Generally, entrepreneurs and small business owners are familiar and acclimated to social media. In fact, over the last few years, there has been a rapid adoption of social media usage amongst small business owners.
Now that social media is established as an effective business tool, and not just a fad among kids, legal implications of social media use are starting to emerge. Unfortunately, some attorneys advise their business clients to avoid social media use. But social media avoidance can hurt a brand just as much, and possibly more, than actual usage. In most instances, the benefits of social media far outweigh the risks.
So how can small businesses engage in social media in a way that benefits the company and avoids potential liability? By taking a common sense approach. Here are three tips to keep in mind as you grow your brand across social networks.
Many small business owners are accustomed to getting press; whether they appear in a magazine or a local TV news segment. In the same way that thought goes into communication to the press, thought should go into each Facebook status update or tweet posted by the business.
“Assume that the person you most want not to see it . . . will see it,” according to attorney Jay Shephard. Entrepreneurs can feel free to connect with the public by posting their personal hobbies, stories of satisfied customers or details about new products or services, but should leave the controversial and questionable topics aside.
2. Good Counsel
Many old school lawyers advise clients to be risk-averse when it comes to social media. They often have little familiarity with social media. While much of social media law remains to be developed, take precautions.
Create a company-wide social media policy and comply with FTC disclosure requirements. Need a legal advisor for social media consultation? Engage a lawyer that is not only familiar with social media law but also active within various social media networks.
Bad press should not be ignored. I recently heard an attorney recommend that business clients should buy all possible negative domain names to prevent critics from publishing negative content (e.g. purchase www.XYZCompanySucks.com).
That is unrealistic advice. Social media makes it incredibly easy for negative reviews to be shared and publicized. No amount of avoidance is going to ‘negativity proof’ any company.
The small business with a social media presence can tactfully address and counteract negative publicity head on. Social media savvy business owners also have an added edge when addressing such negativity given a positive reputation has already been established online.
These simple precautionary steps can make an entrepreneurs social media engagement rewarding. Most importantly, you can significantly limit risk.
Disclaimer: This post discusses general legal issues, but it does not constitute legal advice in any respect. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. YFS Magazine expressly disclaims all liability in respect of any actions taken or not taken based on any contents of this post.
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