Social Media and your Business
To say that the popularity of social media has exploded in recent years is an understatement. Today, more than a billion people—yes, that’s billion with a “b”—subscribe to Facebook and more than 300 million “tweets” are chirped every single day.
“For companies, being involved in social media is vital to their success. It’s how they stay relevant,” says YC Partner Steve Smelser. “But if misused, social media can also lead to a company’s downfall.”
According to Smelser, that’s because the thing that makes social media so appealing, is the same thing that makes it so dangerous.
“These posts are instantaneous and viral,” says Smelser. “If you’re not careful about what is being written, you could be in for a world of hurt in a matter of minutes—even seconds. With social media, a defamation lawsuit may only be a few keystrokes away.”
Yukevich | Cavanaugh would never suggest that a company forgo the benefits of social media. But if your company is making use of it, it is imperative that you take an active interest in what is being posted on your behalf:
- Only allow a select group of employees the privilege and responsibility to author your posts
- Provide clear guidelines about what can and cannot be posted, being mindful of applicable laws, including: copyright, fair use, financial disclosure, defamation and discrimination
- Put someone in charge of policing the content on your social media accounts, and remove content that violates your written policies
“If any of our clients want help in drafting a clear set of social media guidelines for their employees, we are happy to provide that help,” says Smelser. “But those guidelines should go beyond just the information that is being putting out there. The information you take in could have drastic legal ramifications as well.”
For example, it’s not uncommon for companies to screen potential employees through social media accounts. But there are some prominently displayed pieces of information—including race, gender and sexual orientation—which may not be considered as part of the hiring process.
“Someone you pass up for a job may later say you discriminated against them because of off-limits information you got from Facebook,” says Smelser. “That information needs to be filtered out by someone who is not, in any way, involved in the hiring decision.”
The bottom line is that cyber law is a quickly evolving field. Every day, people are finding new ways to use social media as a basis to sue and get sued.
“But as this field continues to evolve,” says Smelser, “we want to make sure our clients take only the good—and none of the bad—from this double-edged sword.”