Social Media Marketing: The Legal Implications


legal implications of social media

Popular social media websites are the new darlings of the marketing industry.  More and more businesses have social media campaigns in place and still more are beginning to steer valuable company resources in that direction.  Yet, it is essential to understand the legal implications surrounding your business’s activities on these sites and how to avoid any legal breaches when using social media websites to market its products or services.  Here are several tips to help you eliminate legal risks while promoting your company using social media tools.

Social Media Websites

With more than 500 million people actively using Facebook around the world, many businesses want to get in on the roughly 700 billion minutes of monthly usage happening there in order to put their company front and center by increasing their profile popularity and generating public relations material (freely) for customers and potential customers around the world.  Twitter has more than 160 million users and millions more people visit and read blogs regularly.  Tapping into these websites and their marketing potential is becoming an increasingly important way to market, but it should be done with a few rules of legality in mind.

Be Careful What You Say

When you say something on sites like Twitter or Facebook, it’s tantamount to putting something in writing with hundreds (if not more) witnesses to oversee every syllable.  Consequently, it is essential that all staff understand that posting any information that could be construed as harmful to another’s reputation could be unlawful.  In other words, keep your campaign clean; do not criticize your competitors on these sites or you may be subject to an embarrassing and expensive law suit.

Tips to Keep Your Social Media Marketing Campaign Clean

In order to avoid defamation lawsuits, instruct your marketers campaigning on sites like Facebook to utilize disclaimers and terms of use for people working for or interacting with your business profile.  Be sure to instruct your marketing team to enforce a content-removal policy as well as to avoid commenting on third-party posts.  In addition, remember to keep trade secrets confidential and monitor your company’s activities regularly for breaches of security or misuse.

Classic Advertising Rules Remembered

Social media websites may be a new tool for marketing, but traditional advertising industry rules and ethics still apply.  Avoid misleading advertising information.  Not only can false advertising land you in legal hot water, it can easily deplete your customer or fan base.  If the followers on these sites don’t like what you have to say, you are merely one or two clicks away from getting deleted from their news feed.  To ensure that your employees disclose their relationship to your company when discussing products or services, be certain to adopt policies that instruct your staff to do so as well as to follow other important marketing rules.

Protect the Data

Security breaches can be a serious issue for online marketers.  It’s essential that your company adopts reasonable measures to protect personal information and data.  Your marketing team should familiarize itself with state privacy laws and stay tuned as those laws continue to evolve.  There are also national standards for communicating security breaches that your business should understand.  The marketing industry as a whole has also adopted some self-regulatory recommendations that may be useful for your marketing team to employ for all online marketing activities.

Employees and Social Media Websites

These days, it doesn’t make good business sense to ignore or even to tell your employees to ignore social media websites.  Instead, become informed about the best employee usage policies that govern employee use of social media websites.  Adopt a plan for addressing security breaches as well as malware attacks, harassment issues, and damage to proprietary rights.  Take the time to familiarize yourself with these sites and how your employees are likely to use them both personally and professionally.  Becoming a savvy social media guru can help keep your company out of trouble, but may even cause it to grow dramatically.

Before launching your social media campaign, be sure you and your marketing department understand all the legal issues surrounding this dynamic marketing avenue.  Social media websites offer a world of business growth potential; don’t jeopardize this essential marketing tool by legal missteps or ignorance of best practices regarding online marketing.

Author Bio:

Guest post contributed by Charles Ronson. Charles is a freelance business writer. He has extensive experience in consulting with small to medium sized businesses.

Picture credit: social wordle—Sean MacEntee (

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