10 Legal Tips for Small Businesses on Twitter - Free Enterprise
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10 Legal Tips for Small Businesses on Twitter

Twitter's IPO is the talk of Wall Street today, but many small businesses are still on the fence about Twitter's effectiveness.

According to The Wall Street Journal, even Twitter executives have noted that creating an effective Twitter strategy can "require more time and effort than many small-business owners feel they can afford." But despite the extra work, some 4.5 million small businesses have signed up for the social media service.

If you're one of them, here are 10 tips to help you get the most out of Twitter -- and to help you avoid some potentially costly legal consquences:

  1. Post, post, and post. Tweets are not a finite resource, and in order for business owners to keep an online presence, there must be a consistent stream of posts. Constant updates assure your audience that you're both real and open for business.
  2. Disclose paid tweets. If you want to tweet a paid endorsement, make sure to include the FTC disclosure. It may look ham-handed, but it's the law.
  3. Consider promoted tweets. The WSJ reports that small business owners have been successful in increasing traffic to their websites by paying "a couple hundred dollars a month" for promoted tweets. Just make sure your online marketing plan has a way to convert new customers.
  4. Throw a "Twitter Party." Contests and parties using Twitter are a great way to draw in and engage your online audience, assuming you keep it all legal.
  5. Learn to summarize. "The Alchemist" novelist Paulo Coelho, who has nearly 9 million Twitter followers, told The Guardian that condensing your thoughts into tweets is an art, like poetry. So be concise but not trite.
  6. Verify facts before tweeting. Don't let loose Twitter lips sink your business and set you up for a defamation suit.
  7. Consider social media insurance. Some insurance companies are offering this interesting and novel legal way to safeguard your online reputation and other intangible assets like consumer good will.
  8. Use two-step authentication. Twitter offers extra security to prevent your business' account from being hacked. Use it!
  9. Hire a social media team. Even one dedicated social media employee can address customer complaints and help your business stay ahead of potential lawsuits.
  10. Keep it professional. Even as a sole proprietor, you don't want your personal views interfering with your livelihood, and Twitter disclaimers aren't going to stop customers from getting upset ... or suing.

Only you can decide how much or little your business engages with Twitter, but these tips can help guide you toward a winning social media strategy.

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