While social media has been described in many ways, the consensus is that it can be described as any online platform which encourages and supports communication in a community or in a collaborative way.
Types of social media
Due to the nature of social media, it is evolving all the time and so it cannot be completely categorised. However, there are some clear groups in which the majority of established social media platforms can fit.
- Social or business networking sites- these will be your focus as a business, as they will allow you to connect with others, whether that be potential customers or even competitors. It also allows you to promote yourself, as well as offering a place to share more information about what your business can offer.
- Blogs- these will allow you to create a running list of smaller posts of information in reverse chronological order – allowing your customers to keep up to date on any news concerning the business.
- Digital media sharing sites- these allow the instant sharing of content with others, whether that be in the form of pictures, documents or videos.
- Crowdfunding site- this platform can help you gain investment from non-traditional channels, and from a wider range of people.
Popular social media sites
While it is a positive step that more and more social media platforms are popping up across the internet, you need to be clear on which sites will be the most beneficial to you and to your business.
Of course this list is not exhaustive, but it will allow you to focus on the most effective social media sites for you.
Facebook – Arguably the most popular social media site, Facebook provides a platform which can be used to connect with clients and potential customers, as well as others in your industry; both publicly and privately. You can also share information and digital content with the same people.
Link to Lawdit’s Facebook page.
Doostang – A lesser known platform, but of a similar form to Facebook, this is a business focused network site that allows for connections with a wider range of people to gain success in a job search. This is mainly employment based and so can be one to consider if you are looking to expand your business and want to reach a wider pool of potential employees.
Link to Doostang.
Instagram – A sister platform to Facebook, Instagram’s main focus is the sharing of photos. They have also introduced the ability to share videos. This is a great way to promote your business in a visual way and attract a younger generation, who are the main users of this site.
Link to Instagram.
Kickstarter– This is the main crowdfunding website, which, as previously explained, can aid you in the raising of investments from a large number of people; as a collection of smaller amounts.
Link to Kickstarter.
Snapchat – Love it or loathe it, Snapchat is without doubt one of the most popular apps amongst the younger generation. The brilliantly simple mobile app allows users to capture pictures and videos which can be viewed by their friends for a certain amount of time before it is deleted.
Link to Snapchat.
Google+ – Promoted as Google’s version of Facebook, Google+ allows you to create a ‘circle’ in which you can interact easily with other members. This can be a good way to manage employees if you feel the need to check in with them on a regular basis, and it is easier to do that through one site rather than individual emails.
Link to Google+.
LinkedIn – The most well-known business based social media platform, LinkedIn allows you to promote yourself or your business to other like-minded individuals, as well as potential clients. On an individual level, it is a good way of reaching those who are inspirations to you in a particular industry, as well as a platform to find future employment.
Link to LinkedIn.
YouTube – Now owned by tech giant Google, YouTube’s popularity and power has grown dramatically over the past few years with many now making it their sole source of income. As a business, it is a free way to promote and share digital content such as videos, tutorials, promotional messages, as well as news updates.
Link to YouTube.
Twitter – Another site which has blossomed in recent years, you will not find any large business which does not have a presence on Twitter. It is a way for businesses to instantly connect with customers and other companies, allowing you to give updates or information in 140 characters or less.
Link to Twitter.
Yammer – A similar site to Twitter, but one which has slightly slipped under the radar. Owned by Microsoft, this site focuses on communication within the workplace. However, this site does command a fee to be paid for companies who want to control a complete corporate network.
Link to Yammer.
WordPress – This site allows you to create a free blog where you are open to submit any content you wish to, and in whatever form suits you best. This is a great way to connect with consumers and develop a good bond with them.
Link to WordPress.
Typepad- A similar site to WordPress, but no fee is attached. What puts this site ahead though is its own connection with other social media and its encouragement for you to connect with your other media accounts using their optimisation tools.
Link to Typepad.
Social media is the ultimate tool to promote your business and ensure you have the best reach to all existing and potential future consumers.
However, with the benefits come the downfalls. You need to be aware of any implications that may occur as a result of your social media posts.
Many believe that, as social media is up and coming, and not classed as traditional media, less care can be taken when considering what should be said or portrayed through your business’s social media.
These people are incorrect as the legal implications of an insensitive tweet or Facebook post can be extremely detrimental to you and your brand.
Intellectual property (IP) infringement
You need to be sure that you are not infringing anyone’s intellectual property when making any references on social media.
You should also be aware of your own intellectual property presence and protect any brands or logos that you have built a brand with.
There are a number of different types of intellectual property that you need to be up to speed with:
Anything that is original can be protected with copyright. This includes images, designs, films, music and written work. Therefore, you need to be sure that anything you use on social media (or a significant part of it) is original to you and not copied from another source. Copyright protection occurs automatically; therefore it is not always immediately obvious that the work is protected.
Look out for the © sign as this indicates that a person is clear on their copyright protection. On the flip side, if you are using something original on your social media, it will be worth attaching the sign so others can see that they are not allowed to use it.
Registered trade marks
The creation of a brand in itself will create a trade mark. Whether it is a business name, logo or a slogan/phrase, they are worth protecting through registration. A registered trade mark allows you to prevent a third party from using your brand without your permission.
