Five Social Media Legal Myths

Social media platforms, smart phones and applications are changing the way we conduct business and interact socially with friends, family, and colleagues. Today, discussions involving Facebook®, Android®, and Angry Birds® are common. But it is not all fun and games. The financial payouts and consequences of social media for those involved, including vendors, developers, and clients, are becoming more apparent. New cases emphasizing social media mistakes costing reputations, resources, and jobs are becoming just as common as new releases of applications and putting everyone on alert.

There are many top five and top ten lists out there on social media. We’ve looked at a few and noticed one thing seemed to be missing from the conversation – the law. So here is our list. Read, enjoy, share and please let us know your thoughts – did we miss one; do we need to clarify something; do you have additional questions or comments? Post your comment below or send us a tweet @law2smdeborah or by email at

1. Social Media is Free and Should be let Free…

Social media is not as expensive as traditional media, but it does have a cost – the cost of time and resources (including staff) to apply it correctly and to protect the most valuable thing your company owns – its reputation! As for letting it be free, employees and customers can be wonderful ambassadors for your brand – but do you know what they are saying? Do they rave or do they rant? Are you part of the conversation? Are you responding in a way consistent with the law? Make sure you have the right legal guidelines, policies, and protocols in place to help you maximize your social media benefits and minimize your risks such as a potential PR crisis.

2. Anyone Can Do It…

Would you let a techie balance your company books? Would you let your accountant do your marketing? Would you let your lawyer design your logo? Unless those professionals have these other skills, the answer is probably a resounding NO! Everyone has specialized skills, job description and a role to play to get your company the success it is aiming for in cyber space. So make sure to get the right professional to help you with your social media strategies and make sure to get the right lawyer with the right expertise – who understands social media and knows the law – to make sure you are protected against liability in this digital environment.


3. Do it Now and Do it Fast…

It takes less than 5 minutes to set up a Twitter Account, a little longer for a Facebook Fan Page. The technical logistics are 1-2-3. But before you do (even if you’ve done so already) think about what you are trying to achieve with social media? Is it more customers, more exposure, more sales? Do all your social media accounts have the same name? Does it relate to your company name? Are you protecting your trademark as you create these different accounts? Thinking about these questions is one thing, but you need to take some time to answer and reflect on your responses. Then you need to put the answers in a central location that you and your company can refer to keep you on track [or legal]. You need a social media plan that is feasible, effective, and in compliance with professional, ethical, and legal rules. Make sure you seek guidance from the right professional(s).

4. Don’t Tout Your Success…Everyone Will See It…

You’ve heard about them, and probably seen a few – viral videos – the funny brothers pulling an ear, the playful kitten that stops wiggling in mid-air, the airline that broke a guitar and wouldn’t compensate its owner. The list goes on and on. But these are just a select few of the millions of videos that are uploaded to YouTube everyday! You use social media to market your brand and you can use other media to market your social media presence and you use social media to loop back to your website, etc., etc., etc. So, you have to shout about your success – and that’s fine. Just make sure you get everyone’s permission – especially your customers’ if you are using their name or photo – and don’t violate anyone’s privacy or intellectual property rights.

5. There are No Rules and Current Laws Don’t Apply

There are rules in the social media world – unwritten cultural norms in this digital environment. There is a language that the insiders know and there is a protocol to the conversation. Social media is about currency (what is important at this moment), authenticity (credibility and trust), and relevancy (to who is reading or interacting). Violating any of these rules can lead to a slippery slope of legal violations. Current laws do apply – because they are the laws that we have. But these laws are being challenged, changed, modified, and recreated, with new laws proposed every day – including two new laws on privacy introduced in 2011. Which ones apply to your company, your business, your industry? Knowing is important so you can take the steps necessary to protect your company and your success including getting the right people involved at the right time.


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