5 Ways to Stay Legal While Using Social Media
Social media marketing (SMM) has become a huge part of business. Most of us utilize at least one of the many popular social media websites on a daily basis, and some of us end up utilizing several or even all of them! Youtube, Pinterest, Google+, Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook are only a few that have become somewhat permanently ‘etched’ into our daily routines.
But what are the laws governing social media marketing? Let’s not kid ourselves… we all know that a LOT of marketing takes place on social media sites, but are there really any rules governing these methods? Does the internet truly boast an ‘anything goes’ policy, or are there laws and rules that we need to abide by?
As surprising as it might be, there actually are laws regarding social media marketing.
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) actually has a set of guidelines outlining what is and isn’t acceptable. Enforcing these rules is not always easy… but for those of us who want to do business the honest way, a good look at these rules can help us to keep our conscience clear, and can also help us to avoid any sort of unpleasant ‘legal’ entanglements.
Outline Any Unacceptable Use of Social Media Among Employees in Your Business Policy
This tip is actually helpful for any business…not just those in the social media marketing sector. If you have employees, then make sure to outline exactly what (if anything) your company does not allow its employees to publish on social media sites. This can help you to avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit if you have to fire an employee due to something that they posted on Facebook. It might sound outlandish, but this has actually happened before!
If You Are Being Paid To Talk About A Product Online, Then You Must Disclose That Fact
In other words… logging onto Amazon.com and posting a positive review in exchange for money is illegal, unless you include a disclosure in the post that tells consumers that the post is a ‘paid’ or ‘sponsored’ advertisement. A lot of companies do this, and it is actually a good thing that the FTC has finally cracked down. It is getting hard to figure out which reviews are real and which ones are paid, even on high-end review sites!
If You Promote A Product On Facebook, Twitter, Or Any Other Social Media Site For Profit, Then You Must Disclose That Fact
Again… if you are getting paid to talk about a product or a company, then you must disclose the fact that you are getting paid to do so… even if you are on your own personal Facebook account. The whole point of this rule is to eliminate paid reviews that could mislead consumers by not providing them with all of the relevant information that they have a right to know, and the fact that a review is ‘paid’, whether it is true or not, is information that every consumer has a right to.
It Is Fine To Advertise Your Business On Social Media Sites
Advertising your products, services, specials, or anything else on most social media sites is fine, as long as the activity is obviously part of a marketing campaign and is not attempting to mislead consumers. For example, posting about your products from your Facebook business page is fine, because the very fact that it is a business makes it obvious that you are attempting to make a profit. You are not posing as a typical consumer… you are playing your real role – the role of a business person.
It Is Wrong To Publish Copyrighted Pictures, Images, Videos, or Other Similar Content On Your Site Without Permission
Are you going to need to get in touch with some criminal attorneys if you post a picture from Google Images on your blog without tracking down who came up with it first? Probably not, especially considering the fact that the ‘Digital Millennium Copyright Act’ law is designed to protect you, under the right conditions, from legal liability in the event that you do unknowingly publish copyrighted content.
Basically, as long as you have a procedure in place that makes it possible for the owners of such content to contact you, you won’t really get into trouble unless they ask you to remove it and you don’t. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule… but if you do your best to be honest and to use common sense when posting content, you should definitely not have a problem.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Josh Sigafus is an aspiring novelist, songwriter, and freelance writer who lives in a small town in the Midwestern United States. He has a wife and two children, and enjoys reading, spending time with his family, and playing music when he is not working. Josh regularly utilizes the internet and sites such as www.bgs.com when researching for articles, including his recent series on ways to ‘stay legal’ while networking and marketing.