The Twittering of President Obama’s off-the-record comments regarding Kanye West’s performance at the VMAs may hit home to many of us the unforeseen ramifications of the Big Brother, 360-degree ramifications of the social media world we live in.
It’s time we adress some of the legal risks of social media.
Employees’ Tweets and posts about your company, your product(s), your clients, and your employees. That’s right – even if you’re unaware of what they’re saying, or even of whether they’re saying anything at all, your company may be held liable. Let’s say you send samples of your product to your ad agency, or friends, and ask them to send messages out to all their contacts about how great it is. Well, their e-mails and social-networking messages may be subject to the federal law regarding sending unsolicited commercial e-mail.
Free swag to bloggers and the like. Yes, it’s an awesome idea (and time-honored) to send free swag to people with the wherewithal to then proclaim about the goodness of said product to their readership. However, bloggers and other social media users need to follow the rules as well – the FTC requires that they disclose the free swag.
Not telling the truth. Just as making up testimonials is not only morally wrong but also illegal, so is making up positive reviews, posts, blogs, and the like and attributing them to fake customers. In fact, per the FTC, it’s illegal for an employee to endorse its own company’s product on a message board without disclosing that he/she works for the company.
Now, you don’t want to go off the deep end and ban your employees from using ALL social media to talk about your company, employees, or clients ALL the time. Rather, you need to take some control. A solution? A social media policy. Not only does it begin to address this gray area, but it also could give you some legal legs to stand on.