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Key Legal Considerations When Using Social Media to Grow a Business

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Social media platforms command much of our attention in today’s digital age. Business owners increasingly use these online platforms to grow their businesses and spread brand awareness. However, no matter the size of your company, your business’s social media marketing activities could result in legal issues. This article will explore some vital legal considerations when using social media pages to grow your business.  

1. Social Media Advertising  

You may advertise on online platforms to grow your business. Your ads may include social media posts or paid influencer advertisements. Your advertising and marketing strategies can have legal implications. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) regulates UK non-broadcast media advertising. Failure to comply with the CAP Code on non-broadcast advertising can lead to sanctions. 

The following table outlines some of the relevant rules relating to advertising practices. 

Cleary identifying sponsored content.You will have spotted the phrase ‘#ad’ on sponsored content. A rule of social media advertising is to clearly disclose each piece of sponsored content as an ‘ad’.

If you sponsor an influencer to advertise your products or services on their page, tell them they must identify the post as an advertisement. If they fail to do this, your business may bear the consequences as the benefactor of the ad. 
Advertising claims must be true. The claims made in your advertisements on any platform must be truthful and honest. You must not mislead consumers. 

Further, specific rules that may apply to your business can depend on your industry and advertising format. Unless you are familiar with advertising regulations or have access to experts, advertising regulations can be tricky to understand and apply in your online practice. Lawyers can ensure that your advertising is compliant, which can help your business avoid complaints and investigations. 

2. Social Media Competitions and Giveaways 

Running competitions and giveaways on your platforms is an excellent way to increase your reach and following. However, you must ensure that your business complies with national regulations and platform-specific rules relating to this area. 

Competitions and giveaways fall under the umbrella of promotional marketing, a form of advertising. The CAP and Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have set rules on promotional marketing. The regulations applicable to your competition can depend on the format and your target audience. For example, the ASA stipulates that you must take special care with promotions directed towards children.

There are also data protection concerns with competitions. You may receive confidential information from entrants. You must gather, process, and hold this in line with data protection law. Do this from the start of each competition by: 

  • being clear about what information you are going to collect; and
  • ensuring that entrants consent for you to collect their personal data.

When running contests and giveaways, you should also write terms and conditions and inform competition entrants how they can access these. A lawyer can help you write these or review drafts to ensure that your terms and conditions are legally sound. 

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3. Defamation 

Defamation can occur when an individual or an organisation says or publishes something false and damaging about another. Social media can amplify the reach of defamatory statements and cause significant harm. Over the past few years, some UK-based businesses have found themselves in court due to defamatory marketing strategies. You should exercise caution on social media to avoid engaging in defamatory behaviour. 

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To avoid legal disputes over defamation:

  • avoid making false statements (this includes comments about other people or brands);
  • stick to the facts; and
  • be cautious about sharing opinions. 

4. Good Practice

Beyond avoiding legal disputes, other good practices for your business’ social media include: 

  • writing a robust social media policy for your business; 
  • regularly assessing content and having it go through review before posting; 
  • removing or amending posts you think could have legal implications; and
  • changing the passwords to your business’s social media accounts frequently.

Key Takeaways 

Social media can play an essential role in your business’ growth. However, activities on online platforms can result in regulatory and legal issues. Generally, you should exercise caution when operating your business’s social media platforms. Some key aspects you should be aware of are advertising, competitions and giveaways, and defamation. 

Point Summary
Advertising on social mediaThe Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) regulate non-broadcast advertising in the UK. The CAP enforce rules such as clearly identifying sponsored content. You must ensure that your ads comply with UK regulations. 
Competitions and giveaways Competitions and giveaways can boost your reach but are a form of advertising. They are subject to national regulations and platform-specific rules. 
Defamation Defamation is the spread of false information. You should act cautiously and avoid sharing anything that may be considered defamatory on your business’s social media.

Your business should adopt good practices to avoid legal risks. Start by adopting a robust social media policy you and your employees can use. Also, ensure that your accounts are secure, that you process personal information in line with data protection rules, and that you or your employees carefully review content before publishing. These steps will help you avoid reputational damage or legal action.

If you would like legal advice about using social media and your business, LegalVision’s experienced startup lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0808 196 8584 or visit our membership page.

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