In recent years, social media has become a must-have marketing tool to help connect with audiences and build business brands. While it can be extremely beneficial to have your posts and social media activity reach a large number of users, this can also be a major risk. Not only are there issues that can arise that can do damage to your personal reputation, but crossing certain legal lines can also damage your business. To the point where it may not even be able to run anymore.
Legal risks in social media are rarely different to any other risks on online platforms. Material that’s published online can go viral relatively quickly. This is why it’s important that businesses who heavily invest into their social platforms build compliance guidelines that help to reduce the risk associated with social media marketing.
The more obvious risk is that material published on social media doesn’t comply with the social media network’s guidelines. However, there are also external factors that can lead to legal risks for businesses. This article explores these risks in more detail.
A common mistake that businesses tend to make is not checking creative commons licenses correctly. Specifically, licenses related to images that have been published on the Internet. They’ll freely use the image believing that it’s possible to use anywhere. However, this won’t be the case the majority of the time.
There are copyright laws and licenses that make it possible for such material to be used freely. For commercial use though, there will be certain restrictions which limits how companies can use the material on social media. Using music in advertising is another example where material can not be freely used.
Ensure that any material that you plan to use within your social media posts is thoroughly checked in terms of whether it can be used for the purposes you desire. Check the terms and conditions of the license used and what privileges are available to use the material.
Making deceptive claims
Consumer protection laws have been put in place to protect consumers against false claims made by companies about their products and services. Any statements made should be checked to ensure it’s justified and viable to circulate around social media.
If there are any promotions or conditions applied to a certain offer, this should be spelled out clearly in the post. The FTC has issued rules for disclosure of these types of posts where influencers are being paid to promote a product.
Similarly, there should be considerations made if your campaign affiliates themself with another business or celebrity figure. If the promotion is made out to be false, the third party has a right to take legal action against you.
If there is an instance where affiliate marketing is possible, if a celebrity uses their social media to promote a certain product or brand and fails to disclose the post as a promotion, this can also lead to legal action.
Privacy and confidentiality
Privacy and confidentiality relates to the exposure of personal details of an individual, including their name, address, contact number or email address.
Businesses need to be able to comply with privacy laws to declare how they are collecting, storing and using this personal information. If any personnel in a business are dealing with personal information, they should receive the right training on how they can use it and restrictions they have for its use – particularly with social media.
Disclosing business to business contracts are also another aspect that should be considered within confidentiality laws. Non-disclosure agreements are put in place to prevent any proceedings occurring within a business becoming public. Where this may go wrong is if certain situations are disclosed through social media which are considered private matters. Ensure all parties involved are aware of any non-disclosure agreements before going ahead.
The concept of privacy also applies to your customers. Be careful what you say when communicating with your customers online. One dental practice was recently ordered to pay out $10,000 for responding to a patient’s Yelp review. By simply responding in the manner that they did, the practice was seen as disclosing that the reviewer was indeed a patient.
Defamation involves the process of content being published that could potentially damage a third-party’s reputation.
While in some cases the information is led to be true and companies don’t have the ground to sue for defamation, there is still possibility that a small business or individual can be defamed in the process.
The biggest risk in social media where defamation can occur is when the content is shared. ‘Liking’ and ‘sharing’ the defamatory comment can introduce the content to new audiences. Before you know it, the content has escalated to thousands of users across the internet.
The main reason businesses choose to post on their social media network is for promotion or advertising purposes. Codes are used within social media pages that help to determine whether a post governs with the standards of advertising regulations. This can include aspects related to violence, nudity, portrayal of sex, strong language and any other controversial content.
Another aspect that it also considers is whether content is age appropriate. This is to protect children or people of young age being exposed to material that would be considered harmful. There can be some cases when applying age restrictions to your content can prevent legal issues, but this should be researched into before going ahead.
How can businesses prevent risks through social media?
How your business can mitigate risk will be dependent on what industry you’re in and the service you provide. Industries sectors have their own regulations of what can be displayed by businesses. However, there are some house rules that you can implement to ensure risks are reduced:
– Outline a company policy on social media use and posting content
– Regularly monitor and moderate the posts that are produced by in-house social media teams. Remove any content that is believed to be inappropriate or outside the regulations of company policy
– Provide training to staff who regularly use the platforms to represent the business
– Security measures (password protection, sharing of password with limited parties etc.)
– Reviewing legal aspects of campaigns to ensure the correct clearances are obtained
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- 5 Legal Aspects to Consider When Posting on Social Media for Your Business - February 26, 2020