Guidelines for Small Businesses Using Social Media

Social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can be useful marketing tools for your business. But all it takes is a single mistake—or a negative comment from an unsatisfied customer—to hurt your business and potentially create a legal mess.

Social media is real-time, spontaneous and casual, making it easy for people to think that “anything goes” online, says Antone Johnson, founding principal of Bottom Line Law Group, a San Francisco-based firm. Johnson has worked as an attorney at MySpace and eHarmony. He says many laws that apply to businesses offline also apply online.

False Advertising

When it comes to advertising, there’s no legal difference between social and conventional media: The same laws regarding fact and opinion apply. You can make subjective claims like your restaurant has, “the best pizza in Chicago,” but you couldn’t make a claim of superiority like, “more people eat pizza here than at any other restaurant.” And since everything you write online is stored in cyberspace forever, anyone out to sue you may be able to find it.

Intellectual Property Rights

Like advertising laws, trademark and copyright laws also apply to social media. If you post a logo that doesn’t belong to you on your business’s social media page, someone could file a lawsuit against you for infringing on that trademark. If you post text from an online news site without attributing it, you infringe on the copyright.



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