Posted by : Amanda Stein Saturday, December 1, 2012

Social media has a unique place in the lives of consumers. Outlets like Facebook and LinkedIn can have a powerful effect on your business both in terms of exposure and sales, but what about the legal aspects? If you have decided to catapult your business into the 21st century, these legal tips should help protect your business from potential legal problems.

  • Be careful what you write about things – Anything written down is technically considered a contract so if you offer something and try to renege later, you could be in trouble. Once PepsiCo advertised a fighter jet in exchange for so many rewards points and when a kid came to collect, they said no. He sued them for that. Learn from Pepsi.

  • Be careful what you write about people – Defamation of character and slander are serious legal issues and if you’re not careful you can get slapped with a lawsuit. Never use social media to trash competitors or attempt to mudsling in an effort to create a rivalry with another business. It’s bad form, first of all, but mainly it’s a bad idea because it’s legally irresponsible. 

  • Be professional – Use social media as a professional marketing tool, not a way to integrate your buddies into your business. Sure you can “friend” you current friends but be sure to keep your business profile all business. This isn’t necessarily a legal tip but it’s still good to know. 

  • Be yourself – This doesn’t just mean that you should be authentic but you should also, literally, be yourself. If you attempt to create a false identity to fluff up your unique views, or write flattering reviews of your own products you could get into serious legal trouble for not disclosing your affiliation with the company. 

  • Understand advertising laws – A great way to promote your business is through endorsements and/or testimonials but be sure that you understand the laws that govern advertising before using them. Otherwise, you could wind up in a very unpleasant situation with a federal agent. 

In fact, all of these tips are in an effort to avoid a very unpleasant situation with federal and state law enforcement agents. To stay above the fray, run your ideas through with a qualified attorney to make sure that you’re legally covered. It’s always best to be proactive in this regard rather than waiting until you’ve done something illegal before hiring an attorney. Did you know that there were advertising laws governing endorsements and testimonials? Do you know who does; an attorney. And if you want to avoid these legal blunders that could cost you millions, hire a professional. It’s the only way to know for certain that you’re legally compliant. 
This article was written by Roger Brent Hatcher, an attorney at Smith, Gilliam, Williams & Miles, a leading Atlanta Law Firm since 1928. Smith, Gilliam, William & Miles specialize in everything from family law to business law.

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