Social media gives organisations the ability to have direct access to their target audience and is an extremely useful tool to help generate new business and to stay connected with customers.
But the upsides also come with great risk when it comes to an organisation’s reputation. In 2017, there were many high profile cases of reputational damage as a result of what a brand did on it’s social media channels. Most notably, the viral video of United Airlines forcibly dragging customers off the plane.
Yet more than just reputational damage, social media can also result in serious legal implications linked to areas such as defamation, content ownership, privacy, marketing and advertising regulations and much more!
To help navigate through social media compliance we have provided some guidance on how to keep your organisation and staff compliant.
Many people add disclaimers such as “these views are my own and not those of my employer” to their personal social media accounts, but these statements do not provide any legal protection. Employees often believe that these statements help protect them in the event of any mishaps or wrongdoings, and enable them to potentially sidestep any corporate social media policy.
In the event of a legal dispute, these personal statements do not have any legal effect and cannot prevent an employee from being disciplined if they are in breach of the corporate social media policy, and/or have put the organisation at risk of reputational damage.
The fact that someone is disseminating information means that there are legal liabilities and risks. The first case in the UK that supported the contention surrounding disclaimers was the libel case of Sally Bercow, wife of the speaker of the House of Commons, after she retweeted a message leading to a legal dispute with Lord McAlpine.
Social Media Influencers & Advertising
One of the major new trends in recent years is the growth of social media influencer marketing and advertising. As individual social media users with often tens or hundreds of thousands of followers, organisations pay “influencers” to promote their products or content to their followers and sometimes labeled as brand ambassadors.
To remain compliant with the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) code, organisations need to ensure that they are not ‘falsely claiming or creating the impression that the business is not acting for the purposes relating to his or her trade, business craft or profession.’ Social media posts must be clearly identified as marketing communications by the influencer. Failure to mark any sponsored or paid-for social media posts with clear identifiers such as #Ad or #Spon, can result in the organisation being reported to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).
If there is no formal brand ambassador agreement in place, but a person receives a benefit e.g. a free product or service with the expectation of a positive endorsement, this is still considered as marketing communications under the CAP code.
Therefore, any organisation working with social media influencers to advertise their products or services need to ensure they are fully compliant with the ASA requirements.
The Data Protection Act is often neglected by businesses in relation to enterprise social media. However, there are several ways that an organisation can fall foul of UK data protection laws on social media. For example:
- Publishing personal customer information during a public customer service conversation on social media.
- Posting pictures of customers or members of the public alongside sensitive or personal data.
- Asking customers to publish personal details on public social media channels, for example, asking for their email address to enter a competition.
- Promoting products or services by posting named and identifiable customer reviews of a product without permission.
Organisations must also be aware of an individual’s ability to make a Subject Access Request (SAR), which is part of the UK Data Protection Act 1998. An SAR requires an organisation to share a copy of all the information held about the individual, including social media interactions that have been recorded.
When it comes to mitigating many of the risks of social media and ensuring the organisation has oversight of all social media activities, it is essential to have suitable compliance rules and tools in place.
This is paramount for organisations operating in regulated industries, who need to be aware of the most common pitfalls and legal requirements that apply to their industry and by association their organisation.
Download a free copy of the The Complete Guide to Enterprise Social Media to read more about social media compliance and the other building blocks of adopting social across a large or complex enterprise.