Social media is an incredibly effective tool for digital marketing. In fact, it is one of the key drivers in a business’ success, regardless if that business is done primarily online or not. However, social media can also be a risky place for businesses. Even if the Internet is basically a digital jungle where people are free to say or do almost whatever they want, your business can still end up with a lawsuit if you do or say the wrong things to the wrong people.
Needless to say, a lawsuit of any degree can be damaging to a business’ image, not to mention expensive. To protect your business from social media liability, here are the most important things that you should remember:
1. Don’t steal content
Whatever you do, do not use other people or businesses’ content without permission. This includes photos, videos, blog posts, text posts, tag lines, and basically anything else that can be categorized as intellectual property. If the owner pursues a case against you for copyright violation, things can get ugly quickly–and fast.
It also helps to read the copyright of any material you want to use or share online. If a creator does not have a copyright on a piece of media, get their permission before sharing nonetheless. Moreover, familiarize yourself with your country’s fair use laws, which make specific exceptions to copyright infringement.
2. Archive your social media activity
In the event that you do get sued, having an archive of your social media activity, particularly your online conversations, can provide strong records that will help you in court. Don’t trust the archives of the social media platforms themselves–they are often unreliable and are useless as evidence in court.
3. Don’t write false statements
This is a no-brainer, and yet there are still businesses who commit this mistake and end up paying for it dearly. Social media is primarily casual, yes, but this does not mean that you can make false statements–even as a joke–at other people or businesses’ expense. If you post things that can hurt another business’s reputation, you can get sued for libel.
Libel is the publication of a false defamatory statement against a person or business in print, even if the name of that person or business is not mentioned. It can be incredibly difficult (and expensive) to get out of a libel case, so always be careful with what you say on your business accounts.
4. Be careful with misappropriation
Misappropriation is using a person’s image and name to promote your business without their permission. For example, if you use a customer’s before and after image to promote your weight loss products without obtaining their permission first, you may be sued for misappropriation.
It’s not that difficult to try and get permission from other people to use their names or images. If you think they won’t agree to it, then that’s all the more reason to obtain their permission first before posting their photos or names on your social media pages for the sake of promotion.
5. Never post private information
Always be careful when posting information relating to a client, business, or individual. This includes information such as sexual history, financial problems, medical information, and professional background. If they wanted to keep the information confidential, you may be liable for invasion of privacy and end up having to pay big bucks to settle the case. Even then, the relationship between you and the other party may be irreparably damaged.
Make sure that your staff knows the extent of confidentiality of every project. Doing this will prevent the risk of leaking information, even unknowingly, to the public and getting sued for it.
These are the best ways to prevent your business from committing a disastrous mistake on social media, one that can lead to a nasty lawsuit and financial drains. As your business’s following grows, be more mindful of these tips to avoid getting into any legal trouble in the future.