Big businesses are involved in social media, whether they want to or not. That means their in-house counsel needs to understand the ins and outs of these interactive websites to continue protecting the company from legal harm.
It doesn't matter whether a business actually takes time to create an account on a popular social media website. Consumers, fans, and detractors can still bring the company into the online conversation and those actions aren't always legal.
As NBC's Twitter debacle during the Olympics showed, the way companies handle social media can have a huge impact on public perception.
So how can you manage legal concerns on social media in the best interest of your client?
There are many social media sites out there, but below we've covered some of the big ones that are more likely to cause concern for businesses.
- Facebook: Millions of people use Facebook every day to communicate. They write messages, 'like' pages, and post pictures. If your company has a Facebook page, monitor it for any problems and report any Terms of Service violations to Facebook. You can also search the site for any groups that are using your company's name and evaluate their appropriateness.
- Twitter: This company is known for its generally pro-free speech attitude but if a user violates the Terms of Service, their account may be suspended. Keep an eye on Twitter traffic that references your client in a hash tag (#) and make a determination whether to report questionable tweets.
- YouTube: If your client runs any television ads it's possible they might end up on YouTube without permission. If the response is positive it could provide additional advertising at no cost. But if you want to protect your client's intellectual property, you may have to report it. Consider the options and make the best choice for your client's business overall.
All of these sites allow for takedown of unlawful material but think carefully before going that route. While it may be in your client's legal interests, there may be alternative routes to balance good publicity with legal rights.
If you're looking for inspiration, Jack Daniel's legal counsel knows how to deal with conflicts on the Internet and still come out on top.
This guide to social media can be adapted to other websites similar to how it works for the ones named above. Always keep in mind your duty to your client while patrolling the Internet.