Use social media safely

Legal implications and best practice using social media


Using social media exposes your business to direct contact with public opinion and comments. It is important to consider how to operate within the social media environment, whether on external sites or social tools on your website. Understanding the legal pitfalls and maintaining a professional approach can help to protect your reputation and business.

Protect your brand

It's important to consider monitoring social comments. If you post on social media or encourage comments, some users may post inappropriate ones. These could include:

  • Inappropriate language - if your customers are likely to be sensitive to certain language, make sure you have a system for monitoring all new posts before they go live.
  • Libellous material - you may be held responsible for any user comments on your site that insult or libel someone. Make sure you monitor what users are saying.
  • Damaging comments - while customer opinion can be useful, you don't want to have too many negative comments about your business. If you find this is the case, look into the reasons behind the comments and try to put things right.

Maintaining brand honesty

While you should try to protect your brand and site from potential threats, this should be balanced with maintaining brand honesty. Site and social media users should feel that there's an open and honest, two-way exchange of ideas and opinions. This will build trust between you and your customers and encourage loyalty.

Respond to negative comments

If you do receive negative comments, respond professionally and positively and address the issues raised. It is also important to monitor the social buzz or chatter around your brand. See how customers talk about your business so that you can respond accordingly.

Monitoring tools

There are both free and paid services to help you monitor online mentions of your brand. For example, setting up Google Alerts can notify you of brand mentions across the web and different types of social media. These tools can also track what customers say about your competitors, offering insights into your market.

Secure your brand identity

Think also about securing your brand identity across different social platforms - avoiding misrepresentation by third parties.

Social media marketing strategy

You should position your marketing strategy on the social web very carefully. Any campaigns should be designed with the social web in mind. Avoid placing the same messages you use in other marketing channels into a social web context. Instead, tailor your campaign so that it will sit comfortably with both the site and its users.

Social tools on your website

Many social media tools allow easy integration with your website. Before you launch any new features on your website, make sure you have thought about the legal aspects. For example, social media tools often ask for users' details. Managing these details can be straightforward, but you must clarify to your users what you are and are not responsible for.

Essential website components

Make sure you have the following on your website:

It would be wise to consider using text and image filtering or a comment approval process. This will reduce the risk of inappropriate or offensive material being put onto your site.

Complying with online advertising standards

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code's remit has been extended to include any online advertisement or statement that's intended to sell products or services. This includes non-paid-for space under your control on social media sites, as well as marketing material on your own website.