Legal Tips for Using Social Media for Your Business

Opening a social media accounts for one’s business has become common. From cafes to large corporations, businesses are using Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts to promote their business and interact with their customers. Perhaps you are thinking of opening social media accounts or are currently operating them for your business. If you are, you should understand the legal risks of doing so to avoid landing in trouble. So here are our legal tips for using social media for your business.

1. Be Careful With What You Say on Social Media

Any posts and comments published by your business’s social media account are likely to be taken as the actions of the company. Therefore, you need to be careful that what you write doesn’t get your company in trouble, or can’t be used against the business in the future.

Some actions to avoid include:

  • Defamatory comments – you should not publish anything that can damage a person’s reputation, such as by ridiculing, harassing or embarrassing them. Even if some people leave unpleasant comments on your business’s social media page, resist the temptation to be nasty back to avoid defamation claims.
  • Misleading and deceptive conduct – if you comment or post anything about your business’s products, make sure that it’s correct and not exaggerated.  People on social media can also ask questions or criticise your products publicly. If they do, you should address these concerns accurately so that you don’t mislead your customers.
  • Giving away too much information – there’s a saying now that “once it’s on the internet, it’s there forever”. This is something you should definitely be wary of when using social media for your business. What’s available on your social media pages, such as comments and photos, could be used against you, including in any future lawsuits. For example, any comments you make can be used as evidence of admissions. You could also unknowingly leak trade secrets in a photo. Ensure that you’re not giving away more than what’s needed on your business’s social media page.

2. Watch Your Comments Section

We’ve discussed how you should be careful with what you write on your business’s social media page. Do you need to be careful about what someone else writes on your page?

In short, yes. It may seem unreasonable to blame companies for the actions of a completely unrelated third-party on their social media page. However, this is exactly what the High Court did in the case of Voller v Nationwide News Pty Ltd (2019). This case involved Dylan Voller, who received a lot of media attention after a video of him being mistreated by officers while in youth detention became widespread. Voller sued The Sydney Morning Herald and other media companies for comments made by members of the public on their Facebook pages about him. He argued that these comments were defamatory. In the end, the High Court found that these media companies acted as “publishers” of these comments and therefore were liable for them. The Court found that the companies could have vetted comments and prevented defamatory ones from being published. 

While this decision may be problematic, it still stands. This means that you should watch out for any comments on your business’s social media pages that could be defamatory. If anyone is harassing, ridiculing or otherwise damaging the reputation of another person in your comments section, those comments should be removed.

3. Advertise With Consent

Despite the potential for negative comments, social media pages can also be an incredibly effective way to promote your products. If people leave comments about how great your product was, their positive experience with your services and other glowing reviews, this will promote your business. The ability to “tag” one’s photo or post with locations or names can also bring in positive attention to your business.

You should be careful however to always ask for permission if you want to use anyone’s comments or photos in any advertisements for your business. If you don’t, you could risk infringing copyright, engaging in passing-off or engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct. This is particularly if you suggest that a famous person endorses your products by using a photo showing them visiting your business or using your products. While social media provides a goldmine of advertising material, make sure you get consent to avoid trouble.

4. Know the Platform Rules

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and other social media platforms all have distinct social media policies. When you create an account on any of these platforms, make sure you know and abide by these rules. If you don’t, your social media account may be removed by the platform. 

For example, Facebook doesn’t allow accounts to promote their products by asking people to tag themselves in a picture with the product for a chance to win a prize. Twitter also places restrictions on the advertisement of certain products, such as alcohol, financial products and services and healthcare products.

Conclusion

In an age where most people are on social media, having social media accounts for your business can definitely be beneficial. You’re able to reach wider audiences, interact more directly with customers and creatively advertise your products or services. However, you should be careful to understand what the legal risks are to avoid legal issues popping up. So keep these tips in mind if you are running social media accounts for your business.

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