The formation of social media and networked societies has presented a number of challenges for businesses and employers on the topics of liability and ethical conduct. With the line between the consumer and a business becoming increasingly blurred, it’s vital to know how to handle yourself and your business lawfully on the internet and on social media platforms.

It is difficult to imagine a successful, modern business without a social media presence, often including an Instagram and Facebook page. There are over 60 million active business pages on Facebook and over 25 million business profiles on Instagram, with this number growing rapidly. It’s a marketer’s dream, but it can become a nightmare of legal liability without proper planning and policing.

The laws governing defamation and false advertising apply to electronic communications just as they do in the print world. The risk may be even greater due to the interactive nature of social media. An individual or business may find itself in legal hot water not just for its own mistakes, but because of the post or tweet or retweet or reblog of a third party.

Imagine the predicament of a bottler of delicious tap water who fails to notice a consumer’s claim that sparkling stuff cures cancer. Consider the havoc that could be wrecked by an overly zealous employee who falsely accuses a competitor of fraud, or a disgruntled former employee with proofs of underhanded business dealings.

6 Tips to keep your business social media out of court 

  1. Ensure that your business has a social media policy that sets fourth clear expectations about professional standards in electronic communications. Limit the official access to your businesses social pages to a trusted small group of employees. It is also important to consider if employees are going to use their own social media network for product reviews and other business purposes, and how to monitor that.
  2. On your Facebook page, reserve a spot for a “Terms of Use” statement, such as no spam, respectful tone with a reserved right to take down comments deemed in violation of these standards.
  3. Actively moderate your site. It is difficult to overestimate the amount of time active moderation will take, and an un-monitored page will turn into garbage very quickly.
  4. Take down untrue statements of fact, comments and pictures that are damaging, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable. Do not risk directing further attention to them by responding. Make them disappear.
  5. Apologise sincerely for posts, comments or content that give offence. Where there are complaints attempt to deal with them discreetly. Explain to anyone offended what steps you or your business are taking to avoid a repeat offence.
  6. Remember that written comments may easily be misunderstood or misconstrued, even when no harm is intended, so always ask for another set of eyes on whatever you put up.

Social media marketing is clearly the wave of the future. But mastering the rules of lawful use may take some careful thought and practice.

If you ever find yourself in a business or employment dispute, please do not hesitate to contact Owen Hodge Lawyers on 1800 770 780 to speak with one of our business law specialists.

Owen Hodge Lawyers contact