It’s 2016 and the world of social media, as well as its integration with business are no longer emerging concepts. They’re firmly cemented in the business world, and the use of social media as both an internal and external tool is an essential part of most organizations.
At the same time, just because the use of social media is pervasive for businesses, it doesn’t mean there aren’t legal issues to be aware of, and if necessary to address.
Below are some of the most important legal issues businesses should keep in mind when they’re implementing any kind of social media campaign, or using it for marketing and other business-related tasks.
The problem with confidential information, including intellectual property as well as customer information, isn’t that employees intentionally share it on social media, but rather, it’s that they don’t know what constitutes confidential information. It’s important for business leaders to realize it’s up to them to train employees on what should and shouldn’t be shared on social media, which is why social media training for key employees can be valuable. As well as your businesses’ own confidential information, even something that seems as innocuous as sharing a photo of your customer can become a problem. You should ensure that you’re not infringing on anyone’s privacy through your use of social media. This can become particularly important for medically-based businesses, which are guided by the regulations of HIPAA.
As a business owner or leader, you may be aware of the restrictions on deception in traditional forms of advertising, but what about on social media? Many of the implications are the same, so if you’re sharing information with followers on social media and you’re leaving information out, or making claims that could be false, it can be a legal problem. You may even notice that companies who use celebrities to advertise their products on Instagram are now required to make sure they indicate their posts are paid advertisements
Hiring and Firing
Along with issues related to advertising and marketing via social media channels, businesses should also be aware of the ramifications of using social media sites asa way to make hiring or firing decisions. This can be a gray area regarding the law, and while we increasingly see stories of employers using sites to check up on applicants and current employees, this may not always be acceptable in the eyes of the law. Make sure you’re fully legally compliant before using social media as part of your hiring or firing decisions. Also, if you use a site like LinkedIn to make positive or negative recommendations or endorsements of employees, it can become a problem in the future. For example, a positive recommendation could make it easier for an employee to make a claim for wrongful termination. At the same time, a negative comment left on a public forum could be seen as defamation, or even discrimination or retaliation.
Social media can be an invaluable tool, but also one that should be used wisely, which is why it’s important to train employees not just on the general use of social media, but also the possible legal implications that can arise.