We've seen it happen to record players and milkmen, now it's the traditional methods of communication and interaction which are slowly becoming endangered. We're moving towards a world where everything is connected through the Internet, and as a result society is becoming increasingly involved with social media. The advances in mobile technology and electronic devices make it very easy to instantly post online.
Although the positives of being able to connect with current and potential clients instantly may seen to be innocent enough, the content posted could get your business into serious legal trouble if you're unaware or indifferent to what you are doing or who you may be effecting.
If used correctly social media can build a businesses profile, reputation and credibility, however it also has the potential to depreciate. Three key areas for any business on social media to be aware of include:
LIABILITY IN DEFAMATION AND OPINIONS
A business may find itself facing legal liability for publishing a defamatory statement made by employees about competitors, clients or suppliers, as well as statements made by a third party on the company's social media page.
Everyone has their own opinion and the instantaneous and immediate communication of social media can instigate legal issues. There are times when people do not think carefully before they post or share, they may want to shock or vent. Commonly, the courts hold the usual laws against defamation, hate speech and offensive conduct, equally to an online world as they do in the offline world.
One of the best ways to avoid possibly being caught up in a defamation case is to develop a social media strategy for your business. Vividus can develop a social media policy which includes:
- Management - who will be responsible for the implementation and management of social media for your business?
- Access - who will have access to the company page? What level of Admin will they have? What are their roles and responsibilities?
- Branding - how will your messages be portrayed? What language is used?
- Monitoring - what you can do to monitor usage of social media?
- Privacy - how will you protect confidential company information?
- Consequences - what strategies can you put in place to deal with damages in different situations?
Employees should be educated on your businesses social media policy to ensure they understand how to interact safely and within your social media guidelines and strategy.
You know the saying 'a picture tells a thousand words', but when that picture is protected by copyright, any good lawyer will tell you the picture only tells three words, 'cease and desist'.
Businesses may unintentionally infringe intellectual property by posting photos or content the business does not own. Just like defamatory statements, businesses can also be liable if a third party posts breaching content on the businesses social media page. Due to the ease of copying and posting content from one site to another, such violations in copyright infringement are becoming increasingly abundant.
Businesses must be aware of copyright laws. Always check for a copyright statement before downloading, forwarding or re-posting material from any website.
If you want to avoid being caught up in an intellectual property case, Vividus can source licenced images to complement your social media posts, website or advertising.
Social media offers many opportunities for innovative advertising but businesses need to certify that any representations made about their products or services are accurate. This includes information relating to price, quality and performance.
Businesses also need to make sure advertising material is clearly identifiable and can be distinguished from any other content, such as terms and conditions and independent product reviews.
If you work in the Healthcare or Education industries you should already be aware of industry regulations and best practices for advertising in general. Ensure you keep up to date with these guidelines and their regulations regarding the use of, and advertising and promotion through social media.
For more information regarding social media guidelines for Education, visit the Department of Education website for your state. For more information regarding Healthcare marketing guidelines click here.
AVOID A SOCIAL MEDIA LIABILITY PITFALL
Don't go running away from social media just because you're concerned that it all seems too hard!
Here are five tactics to help protect your business from social media issues and to protect your reputation:
- Create detailed social media policy guidelines tailored specifically for your business addressing specific requirements and potential areas of risk.
- Educate all employees about protecting your business when using social media at work and home and establish clear expectations for conduct.
- Devise a content plan ahead of time. Have a system of proofing and approval in place by another staff member.
- Familiarise yourself with industry specific advertising regulations and guidelines.
- Ensure careful monitoring of your social media presence as well as competitor and third party pages for content that is negative or potentially damaging.