Business Social Media Use Legal Tips
Updated: Mar 13
Businesses have various ways to use social media in their marketing efforts. Doing it, however, is more than just a matter of posting it and forgetting it. Successful social media use that minimizes legal problems requires ongoing monitoring.
There are several general ways in which businesses use social media. Among them are:
Brand accounts exist on behalf of a company. They are becoming the premier way to market products to consumers. Typically, the social media platform verifies each of these accounts, signaling to users that it is the brand's official page.
A less common approach is to allow employee accounts that speak for the company. These social media accounts often provide a mechanism for leadership to make public announcements, launch campaigns, offer professional ideas, and post other content. It is imperative to be aware of who represents your company online.
Social Media Influencers
The influencer industry exploded in popularity as social media interest grew. It shows no signs of slowing down. Businesses budget more marketing funds to pay for these endorsements. Entire agencies exist exclusively to pair brands and influencers for maximum consumer engagement.
Where Businesses Are Posting
The platforms and how they work include:
Facebook. The company recently renamed Meta, sparks widespread debate. The platform boasts about 2.8 billion active users. Facebook advertises a wide array of user activities, like posting updates, videos, and photos; direct messaging; live streaming; and offering access to online marketplace Facebook groups.
YouTube. YouTube is an online video-sharing social media site. Now owned by Google, it is consistently one of the most visited websites in the country. YouTube allows users to like, comment, and share videos of all lengths and subject matter. YouTube is a popular place to try out and show off products.
Instagram. Owned by Meta, Instagram is best known for photo sharing. Users can share 1 to 10 pictures in a single post. Instagram also includes functions for direct messaging, live streaming, and posting stories.
Twitter. Twitter allows users to “tweet” their thoughts, feelings, advertisements, and product offerings. Tweets are limited to 280 characters and may include photos and videos. Because of the brevity, Twitter can be useful when publicizing real-time updates, announcements, or news.
TikTok. TikTok is a video-sharing app with 600 million active users daily. Short-form videos are the main content posted. An algorithm pushes tailored content to the user and advertisements.
How Your Social Media May Affect Products Liability Lawsuits.
The considerations discussed below should prompt you to think about how claims, defenses, or allegations are potentially affected by your social media .
The Duty to Monitor.
Creating an account is not enough; it must be actively maintained. Companies must monitor their products even after they leave. As your online presence grows, there is more ground to cover to ensure all monitoring obligations are met. The comment and direct-messaging features on social media allow consumers to voice product complaints or frustrations. Users may also tag you in their posts with questions and concerns. Check these methods of communication frequently and thoroughly for potential product claims.
A presence on social media means being aware of the conversation surrounding it. Litigants may offer online comments, posts, and direct messages as evidence that you knew about a product defect. Depending on the situation, a court may also decide that you had constructive knowledge, even if you did not regularly check. This knowledge may be used in cases of gross negligence or punitive damages, among other claims. When you are a proactive social media participant, you are more prepared to face possible issues down the line.
Foreseeability of Misuse.
A company is not obligated to warn against its product's unforeseeable uses. It’s possible, however, that a product may be demonstrably misused on social media to such a degree that you can foresee atypical uses. Viral social media challenges are an example of such misuse. These challenges involve thousands of people participating in an activity or trend and posting it online. Brands must be vigilant about how their products are being used, or else even the unintended use could be judged foreseeable, and a valuable defense lost.
Post-Sale Duty to Warn, Retrofit, or Recall.
The conversation surrounding a product online may also trigger other legal duties after the sale. If your state has a post-sale duty to warn, a duty to retrofit or a duty to recall a product, the online material you know or should have known may trigger a need to act. With consumers engaging in a constant online discussion, a company may discover via social media that a product hazard needs to be corrected. A company that is actively monitoring its social media will be in the best position to assess these potential obligations when the need arises and take action quickly to ensure the safety of those involved.
Making Social Media Work for You
Marketing and public relations are not the only ways to use social media. You can improve the experience of customers and better your brand.
The flood of online information seems overwhelming. It would be best to view this as an opportunity to collect data directly from consumers. Whether or not solicited, you can seize the chance to learn more about your product’s reception. The company that organizes this information is best prepared to discuss issues with customers, other businesses, and even regulatory agencies when needed .
Social media pages are excellent places to inform customers of issues and recall. The CPSC expects companies to use social media platforms to notify consumers of a recall. Pinning this sort of announcement in a prominent place on a brand’s page lets you reach audiences quickly and effectively. These posts should be concise and clear, informing customers precisely what should be done. The direct-messaging function can also be a great way to answer consumer questions and concerns about the recall.
A helpful addition to most social media platforms is video-sharing. With it, you can show customers how the product should be handled by demonstrating best practices and safety features. If customers need clarification, a social media platform can instantly lessen confusion.
If you are online, you should:
Keep tabs on your posts, comments, and direct messages. Online platforms are immediate, and tides change overnight. Search tags and topics related to your product to find content that may take time to be apparent. Just because it isn’t on your page doesn’t mean the material isn’t out there.
With something as vast as the internet, you need policies and procedures to handle social media forums. Evaluate your needs and create a viable plan before expanding your social media presence.
Save What You See
Collect any online material that pertains to your product. Someone should keep track of feedback and organize information.
Engage With Consumers
If something seems wrong, reach out to consumers early to discover commentary and investigate potential problems.
The internet lasts forever. A brand’s content online may reach millions. Use that engagement to your benefit, not your detriment.