Social media may seem like an “anything goes” platform. However, users who are not careful about their social media usage can find themselves in legal trouble. These tips can help you avoid legal issues related to social media use.
1. Choose Your Words Carefully When Responding to Reviews
Feedback about the customer experience is a valuable tool for business owners. However, negative reviews can sting, particularly if you don’t think the review is fair. The temptation to respond negatively can be strong but is one you should avoid. Businesses are not allowed to delete negative reviews or to retaliate against customers or employees who leave negative reviews.
2. Establish a Clear and Enforceable Social Media Policy
Disputes sometimes arise over who owns social media content and accounts. If you have employees or contractors posting to social media on your behalf, your social media policy must clearly outline who the accounts and content on your social media platforms belong to. This can avoid potential litigation when you no longer have a relationship with those employees or contractors.
Be cautious about asking for employee social media credentials. Some employers want this information so that they can monitor what their employees are doing on social media, but this may result in a discrimination lawsuit.
3. Avoid Undisclosed Endorsements and Deceptive Advertising
If you pay someone to say something positive about your company on social media, that relationship must be disclosed. For example, if you pay a blogger to write a positive review about one of your products, that blogger must disclose that you paid them for the review. Any employees of your company posting about your products or services also must disclose their relationship with your company. Additionally, any claims you make about your products and services on social media must be accurate and true.
4. Do Not Use Licensed Content Without Permission
Intellectual property violations are a common issue on social media. When using someone else’s intellectual property, it is not enough to give credit. Unless that IP is in the public domain, or the creator has explicitly given permission for the item to be used for commercial purposes, you must obtain permission to legally use the IP. This includes images that users post on social media sites, such as Instagram. The exception to this rule is images that are of an event in the public interest. It is a good idea to consult with an attorney to make sure you remain compliant in your usage of other people’s and companies’ intellectual property on social media.
5. Know the Rules of Each Platform
The major social media platforms all have similar rules, but there are some differences. Additionally, each platform carries its legal risks for users. Read the rules and guidelines for the platforms you are considering using. Analyze how well these guidelines fit with your company’s legal policies. Talk to an attorney about the risks each platform carries and how you can mitigate those risks.
6. Make Sure Third-Parties You Work with are Legally Compliant
It may be tempting to just assume that a professional company you contract with to handle your social media knows the law. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and you can be on the hook for any rule-breaking done on your behalf. The contract you sign with any social media agency should clearly state who takes the financial and legal responsibility for the content the agency posts.
7. Don’t Post Fake Reviews or Testimonials
Even if you are convinced that all of your competitors are boosting their review scores by posting fake reviews, don’t do it. First, if you get caught, it can ruin your credibility. Second, it can also get you in trouble with the law. State attorney generals have been cracking down on laws against posting fake reviews and testimonials online and businesses that violate these laws may face hefty fines.
Social media is a valuable marketing tool for businesses. Taking the proper steps to mitigate legal risks can help you get the most out of this tool without running afoul of the law.
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