08th April 2014
Social Media, Your Business and the Law
“My advice for businesses would be to have a Social Media policy,” said Nottinghamshire Law Society’s ‘Solicitor of the Year’ 2014 and Business Defence and Regulatory Partner at Cartwright King, Andrew Brammer.
“Review who has access to your social media accounts, consider training those people, put a plan together on how you deal with complaints from customers or clients publically online, be smart and think ‘what would I do’ and remember it is your business's reputation on the line.”
Unfortunately, social media usage in business is not specifically regulated. Therefore, it is your responsibility as an employer to determine what you believe is acceptable use by your employees and then explain this to them. Many businesses choose to do this through the use of an internal social media policy, training, and by limiting access to the corporate account to a small number of trusted individuals.
The top five social media issues for businesses, according to nixonpeabody.com, are:
- Companies and their employees approach social media differently
- Urge employees to separate their personal and professional digital lives
- Liability risks during employment screening
- Liability risks during employment
- Liability risks after employment
You should never underestimate the force and influence of social media. In the past, many companies, brands and businesses have left their social media accounts in the hands of untrained interns. With the real-time nature of social media, a simple conversation can quickly escalate from something fun and light-hearted in to a public relations disaster. Whilst some get it so right, and are able to deal with complaints effectively, others bury their heads and, as a result, crash and burn.
Add in the fact that 72% of all internet users are also active on social media, now, more than ever, your social media outlets need to be in keeping with your corporate identity. In order for this to happen, Andrew Brammer suggests “Make sure your social media accounts are secure and only key people have the login details or access to finding the login details. Always remember that what you or your employees post on-line or comment on as a company is a reflection of the business and its management.”
With this in mind, we take a look at the four most widely used social media platforms used by businesses to give you an insight in to the figures and usage statistics for the platforms you’re using.
Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world with over 1.15 billion users. Founded in July 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg and initially only available to Harvard students, Facebook’s growth since inception is mind-blowing. In 2013, they made $7.872 billion revenue; a figure which is set to increase over the coming years.
Facebook has become such a part of our daily lives that 47% of Americans say that Facebook is their number one influencer of purchases.
Rather staggeringly, 92% of businesses use Facebook in some way or another whether it’s a business page or for paid advertising. Over 70% of marketers at these businesses claim that they have used Facebook to gain new customers.
Founded in March 2006, Twitter is the next most popular social networking site with 500 million users. Whilst this number is impressive (although considerably less than Facebook’s stats) Twitter is actually the fastest growing social network with a 44% growth from 2012-2013. 34% of marketers also reported that they have used Twitter to successfully generate leads.
Unsurprisingly, the rapid growth of Twitter has led to many marketers and companies manipulating the platform for personal gain. Paid celebrity endorsements are a particularly popular form of advertising. However, this can be dangerous, and even the largest companies can find themselves in hot water as a direct result of these endorsements. Take, for example, Snickers who allegedly paid celebrities including Katie Price, Amir Khan, and Rio Ferdinand to tweet a picture of themselves eating a Snickers bar. These tweets actually violate the guidelines set by the OFT (Office of Fair Trading) which rule that celebrities must make it absolutely clear that they are promoting or endorsing a product.
Even if the celebrities themselves don’t make it abundantly clear that their tweet is sponsored, the public are incredibly good at sniffing out a false endorsement, and making a spectacle of it.
Andrew Brammer’s advice to any business, company, or individual looking to use twitter is: “Try to create an organic social media following, built on reputation, original thoughts and content. Paying for endorsements looks cheap, could damage your reputation and cost you a lot of money in the long-run”.
Many businesses and individual users have a love/hate relationship with Google+. Despite this, Google+ boasts 500 million users; just as many as Twitter! Google+ seems to be most popular with businesses, with over 70% of brands having a presence on Google+. 41% of online business-to-consumer marketers use Google Plus, compared to 39% of business-to-business marketers.
LinkedIn was founded in December 2002 and officially launched in May 2003. Considered by many as the Facebook of the business world, LinkedIn currently has 238 million active users. Members of LinkedIn use it for various reasons, the most popular being:
- To research people and companies
- To reconnect with past business associates
- To build new networks
It doesn’t stop there though. Other favoured platforms include blogging, YouTube and Pinterest. When asked, a number of marketers said that they had no further plans to expand on their current social media activities; 17% said their plans would say the same; 1% were planning on decreasing their usage; and a whopping 69% said they were planning on increasing their presence on a number of different platforms.
With the majority saying that they were planning on getting more involved than ever with social media, can you and your business really afford to not be visible? Just be careful out there when you do.