As an entrepreneur, you may run your brand’s social media on your own, have a social media manager, or rely on a team of people to contribute to your company’s online presence. No matter your setup, protecting your business on social media is crucial. Your name, trustworthiness, and intellectual property can be at risk without proper protection in place.
At Angie Avard Turner Law, LLC, we help you protect what you create. From contracts to copyrights, we help you ensure that your business and IP are on a solid legal footing. Reserve your time to talk to see how our legal representation can support you. And for ongoing help, consider one or more of our Law Lab subscriptions.
What Are the Risks to Your Brand from Social Media?
Social media has been a game-changer for hundreds of thousands of companies worldwide. It allows businesses to personalize their work and connect with customers in a way and on a scale they never could before.
However, all of these platforms also open up more potential for trouble for business owners. Some of the problems that can come up with social media use include:
Infringement and Loss of IP
Data and Security Breaches
Compliance and Legal Repercussions
Employee and Owner Safety
Phishing Scams - These may target the business AND their customers.
Protecting your business on social media requires significant vigilance and proactive measures. Here are key ways to help guard your company against harm online.
1. Implement Policies as Part of Your Social Media Strategy
There are so many different social media platforms, and they developed and evolved so quickly that many businesses never took the time to think about policies for these online interactions. Entrepreneurs have been too busy keeping up to think about creating company rules and guidelines for social media.
Having a clear, written social media policy in place is a critical step to protecting your brand online. This policy should be part of your employee contracts and onboarding processes. The rules need to outline clear guidelines about their conduct on social media when interacting with or representing your brand.
Here are some pieces to include in your company’s social media policy.
Who Can Represent Your Company?
If you have a social media team or manager, then it’s likely they are the only people aside from you who will have access to your company’s social accounts.
Make sure your policy is clear that other employees should not engage in customer complaints or questions directed towards the company, especially from their personal accounts. Well-meaning employees can open a giant can of worms when they engage on your behalf. This should be a hard “no.”
Ensure you have a system to safeguard your social media logins and passwords so that only select employees can access your accounts. Your policies should include how often you change and update these credentials.
How Should Your Representatives Engage?
Once you’ve clarified who can and cannot engage on your social accounts, you need to explain how they should do so. For example, you should ask employees to interact only from your brand account, not their personal accounts. This policy is crucial in protecting the business and the employee.
Your social media policy should include brand guidelines that outline:
Etiquette and processes for escalation
Voice and tone for posting and responses
Use of hashtags and emojis
Industry- or brand-specific language & terminology
Style guidelines (i.e., use of commas, capitalization, spelling)
What Do You Do When There Is a PR Emergency?
Unlike back in the day of the 9-to-5 corporate world, business is happening on social media around the clock. This constant presence means that problems can arise at any time.
It’s essential to have a PR strategy in place before things go wrong. Being unprepared to deal with a Saturday-morning PR crisis will lead to delays that could spell even more disaster than if you’d addressed it immediately.
Have a plan and make sure all the appropriate people know it.
How Do You Maintain Confidentiality?
This piece of your policy is critical. Clarify and outline in detail which information is confidential and cannot be shared under any circumstances. You need to protect sensitive information about your organization, intellectual property, clients, and employees.
In some industries and situations, confidentiality will have legal implications, too. Do not skip this portion of your social media policy.
What Are the Consequences of Breaking the Policy?
Your contract and policy should clearly outline how you will monitor social media activity and the possible disciplinary action if someone violates the rules.
2. Use Copyrights and Trademarks to Protect Intellectual Property
Loss of IP is one of the most significant risks businesses face on social media. By using copyrights and trademarks, you can protect your original content and have access to legal recourse if someone infringes on your property.
Copyright Protection - Copyrights protect your original work the moment it is in a complete and tangible form. Photos, artwork, screenplays, fashion designs, and more fall under copyright protection. Registering your copyright gives you the option to pursue legal action if someone copies or steals your work.
Trademark Protection - A trademark can cover brand names, logos, business names, and slogans. Trademarks protect anything that identifies a company and its products in the physical or digital marketplace.
Many entrepreneurs mistakenly think they only big corporations need this level of protection. But as I always tell my clients, if it’s worth creating, it’s worth protecting. Anyone can guard their IP with copyrights and trademarks when appropriate.
3. Learn How to Spot Phishing Scams
Hackers have become very sophisticated and clever in their attacks. Phishing scams occur when someone poses as a legitimate organization in an attempt to steal financial or personal data. This can happen by email, voicemail, text, and social media.
Everyone who has access to your company’s social media accounts should understand phishing and how to be wary and overly cautious online. Two primary forms of attack are the use of links that collect sensitive data and the installation of malware or ransomware by clicking on a file.
A recent phishing scam sends false infringement notices to companies via social media, sharing a link to ‘appeal’ the notice. The link then takes the user to a Facebook page with prompts to enter their credentials. This attack may seem like an obvious ruse, but it works by preying on the fear of legal action, fines, or blocked accounts.
Protecting your business on social media requires you to train your team to never click any unsolicited links or download any attachments from unknown users, even if they seem legitimate. And in this day and age, it goes without saying that all computers and laptops should have security software installed on them.
Seek Legal Counsel for the Highest Level of Protection
No matter its size, your business is valuable. Your hard work and sacrifice deserve all the protection you can provide, which is why I love helping entrepreneurs guard their intellectual property and business integrity.
Let’s chat if you need help with copyrights, trademarks, contracts, NDAs, or other legal issues for your company. You can reserve your time for one-on-one support or check out our Law Lab subscription services…or both!
You create. I protect. Get started today.