What is written on social media is not written in pencil, it’s written in ink.

And it doesn’t matter who wrote it.

There’s a funny misconception about social media across many solopreneurs, and that’s they are only responsible for the posts on their own business page.

Every business owner needs to understand that even if the company is not on a certain social media platform, it’s associates and customers are. And they are tagging, checking-in, sharing, commenting and reviewing 24/7.

This is the new business reality we live in. The problem is that words on social media are stamped in ink and the law often fails to follow up. This can then lead to quite complex lawsuits with no certainty in the outcome.

Even I can’t tell you how most social media cases will go, and I have 15 years of business legal experience!

How savvy solopreneurs should treat social media now, so they don’t have problems later…

Social media law is almost non-existent but there are many laws that apply to social media.

All laws that apply to life and business offline, apply to it online as well. For example, if you make a misleading claim on social media (that your product helps clean oil stains) you have the same legal responsibility as a business as if you made it in a printed ad or promised it to a customer.

That’s why savvy business owners do not treat social media any differently than their traditional marketing and communication channels (and have policies that teach employees the same).

One thing they do right is getting legal advice when unsure of what they can or can’t say.

3 key facts you need to know

  1. For a social media platform to be covered by the Privacy Act, it must be based in Australia and it shouldn’t be a small business (more than $3 million in annual turnover).
  2. You shouldn’t allow employees to make misleading comments or claims because it’s the business owner’s responsibility what employees post on social media regarding the company. To solve this you have two options: 1) Create a culture that represents your values online and offline, or 2) Draft social media policies that become part of the employment agreement including a clause that requires employees to identify themselves as such when posting online, and to state that their comments and posts represent their personal opinion only, not a company status
  3. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCA) requires you to remove and misleading comments and posts as soon as you become aware of them. They expect businesses to monitor social media and be aware of what is being said about their company online by employees and consumers alike.

Social media is no different than any other media. The anonymity and impersonality of posting online doesn’t mean that there are no consequences.

The ACCA requires you to refund every customer that’s taken a purchase decision based on misleading information.

How much will this cost your business? As a solopreneur, can you afford to not to be aware of your social media obligations? The easiest way to understand social media law is to understand consumer law.

If you have a particular issue with social media, a question or you just want to stay on the safe side and have a solid social media policy, get in touch!

 

Guest post by Katherine – New Age Legal Solutions

With over 20 years’ legal and business experience, Katherine Hawes is the founder and principal solicitor of Aquarius Lawyers. To find out more about her fixed rate small business packages, please see www.newagelegalsolutions.com.au.

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