Make a WebsiteMarketers using social media run the risk of infringing legal issues that have a negative effect on you and your brand. And could seriously but a dent in your finances if you are ordered to pay damages.

But don’t panic, there are no major concerns and you are probably already aware of legal issues that can arise. That said, potential problems are worth going over and keeping in mind.

It is worth pointing out at this stage that I am not a legal consultant, therefore do not take the following as advice. This article is only to raise awareness.

Be careful what you say

Social media largely includes posting messages into a public domain. You are therefore responsible for what you say. Advertising laws require companies to be honest about their products and services. Don’t say you can do something if you cannot deliver as this damages your credibility and you can be sued for damages.

Likewise, if you say your product provides benefits that it does not, or if you lead consumers to believe your product does something that is not true, you will be in trouble with the advertising agency who will ban your advertising and issue a penalty.

You are also accountable for defamation so do not spread rumours about your competitors. These type of legal actions brought against you can be very expensive.

Duplicate content/plagiarise

Never use content that somebody else created. All content that is published whether it be text, graphic, image or video is subject to copyright. Unless the copyright holder gives you permission to use their content for commercial purposes, you are not entitled to use content created by a third party.

With regards text, Google algorithms can identify duplicate content and your site will be pulled down until the content is removed. Other types of content can also be used by publishers that have embedded code into copyright material. If you are found using third party content without permission, legal action can be taken against you and you may have to pay damages.

It is always the safest approach to create your own content, but if you have no option other than to use third party content, such as images for blogs, only use images that have been awarded a creative commons licence and allows commercial use.

These images are typically flagged up with a person in a circle, a bit like the sign on male toilets. If photos have “some rights reserved” check out what they are. Normally it just involves crediting the originator which you can do in the “caption” field of your CMS when you load up the image.

Don’t run lotteries

The definition of lotteries is when entrants are asked for something in exchange for being involved in a draw and the winner is selected at random. However, the law include giveaways as games of lottery, so if you are offering a prize that involves chance rather than skill, you could run the risk of a government fine.

It doesn’t matter what you ask from the contestant. It could be something as simple as a leaving a comment in exchange for a gift. This is tantamount to bribery. The same applies asking people to share your photo in exchange for a discount or free deal.

This law does not mean you cannot run a contest. You just have to be very careful about the contest rules. Contests, unlike lotteries, are games of skill, whereby the winner is selected because they best fit the allotted criteria which is announced at launch.

Sponsors and influencers

If you have incorporated the services of a sponsor or an influencer, the third party must disclose they are “in association with” you. They should also mention any sample gifts or payments you give them.

For example, if you sell mobile phones and send a magazine a handset to review, they must state they were offered the device for hands-on testing. This gives you and influencers more credibility, especially if the reviewer mentions the bad points as well as the good points.

The influencer does not have to state what item they received expressly. A simple #ad will do, especially on Twitter where you have limited space or Instagram which mainly focuses on images.

There can be some confusion about what marketers can do and can’t do on social media. Hopefully this article raises awareness, but if you are running a social campaign for your company, check with a qualified professional that you are not breaching any rules, or don’t run the risk at all.