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Five legal considerations for your social media campaign

Social media has many benefits to a company. But, with the positives come the legal risks that can lurk there. Companies have run into legal problems, and been forced to defend their social media campaigns in public, in front of regulators or in courts.

However, legal problems can be avoided with special consideration and forethought. Although each social media campaign should be evaluated individually, there are at least five legal considerations every company should note.

1. Be transparent.

It is okay for start praise for your product through social media to push consumers to voice their opinions. However, it is crucial to make clear that you are a part of the company and not a consumer.There have been a number of cases in which companies have gotten in trouble when their employees posed as ordinary consumers and praised the company online. In the past year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has entered into settlements with two companies that faked consumer reviews.

The FTC's guidelines for endorsements in blogs state that if there is a “material connection” between an advertiser and an endorser, the endorser must disclose that connection. If you pay a blogger, give a blogger free samples or provide other benefits to the blogger, the blogger may need to disclose that in his or her posts.

2. Don't invite problems.

Companies can get in trouble for what consumers do in the context of a company's social media campaign, even if a company didn't authorize it. Courts have generally held that companies are not liable for problematic content posted by consumers.Also, courts have determined that companies can be liable if they play a role in developing the problematic content. Guidelines must be clear about what consumers can and cannot do. Check with your legal team to verify laws can ensure protection.

3. Remember that laws apply.

Because social media is so casual and campaigns can be launched so quickly, the laws that govern “traditional” media campaigns are often mistaken to not apply in the social media space. But, they do. If your company wanted to hold a sweepstakes via Facebook, it would be governed by sweepstakes law spread out across all 50 states. This can determine how you structure the sweepstakes, what disclosures you need to make and whether you need to register with regulators before you launch. Also, the the platform for your campaign may also have its own rules.

4. Keep some control.

When consumer engagement becomes "too successful" in campaigns, your company may regret the outcomes. The more control the consumers have, the less control the company has. Balance your desire to let your consumers speak with your own need to have control over the outcome.

5. Think before you act.

In social media, problems occur in the public eye. Most companies try to address problems quickly to prevent bad news from spreading. Solutions will also play out in public, too.

The solution to the problem can be more problematic than the original issue. Taking down a problematic post can be the right answer and times when taking it down may make things worse. There are also times when your customers will respect you for admitting a problem and times when your admission could be used in a subsequent court proceeding. When something goes wrong, evaluate all of your options before playing out a solution.

All these steps are important factors in social media campaigns. Click here to read the full article.

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