Social media is a quick way to communicate with customers, clients, and the public, which makes it a very appealing tool for businesses. Equally important to your social media campaign strategy, however, is having a set of rules and regulations for how your company uses social media platforms. Without rules in place, you risk intellectual property breaches and employees may not know how to handle attacks or open the company up for libel charges.
One of the most crucial legal implications of social media for business is the issue of intellectual property. Two things can happen: an employee might disclose company secrets over social media, exposing your own intellectual property, or an employee may violate another entity’s intellectual property by posting content that infringes on a copyright or registered trademark. If you expose your own proprietary information, even if you remove the post the content might still leak on a broad scale if a lot of people saw it before removal. Likewise, removing a social media post that violates another entity might not clear you of legal trouble.
Anytime your company compares itself to another business on social media, you must be careful not to commit libel. Libel is the act of writing false information about another person or organization with the knowledge that it’s untrue. Social media posts are considered published content, and if you knowingly publish something that is untrue, you could be subject to the same trouble as if you published the material in a printed ad or newspaper article. Avoid publishing negative material about competitors to steer clear of defamation issues.
While the laws regarding transparency and social media are yet a bit cloudy, it’s important to represent your company honestly over social media. Not only will it hurt your reputation to put out information that turns out to be false, but you may be subject to false advertising suits if you make claims you can’t back up. Similarly, discounts or promotions on social media might be considered false advertising if they’re not honored.
When someone clicks on spam links on Twitter or Facebook, the computer from which he is working becomes opened up to malware attacks. Malware can give a third party access to the information on a computer, and it might also cause your social media account to send out spam messages to all of your connections—this puts your social media friends at risk also. Malware puts private company information at risk of being discovered and leaked, and can hurt your reputation if a follower believes that you were behind the spam. Care should always be taken before opening suspicious links, and spam comments need to be deleted promptly.
photo credit- silvertje on flickr
Guest post contributed by Charles Ronson. Charles is a freelance legal writer. He has extensive experience in consulting with small to medium sized businesses. His articles appear on various small business blogs. Visit Wonga Business for small business solutions.