This month’s Houston Social Media Breakfast discussion covered a topic near and dear to our hearts (or at least our inboxes) – the legal issues at play when using social media, and how to set yourself (and your company) up for success.
Some key takeaways:
- When starting any new business venture, including activity on social media, it is crucial to do a basic search online to make sure the name you’re using hasn’t already been trademarked.
- It’s also a good idea to run a search on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website uspto.gov, just to be sure.
Write a social media policy
- Sitting down with people in your company to define the goals of the social media page not only will help you gain support, but also it will protect you if an issue arises.
- MMI tip: Don’t know where to start on writing your social media policies? The good news is your aren’t the first to tackle this task. This website has done a fantastic job of compiling corporate and brand policies across the interwebs, for easy reference.
Understand Facebook contests
- You are not allowed to run contests or sweepstakes directly on your Facebook page. For example, a post that says, “Someone who likes this post will win a $100 gift card!” is against Facebook guidelines.
- Instead, you’ll need to hire a third party to create an app for your contest or sweepstakes. This places the liability on the third party if something goes wrong with the contest and therefore protects your company and Facebook.
- MMI tip: Always loop in your lawyers early when beginning a social media sweepstakes. Contest rules are mandatory and need expert eyes for review before going live.
- It is imperative for brand ambassadors (particularly bloggers) to have a disclaimer whenever they review products that they were gifted or they are being paid to write about.
- Small actions like a tweet, re-tweet or post about a brand or product don’t necessarily need a full disclaimer. But if there is a trend over time, it is wise to periodically have the brand ambassador bring their relationship with the brand to the attention of his or her readers.
Social networking sites are changing faster every year, and every organization is different, so those responsible for implementing social media programs will need to continue to build strong, collaborative relationships with internal legal and compliance teams to make sure every element they are putting into place falls in line with organizational standards.
The task can seem daunting, but after working with organizations with compliance-driven environments, including health organizations that must address HIPAA concerns, we can attest that it can be navigated successfully, no matter how complex the environment.