When is a Tweet Just a Tweet and When is It Twibel-Social Media Liability for Small Businesses

Running a small business? One of the best ways to generate buzz about your products and services is through social media marketing.

Promoting your company on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing and advertising (even free, if you do it yourself).

It’s also where your customers are. On Facebook’s suite of owned apps alone (Facebook, Instagram and Messenger—excluding WhatsApp), its users are spending an average of 50 minutes a day.

I will leave it to the social media marketing experts to tell you how to effectively use social media to promote your business and engage with your customers. What I am going to focus on instead is how to not get yourself into trouble with your tweets and posts.

Here are three ways you can tweet or post yourself into a courtroom:

  • Invasion of privacy (using someone’s photo or name in your online advertisements without their permission)
  • Defamation (damaging someone’s reputation through a negative tweet or post)
  • Copyright infringement (copying and pasting someone else’s text or photo to your website without their permission).

Given how easy social media is to use, you can see how easy it is to get yourself in trouble. So how can you protect yourself?

Think before you tweet or post

I remember a partner telling me on my first day of work as a baby lawyer that before you send an email you should imagine how it would look on a full-color, poster size blow-up on an easel in a courtroom. Okay, this story is going to date me (this is back when email was first being widely used), but it’s message is true for social media. Proofread and verify every tweet and post.

Develop a social media policy

No matter how tiny your business is, give some serious thought to what is appropriate online behavior for your business.

Nothing is free

Just because someone posts something on the internet doesn’t mean you are free to use it. Ask permission before you copy and paste someone else’s text or photo.

One last thought. I’ve discussed before the need for insurance for your business. If you have general liability insurance for your business, make sure it covers social media liability (sometimes called “advertising injury protection”).

What is your favorite story of a social media misstep by a company? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Disclaimer: This website is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this website you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Copyright © 2017 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

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