Social-media regulations for online business

Draw up a social media policy to ensure that your employees are not bullying, harassing or discriminating in their comments or posts and that they are not defaming your business.

Online advertising is a blessing for small-business owners in the 21st century. Now, it is as easy posting an ad online or using social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to advertise your product or service.

However, there are rules – even in the untamed realm of internet. Due to jurisdictional issues and continuing advances in technology, law enforcement is difficult online but, nonetheless, it exists. You could potentially face serious legal problems by not following the appropriate rules of conduct and advertising, even if it is on social media.

There are no laws specifically relating to business conduct on social media. But existing consumer protection laws, codes and regulations apply to business that is conducted online. The laws prevent business owners from engaging in misleading, deceptive or false advertising about their product or service being offered on social media.

Following are some tips your business should comply with when using social media:

  1. Refrain from making any false or misleading claims

When advertising your product or service on social media, you must ensure that all the statements and promotions are true and accurate. Otherwise you could end up facing a fine or, potentially, even a lawsuit.

  1. Ensure that your employees are not posting any misleading or deceptive claims under your business’s name

If you have employees, you will be held liable for their actions if they post any misleading information on your business’s social-media accounts. It helps to have a social media policy in place that outlines to your employees the kind of content that they are prohibited from posting under the business’ name, as well as the consequences for breaching it.

  1. Special offers, competitions and awards law apply

You may wish to have an online competition, such as a ‘highest number of likes win’ on Instagram, in order to advertise your products. They are very popular and a great – and cheap – way to publicise your business.

You need to ensure, however, that in conducting these competitions you comply with guidelines set by your state or territory. You are under obligation by the law to disclose any special terms and conditions of the award or prize, and to supply the promised gift or prize to the winner.

  1. Respect, and comply with, the privacy laws

Even on social media, you cannot breach privacy laws. You must regard your customer’s personal information as confidential. You should ensure that your employees also are aware of the privacy policies, not only in regards to your customers’ information but also confidential information about your business.

  1. Read your social media posts carefully before posting

Lastly, you must ensure that your posts, comments and advertisements do not contain offensive or discriminatory language. Once again, you could draw up a social media policy to ensure that your employees are not bullying, harassing or discriminating in their comments or posts and that they are not defaming your business.

Following these tips should give you a basic idea of the type of conduct you should be avoiding when conducting business through social media. It will allow you to keep your customers happy and your business to avoid hefty fines and potential lawsuits.

Ananya Singh, Legal Analyst – Content Team, LawPath

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