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7 Social Media Legal Tips

Are You Social?

Is your business social? Of course it is! (And if you aren’t, you really should be online).

Can you get sued for something you did online?

Social media is a great resource to your business in terms of marketing and connecting with potential customers. Unfortunately, social media can be a double edged sword. Small businesses can accidentally find themselves with legal issues due to seemingly innocent social media posts. As is such, here are some social media legal tips.

If I were to outline every single potential legal issue that could arise from social media, it would be too long to read. As it is, I’ve outlined some basic guidelines to keep your business out of legal trouble when using social media.

  1. Own Your Content– This is an obvious one: do not pretend to own anything you do not own the copyright to! Copyright infringement suits almost always go in favor of the owner. Don’t risk it! Use original content. Be very careful when you rely on others to provide such content.
  2. Choose Photos Carefully– Be very careful with photographs. Do you own the license? If not, you should buy the license. Don’t take an employee’s or contractor’s word for it. Are you using personal photos? Make sure they are appropriate. (You would be surprised at how many national companies have ‘accidentally’ posted something scandalous by accident. Check and recheck.)
  3. Do Not Overshare– Social media seems to foster oversharing. And as tempting as it may be to brag about a big business deal on your company page, it can spell disaster. Be sure that whatever you are sharing does not violate any non-disclosure agreements, confidentiality requirements, trade secrets or professional confidentiality rules. Do not spill your secrets to your competition!
  4. Follow FTC Guidelines– Your small business does not want the Federal Trade Commission as an enemy. The FTC has a series ‘Truth in Advertising‘ laws that exist to help protect consumers from fraudulent advertising. Read it and make sure your business acts accordingly.
  5. How does social media fit with your profession?

  6. Know Your Professional Rules– many professionals have their own code of conduct. Lawyers, doctors, real estate agents, insurance agents and such all have rules about what they can and cannot disclose. Many are also advised to include disclaimers. When it comes to your social media, it pays to know if you have any additional professional rules to follow.
  7. Read the Site Policy– All social sites have a long user policy that most users simply click through and ignore. As a small business owner, you should read through the policy. Know how the site responds to copyright issues, content ownership and what they can access.
  8. Beware When Delegating Social Media– Do you handle all your media? Make sure your employee or contractor knows the rules and policies of your business and your profession. Don’t let that employee simply create accounts with passwords you have no knowledge of. Make sure you have a policy that permits you to take over all social media accounts at a moment’s notice. Keep all accounts in the name of your business!

Social Media General Tips

A final note; though these does not necessarily fall into the realm of ‘social media legal tips’, these bits of advice are useful nonetheless:

Don’t hesitate to get help!

  • Common Sense– Treat your business social media accounts as an extension of your business. Avoid politics and arguments. Do not use social media to attack competitors. Handle bad reviews with class.
  • Don’t Forget to Seek Advice When You Need It– A quick call to your business attorney can give you a five-minute answer that could potentially save you months or years worth of headache. Contact us for answers to your legal questions regarding social media.

Do you have other tips for social media? If so, we would love to hear about them in our comments section below.

Law 4 Small Business, P.C. (L4SB). A little law now can save a lot later.

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4 comments

  • Great article Paul! Note, 1 & 2 are the same as content includes both written and other media. #7 is a rehash of the first six applied to vendors, so basically you have 5 legal tips – all excellent.

    Recommendation to businesses small and large: put in place a social media content review process that includes (or allows) access to a legal professional.

    • Paul Schulman /

      Thanks for commenting! We agree with you, having a process in place for social media content creation and review is extremely important.

  • Good post Paul. Facebook’s policy is one that is especially intriguing and I would love to hear more interpretations on this policy.

    “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook,” but…

    “1.) For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
    4.) When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).”

    A nice read about Facebook in particular: https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2015/05/13/does-facebook-really-own-your-photos/

    • Paul Schulman /

      Facebook changes their policies often so I hesitate to post a concrete opinion on their privacy policy.

      That said, I recommend business’s on social media take that extra second before posting to make sure they don’t inadvertently post something that could be misconstrued. It does present an interesting conundrum between wanting to make sure your content is shared and generates engagement, but is not stolen or misused.

      Thanks for sharing the article!

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