Social media is a phenomenon and in this day and age, it is rare that an individual, organization or business does not utilize it. The use of websites like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin can be of great benefit to your business and can assist in advertising, marketing and branding. But, it is important to remember that their use is not without legal pitfalls.
While there are many issues to address when your business is considering entering the social media realm, some are more poignant than others. Because the purpose of social media is to share information and to do so rapidly, privacy is a major concern. You want to ensure that the privacy of your business and of your customers is protected. While exposing private business information can have a dramatic effect on your venture in a variety of ways, you should also note that sharing customer information without permission can expose you to legal liability. Privacy laws are enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and you would be best served by becoming familiar with them. The regulations vary depending upon the industry and situation and you should therefore consult with a business law attorney to determine which are applicable to your business.
Intellectual property can be the subject of legal concerns when using social media in a business context. If work is trademarked or copyrighted, you likely do not have the right to use it. Even things that seem like they are open for public use can create liability. Therefore, you should think about the implications of the content you are attempting to share before you do so and when in doubt, consult with your lawyer.
In addition, employment-related matters can cause legal liability. Some employers use social media to make decisions before a prospective worker is hired and even while the worker is employed. While this is acceptable in some situations, employers should be sure not to make decisions on a discriminatory basis. Also, in most states, employers cannot make the decision to reprimand or fire a worker for their after-hours conduct, especially if they are breaking no laws. Therefore, employers should be careful when reviewing their workers’ pages for this purpose.
Please note that this is not an all encompassing list and there are many other legal concerns that can and will arise with the use of social networking in a business context. If your business has made the decision to use social media, you should put a social media policy in place. This policy should outline what you are seeking to achieve by using social media, guidelines for its use in this context, the responsibilities of all those involved in the use and how those involved can be sure to comply with the applicable rules and regulations.
If you have questions about the use of social media in your business or need assistance putting a social media policy in place, contact an experienced business law attorney today.