Top 10 Social Media Mistakes Made by Small Business

Very few social media management firms have the luxury of working with an attorney so it should come as no surprise that legal problems arise from time to time. Fortunately for our readers, we are one of the very few exceptions; not only are we acutely aware of problematic legal issues but it’s a top priority to keep readers informed about upcoming liability issues, problematic business practices and other hazards. Today’s article is a “must read” covering the top 10 social media mistakes made by small business owners…and unfortunately, many other social media marketing firms.

Mistake #1 – Improper social media promotions including contests and sweepstakes. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Just set up a fun contest to encourage more people to “like” your site then sit back and rake in the traffic. Unfortunately, it not properly performed, social media contests, sweepstakes and other promotions might land a small business on the wrong side of the law. Many states have very specific guidelines covering the do’s and don’ts of promotional campaigns. More than a few have crossed the line between a valid promotion and an illegal “lottery”.¬† Can you tell the difference? If not, time to consider outsourcing your social media promotional strategies to a true professional!

Mistake #2 – Improper endorsements, testimonials and reviews. Few small business owners are fully versed in the FTC guidelines but ignorance of the law is not a valid defense. Reviews, product endorsements and testimonials fall under strict regulations from both clients as well as employees. This is also one of the fastest growing areas of litigation spurring an entirely new form of liability insurance protection due to the growing concern.

Mistake #3 – Improper pre-post employment screening. This problem area has received a lot of media attention in recent months and a new ruling was just passed prohibiting California corporations from asking for pre-employment passwords or other sensitive social media information. Still, it continues to happen. Implementation of a properly formulated written social media code of conduct should be a part of every business manual. Need help formulating one that is in compliance with the legal environment? Contact your trusted social media management firm for more information.

Mistake #5 – Improper E-Discovery. What would you do if an officer, lawyer or other legal authority requested information about an employee post via social media? What about a client’s information? Do you know what is valid¬† and what constitutes a breach of confidentiality? How about the requirements to hand over sensitive information? Do they need a warrant? Is your business at risk for failure to comply? Even worse…is your business at risk if it DOES comply? These are just a few of the sticky legal problems business owners have faced in recent years. Is your business properly protected? If not, time to reconsider your social media strategy.

Mistake #6 – Improper Management of User Generated Content. Do your clients steal content and if so, is your business legally liable? What about testimonials…do they given the wrong impression to others either positive or negative? According to the DMCA, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, if your site receives a direct financial benefit, the answer could be “yes…you are at risk”. Ouch. This could be bad news for small business owners engaged in social media…especially if you happen to be using copyright protected materials in your social media marketing campaign. That includes content, photographs, video’s and other materials.

Mistake # 7 – Improper social advertising. COPPA, CAN-SPAM, FTC False Advertising…if you aren’t familiar with these standards then your business is almost certainly at risk for improper social advertising. Thinking about outsourcing your social media management services? Take time to compare the information, experience and expertise by requesting specific information pertaining to these all important legal stipulations.

Mistake # 8 – Trademark protection, brandjacking, cybersquatting. It’s a brave new world out there and social media is the wild west of marketing. Have you ever performed a Google search of a business only to encounter a very realistic…and very fraudulent…site instead of the real one? Security measures help but trust is an imperative. Understanding how to protect your site…and clients…is more important than ever.

Mistake #9 – Gamification is great…if you understand the legal environment. In social media – like life – everything boils down to a risk versus reward situation and no place is that more true than in the area of gamification. Virtual currencies, points, tokens, redeemable coupons etc are subject to STRONG federal regulations…much to the surprise of social group discount sites like Groupon…the most recent recipient of a major lawsuit. Learn how to implement great social games and promotions while remaining on the right side of the law.

Mistake #10 – Failure to plan ahead. Social media business, legal liability, opportunities, expectations and marketing is in a constant state of flux. It’s volatile, It’s hard to keep up and easy to fall prey to short-cuts that seem like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, in the long run these short cuts, black hat or even grey hat techniques are often more trouble than they are worth. Instead, by taking a long term approach, many business owners are able to reduce cost, increase opportunity and enhance customer relationships for a fraction of the time, effort and expense associated with inferior options. Interested in exploring all your options? Take time to speak with your social media manager today!

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