Social media can be invaluable for start-up and small businesses, providing a free platform to raise your profile, build a community and speak directly with your audiences and influencers. There are now a multitude of social channels available, from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, to YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest - all providing a slightly different medium through which to connect with your target audience.
The beauty of social media is its authenticity, allowing individuals and brands to express their personality, values and what they stand for - in real time. It's also a fantastic way to engage with your audience through hashtags, Q&As and competitions, as well as encourage user-generated content such as customer reviews, images and videos, which all help you win new customers.
But operating in a real time, fast moving and often unedited environment isn't without its pitfalls. We've all read about high profile social media #fails in the news, where brands have crossed the line in terms of taste, or worse the law. Such mistakes can be expensive, both in terms of any resulting legal costs or fines and the reputational fall-out. With liable actions linked to social media on the rise, you need to be careful.
So what should you watch out for?
If you or one of your employees posts a damaging comment about an individual or another business, they can sue you for defamation. So no slating your competitors on social media, or you could find yourself with a large bill to pick up! Defamation even applies if you repost or retweet a damaging comment from somebody else, as this can be seen as endorsement, particularly if it reaches a wider audience as a result of your actions.
Similar to defamation, your business can be held liable if confidential information relating to a client, customer or member of the public is released over social media, or if something you post impacts on their privacy. There was a famous case last year involving the National Police Air Service (NPAS), which tweeted a picture of the comedian Michael McIntyre captured on one of its spy-cams. Outrage followed and the NPAS was lucky to get away without any legal issues. But it shows how a seemingly innocent tweet can sometimes be anything but.
We're so used to 'sharing' these days that it can be easy to forget that using somebody else's content, be that an image, video or article, to promote your brand, might be in breach of copyright. So if you didn't create it and you haven't got approval to use it, then you might need to ask for permission, or find another option.
Just as with your website and other systems, your social channels can also be vulnerable to cyber-attacks, which aim to access your confidential data, introduce malware onto your system, or use your account to target others. Social media platforms are often seen as a weak link – invariably not as well protected as other systems - that can be used to target more mission critical areas of the business. Cyber criminals are also known to scrape data and personal details off social media sites which can be used for more sophisticated attacks and fraudulent activity.
There's a number of ways that you can reduce the chances of a social mishap:
Our professional indemnity insurance and cyber security policies cover your website, blog and use for social media for defamation, copyright and trademark infringement. So if a tweet goes viral for all the wrong reasons, you'll be covered for any legal costs and damages you have to pay – click here for a quote.
Food for thought
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