Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have become essential to how we communicate in the modern world, both from a personal and a commercial perspective. For business owners, however, social media use can pose significant risks that may not be readily apparent.
Here are three key types of risk that we think business owners should bear in mind:
What you post online from your own personal social media accounts can of course expose you to personal liability – for example, for libel or harassment.
But it could also potentially expose your business if your post contains any confidential information, or for the infringement of an employees’ rights if you post about a specific individual.
Make sure that what you post is factual and does not breach any business confidences or infringes an employee’s rights to privacy and protection . And if what you are posting is your personal opinion, then make that really clear– otherwise you risk creating a liability for your business. If in doubt, take advice from experienced professionals – or simply don’t post it!
If a third party posts something untrue about you or your business, and this negatively impacts how you are viewed by your clients, this could lead to lost revenue and/or long-term damage to your brand. If the post is untrue you could bring a legal claim against the third party, but you must take swift action to limit the damage.
Consider putting in place a reputation management plan, based on expert PR and legal advice, so that you know what you’re going to do to protect your business from online reputational damage should the need arise.
Not many business owners are aware that they can be held liable for something posted by one of their employees.
There are legal precedents which a third party can use to argue that an employee was speaking on behalf of a business, even in a personal social media post. And usually a business is a more attractive financial target than an individual when it comes to legal claims. This is why most employers have social media policies in their employment contracts and handbooks, and provide appropriate staff training to protect their businesses from this potential harm.
Check that your business has this properly covered.