5 Legal Items to Keep in Mind When Using Social Media

After a great January breakfast, Liza Perry, SMCKC Communications Co-Chair, created this handy blog post to help give you five terms you need to be successful when it comes to the legal side of social media.


Earlier this month, Katie Hollar and Amy Jordan Wooden gave some great reminders and case studies on how to keep it legal on social media. Below are the five biggest areas to keep in mind.

  1. Defamation – occurs when a person intentionally spreads information about another person, group or company that damages their reputation regardless of the medium. If you share defamatory material (even if you didn’t create it), you can still be held liable.
  2. Copyright - the holder of a copyright has exclusive rights to publish his or her own work. Ask the owner before using the work on social media if you are trying to sell a service or good. Fair use does apply when you’re using the content for nonprofit, educational or personal purposes. Here is a great guide to use as a resource. (Since I’m using the infographic for educational use, I’m allowed to use the copyrighted material.)
  3. Disclosure – you must be open and honest about your position with a company or organization if you are talking about the entity. Having “Opinions are my own, “RTs aren’t endorsements” or something similar on your Twitter bio doesn’t protect you in a lawsuit. Free speech gives individuals certain protections, but when in doubt, disclose. Limited space isn’t an excuse according to the FTC.
  4. Endorsements/Sweepstakes – the FTC requires “that material relationships between brand and the endorser on social media must be ‘clearly and conspicuously’ disclosed.” If you are participating in a contest on social media, you are endorsing that company’s product. So, you need to share your participation in the contest.
  5. Crisis Situations – the role of social media in a crisis has dramatically increased over the years. It’s imperative to monitor your brands online as rumors and defamation lawsuits can spread quickly. Speed and accuracy are equally important when responding to an issue. If you have culpability in the crisis, speak up now cause the cover up is going to be way worse in the end. And, it’s always important to have one voice across all channels when responding to a crisis.

The most important thing to remember - If you pause before you post something, you probably shouldn’t post it.

About the author:
Liza Perry is the Communications Co-Chair for Social Media Club of Kansas City. During the day, she manages all the corporate social media channels for Cerner. She has experience in both B2C and B2B social media. In her spare time she writes a weekly roundup of the latest social media news, The Perry Notes, and binge watches everything on Bravo. Liza graduated from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. She can be found on Twitter at @eperry07.