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5 Ways Businesses Can Avoid Legal Trouble on Social Media

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on December 10, 2014 11:21 AM

For most business owners, social media has now become a necessity for interacting with customers. But social media can also quickly become a source of trouble.

Some social media mishaps, like the Florida Chili's restaurant worker who posted pictures of himself posing shirtless in the restaurant's kitchen, can be more embarrassing than serious. But social media is also increasingly subject to regulatory scrutiny: As you may recall, retailer Nordstrom received a warning from the FTC after a company-sponsored "TweetUp" party ran afoul of FTC disclosure rules.

What can you do to avoid legal trouble on social media? Here are five suggestions:

  1. Make sure social media promotions and contests follow disclosure guidelines. According to FTC rules, anyone who is paid to endorse a product must disclose the payment from the advertiser. This includes social media contests and promotions in which consumers post about a brand or company in exchange for entry into a contest or in exchange for merchandise.
  2. Limit employee access to your business' social media accounts. Making sure that only trained, qualified employees are able to post on company social media accounts can help prevent the unauthorized (or in some cases accidental) posting of offensive or inappropriate material.
  3. Get permission for use of pictures and music. Although social media seems like a content free-for-all at times, using a person's image without permission or copyrighted music without a license is inviting a potential lawsuit.
  4. Don't make your social media policy for employees too restrictive. The National Labor Relations Board warned companies last year that overly broad social media policies for employees, such as those prohibiting employees from posting "non-public" or "confidential" information, may be in violation of labor laws permitting employees to discuss working conditions.
  5. Hire a lawyer. If you need legal advice following a social media incident that may result in a lawsuit or need help crafting your business' social media policies, a business and commercial lawyer can explain your legal options.

Find more legal tips for marketing your small business at FindLaw's section on Marketing and Advertising Laws.

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