supreme court buildingYou publish Authoritative Content and promote it through your social media channels, but are you aware of the legal issues you could face on the social web? Ignorance is never an acceptable defense in a court of law, so you need to understand your rights, how to protect your rights, and how to avoid infringing on anyone else’s rights.

Following are several critical legal considerations you need to think about so you don’t violate any laws through your social media activities.

1. Be Transparent and Honest and Use Disclaimers

If you’re publishing an affiliate link or a post that was paid for by an advertiser, disclose it. If you don’t, you’re probably breaking a law. For example, U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 16 (Commercial Practices), Part 255 (Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising), Section 255.5 (Disclosure of Material Connections) requires that bloggers and online content publishers disclose any kind of material connection.

2. Avoid Being Accused of Defamation

People have been sued for defamation based on what they’ve published on Twitter and other social media sites. Always confirm the accuracy of any facts or information that you publish and/or share on your social media profiles.

3. Understand Who Owns What

If your employees tweet about your site and develop a large following related to your site, that could become a marketing channel for you. However, what happens when the employee stops working for you? Do they take the Twitter account with them? This is a dilemma that many companies have already faced, and it becomes increasingly important if the former employee’s Twitter username includes your site’s name in it. Therefore, it’s a good idea to protect your site or brand name by making it clear to everyone who works directly or indirectly for you that they are not permitted to use your brand name in their social media usernames, URLs, and so on.

4. Develop Social Media Policies and Train Your Staff

You need to create social media policies that are easy to understand and follow, and then train your staff on those policies. For example, many employees include a disclaimer in their social media bios that say something like, “all thoughts are my own and are not endorsed by my employer in any way.” Unfortunately for the employee, the law is on the employer’s side in this situation. If the employee publishes disparaging remarks about your site or content, you can fire them and you won’t necessarily be breaking any laws. Make sure they understand that you want them to feel free to talk about your site and content but they need to have some guidelines so they can exercise appropriate judgment.

5. Keep Private Information Private

Never discuss private information such as login details, usernames, account numbers, payments, and so on via the social web. If a member of your audience contacts you via social media with a problem that requires discussing private information, ask them to contact you offline via phone or email.

Image: Mark Fischer license CC BY-SA 2.0