If you are a retailer that utilizes the internet on a regular basis to market your products and/or to sell your services, then you are no doubt familiar with social media. Social media marketing has become one of the primary mediums for companies interested in growing their online presence, and for good reason.
Many social networking sites have hundreds of millions of users! In fact, almost every single person who has access to a computer and the internet probably uses some form of social media, at some point or another.
But when it comes to social media, businesses have to be careful about how they operate. There are still rules online, just as there are in other advertising mediums…and unless you want to find yourself in the middle of a lawsuit or some other sort of legal action, it is a good idea to adhere to the laws.
That having been said, here are 5 things that you should NOT do if you want to stay legal while utilizing social media. Some of these examples might seem like no-brainers, but it is never a bad thing to be reminded of something that you could possibly overlook by accident.
1… Don’t Use Another Company’s Trademarked Name
This is a pretty big one. In other words, don’t post a Facebook message that looks anything like the following…
“Don’t shop at [insert trademarked business name here]. Instead, buy your quality goods at our store!”
Using trademarked names in your ads can result in legal action against your business. You should also never imply that you are sponsored by, or have any affiliation with, another business on social media unless you actually are/do.
2… Don’t Post Fake Reviews About Yourself
This is one of those rules that is, for some reason, broken by unscrupulous marketers on a regular basis. But don’t be deceived! As difficult as it can be to enforce such a rule, the FTC does indeed take action against such crimes.
Such an act is considered to be a violation of the rights of the consumer, who has a right to know whether they are reading a genuine customer review or a review posted with someone who either has a vested interest in the product or who has been hired to do so. If you have any relationship to the company, you must disclose the nature of this relationship in the post or review in order for it to be legal.
3… Don’t Use Copyright Protected Content On Your Social Media Site
While the Digital Millennium Copyright Act does offer you some protection in this instance (if certain conditions are met), it is still imperative to make sure that any content that you post is not protected by copyright and used without permission. Freeware content is fine, as is content that you have expressed permission to use… but simply Google-searching an image and pasting it to your business wall is not always the most ‘legal’ thing to do.
4… Don’t Slander Other Businesses
This really goes without saying… slander is wrong, and you can get in trouble for it. While you might not necessarily need a criminal law attorney for getting caught up in such an activity, it can DEFINITELY land you right in the middle of an expensive civil lawsuit.
5… Don’t Say Things That Could Harm Or Mislead Others
This is more of a catch-all when it comes to rules, but anything that does any of the following is almost always a bad idea, and could potentially lead you into legal waters that you would rather not find yourself in…
- Pretending to be someone that you are not
- Making negative claims against other people or businesses
- Advertising information that is incorrect
- Making statements that could mislead others or misrepresent your company
Utilizing social media the legal way can open up a lot of opportunities for your business. Just remember to follow the rules, and not to stoop to using underhanded, dishonest marketing techniques while doing business online.
If you have any legal questions about social media, some quick research is ALWAYS better than trial and error, as learning the hard way when it comes to legal matters is almost always going to turn out to be a long, drawn out, expensive, and painful lesson.
Guest Author: Sophie Evans is a freelance writer who makes her home in the sunny state of California in a town called Balboa Beach. She is a self-confessed Starbucks junkie, and can usually be found at Disneyland when she is not busy working. Sophie regularly utilizes resources such as www.bgs.com, particularly when she writes articles pertaining to the legal issues.