Legal Risks to Using Social Media

Joseph ComoWebsite Tools

It’s probably never crossed your mind that your business could take on some legal risks if you or your employees use social media as part of your marketing strategy.  It’s a good idea to take the follow under consideration when promoting your company through social media.
#1. Intellectual property
Be careful about using content created by others. It’s OK to comment on their content, but it’s risky to use other’s content without their permission – even if it is promoting your business. Also, make sure your don’t use a person’s picture without permission.
This all may seem like common sense, but it can be easy to overlook it while “sharing” things from Twitter and Facebook.  For example, if one of your clients posts a good review on Facebook and you copy their review to your website to use as a testimonial, you run the risk of privacy violation. You still need to get permission to use that review.
#2. Advertising
There is still the rule, “Truth in Advertising”  even in the social media world.  Always describe your products or services truthfully. Of course, opinions are still subjective and allowed, but just because you can be casual on Twitter, doesn’t mean your official company statements can be loose or exaggerated.  Your claims should be solid anywhere, not just on your corporate site. 
#3 Defamation
Be careful to speak truthfully about your competitor’s products or services. False claims can harm your company’s reputation as well as  result in a claim for defamation.  Carefully review comments and posts made by your employees and customers. 
#4 Terms and conditions of various social media sites
Be aware that most social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter have their own terms and conditions that you have to follow – especially when it comes to advertising.   If you violate their rules, your advertisments or even your entire account could be removed.
#5 Ownership of accounts
According to some recent court cases, there hasn’t been a clear idea of who actually owns the rights to social media accounts – the employees or the company.  For example, if the company requires their employees to keep up the posts and comments on Twitter or Facebook accounts, does the company have some kind of “ownership” or interest in the account? Should the company have control of the content and the followers from those accounts if the employee leaves?
If your company would like to control an account, then set one up that is purely used for business.  And clearly state this in an employee handbook or policy statement to protect social media accounts during their employment and after they leave.

Using social media to promote your business can be very beneficial to getting your name “out there” and generating revenue.  You should create a plan to minimize legal risks and make everyone aware of these risks.  In some situations it could slow down the speed at which markeitng plans and promotions are created and executed using social media, but it will go along way in protecting your business reputation while also protecting it against litigation.