What a Business Owner Needs to Know When Using Social Media

Over 77 percent of small businesses in the United States use social media to promote their products and services, according to Small Business Trends. And since more than 1 in 3 online users use social media when looking for information about a company, using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, and others makes business sense.

While social media has many good uses, there are some legal concerns when using social media. Below are some common legal concerns a business owner might encounter while using social media.

Copyright infringement

Copyright infringement is a form of theft, and business owners need to have a clear understanding of copyright laws and image and music usage to avoid litigation and embarrassment online. If there is an image a business owner wishes to utilize, they should ask for permission, or they should use licensed content provided by websites such as Adobe Stock or Flickr.

It’s not unusual for social media users to re-post photos, videos, logos, and other copyright materials on social media, however, stories – posts on platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and others – that disappear over time are not immune from copyright infringement.

Negative comments

By creating and maintaining an online social media presence, there is a chance anyone, from a disgruntled employee to an unsatisfied customer, could post a review of your business that could warrant a response from your attorney. It is important business owners and social media managers monitor comments and reviews. Respond to negative comments in a professional manner on a public forum. If the issue has been resolved, ask the person who posted the comment to remove the negative remark.

Business owners should also avoid posting negative comments about their competitors. Online attacks could be cause for litigation and should be avoided.

Misleading product or service information

Business owners should use social media as they would any other form of advertising and refrain from posting misleading or dishonest information about their product or service.

Confidential information and data leaks

Social media provides unprotected channels for data leaks and often serves as a tool for hackers to collect information that will assist them in breaching organizations.

Ownership of social media accounts

Many social media platforms are set up in such a way that a business’s social media accounts are linked to an employee’s accounts. What happens when the employee that controls the account leaves the organization? Michigan, like many other states, has laws that prohibit employers from requesting passwords and usernames from an employee’s accounts, leaving it harder for employers to exercise control over the accounts. The best practice is to proactively set ownership expectations from the beginning by drafting a social media policy that addresses this issue.

Social media policies

Businesses with social media platforms should develop social media policies. These policies should include guidance for creating and approving posts, how to interact with users, and more. Regularly updating policies to reflect changes in technology is important as well.

Help is available

The business attorneys at O’Reilly Rancilio are available to help business owners draft social media and all other policies. For information or to schedule an appointment, call 586-726-1000 or visit our website.

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