. Posts like that one cause people to fear social media, and that's not what I want.
In his post, David takes up a point I almost blogged about within that post, but decided not to because I couldn't really back up the assertions. Lisa Junker, in a comment to David's post, actually drives the point home most effectively by saying...
It seems to me that some of the concern about legal risks involved in social media is like being concerned about your airplane crashing (and I say this as a very nervous flyer). The fear isn’t based on how likely the event is to occur, it’s based on the severity of the consequences if it did happen … so the fact that such a catastrophic event is even slightly possible is enough to create a disproportionate amount of concern.I almost posted a similar line of logic with my last post, but I decided not to because I didn't have the facts and figures to back up my position. I regret it now.
Lisa and David are right. So in an effort to save face, here's my take (REALTOR association execs be advised, you'll probably see this differently, since REALTOR associations are constantly being sued) (again, I have no facts and figures to base this on, only my observations, whatever their worth):
Lawsuits against associations for anti-competitive practices are pretty rare. I know and frequently talk to a lot of association executives, and (outside of the REALTOR organizations and the required CAE reading) I've never, ever heard of an association getting sued for anti-competitive business practices. I suppose there are many reasons for the dearth of cases, but a contributing factor has to be that most associations have learned how to navigate their boats around the anti-trust rocks. My guess is that ASAE has scared the fear of FTC into them through the CAE program (they did it to me!). Anti-trust is the third rail of the association industry and any trained association professional knows how to protect against it, how to identify it, and how to shut it down. My experience is that associations have much greater legal risks in areas like taxation and employment law.
So is there an anti-trust Catch 22 in association social media? Most likely. Is it probable that you'll find yourself needing to take action in that context? Not in my opinion.
Take this advice at your discretion, but consider the source: A hypocritical, non-lawyer blogger.
Tagged: Association Management; Associations; CAE; Certified Association Executive; social media; antitrust