When creating a trade mark, however, it is important to make sure that it is not already being used by another party, as a case of infringement against you can see the end of your business.
Also, if you want to ride on the coattails of a big brand, as you feel this might attract customers, think again. Many big businesses have whole teams of lawyers and a lot of money to use against you. So believe us when we say it is not worth it.
Be unique and build your own brand.
The use of a trade mark belonging to another on social media without their permission can constitute trade mark infringement. In addition, the use of another’s trade mark when a comparison is made to your trade mark or product is also classed as infringement; especially on social media.
Therefore, we’d advise you to be vigilant when posting on social media – and remember – always be your own brand.
Offences which may occur as a result of IP infringement:
– Passing off
Even though a brand may not have a registered trade mark, if they have built a good reputation in the UK and you try to copy their logo or name, you may be committing the common law offence of passing off.
If consumers are being misled to believe your posts are originating from your brand or you are looking to feed off another brands success by being closely linked, passing off will come into play. This offence is not a lesser sentence than infringement of a registered trade mark but it does require a higher level of evidence to prove that the mark being ‘passed off’ has meant the brand has developed an established reputation and the use has caused damage to the original brand.
In addition to any intellectual property rights you need to be aware of, you also need to be sure that what you are posting on social media about other businesses and brands is factually correct and cannot come back to bite you.
A part of any business’s social media campaign is not only self-promotion but also showing that their product or service is better than that of any other competitor.
This is common practise, but that does not mean it is an opportunity to criticise and bad-mouth any close competitor.
If you make any comment on any form of social media that has a detrimental impact on another business’s reputation, you may be subject to a case of defamation. If the statement is untrue, and is likely to, or has caused serious harm to the business, it will be deemed defamatory and will have serious consequences on you and your brand.
Not only will it hurt the competitor’s reputation but it will also damage yours, as many consumers will be put off of a brand that has been involved in such activity.
– Criminal offences
Not only do you need to be clear of the civil actions that you can take and can be taken against you, there are also a number of criminal offences which you need to be aware of.
These apply to more serious actions on social media which will have more serious consequences. Any actions that result in a criminal penalty will affect not only your business, but could also affect you personally. If your actions are deemed to be serious enough, you could receive a prison sentence.
There are a number of offences that could be relevant, however the main one is bad-mouthing a competitor on social media.
The Malicious Communications Act 1988 states that if any communications are made (including social media messages) that include a threat, false information or an offensive message which is intended to cause distress or anxiety to the receiver, the sender will be guilty of a criminal offence.
If these messages are continued over a period of time, the offence could escalate to a case of harassment. This obviously carries more serious consequences and can result in a five-year prison sentence.
– Actions to take
If you have been subject to any of the above offences, which have occurred on social media, there are a number of actions which you can pursue in order to attempt to prevent any further damage.
There are a wide range of actions available and so deciding which one to take will depend on your situation. If you have a limited budget or need a resolution quickly, certain actions are better than others.
There is also the issue of being able to directly contact the person who may be committing the act and holding them accountable. As social media is through the internet, connection can be made between people on opposite sides of the world. To take an action further, the person needs to be freely available to take account for their actions.
A simple way of dealing with social media content which either harasses you, defames your character or infringes your intellectual property rights is by utilising a take-down notice.
Many social media platforms have systems in place that allow you to report any post or message that have a detrimental effect on your business or your character. You can request for the post to be reviewed and subsequently taken down if there is any wrongdoing, and for the platform to warn the guilty party of their actions.
However, if the problem is ongoing, then a more hard-hitting solution may be a better option.
By taking a case to court, you need to be sure that you have an adequate argument as well as the resources to see it through.
Civil litigation is expensive and time-consuming, thus any action ought to be a last resort.
The best action to take if you want to permanently prevent the person from posting about you and your business again is to pursue an injunction. This again, though, should only be considered as a last resort.
For more guidance on how to deal with detrimental posts on social media that are having an effect on your business or for clarification on how you should be acting on social media, feel free to contact Lawdit Solicitors.
– Norwich Pharmacal Orders
You may have built the most robust social media presence and have all the best intentions of upholding it but if you are damaged by a third party that cannot be identified, you may think that all is lost.
You are wrong!
This is where Norwich Pharmacal Orders step in.
Many requests for the identification of an individual who has been interfering with your social media are refused due to the stringent Data Protection Act 1998. This could create a barrier between you and justice.
Norwich Pharmacal Orders destroys that barrier.
A Norwich Pharmacal Order is an Order which requires that a third party who is ‘mixed up’ in the wrongdoing (even if innocently) discloses information as to the identity of the wrongdoer. This is a way to bypass the need to comply with data protection regulations and obtain their identity legally.
To obtain an order, an application must be submitted to the High Court and three requirements must be satisfied. Firstly, it must be shown that an act of wrongdoing has been committed by the wrongdoer whose identity you are seeking. Secondly, there must be a need for the order, the most common need being the inability to obtain identification information. Thirdly, the order needs to be made against a person who is able to disclose the information regarding the wrongdoer’s identity if it were not for data protection regulations. Therefore, your case would not be against the anonymous damage maker at first, instead the Order would be put to the person who knows their identity but cannot release it.
In most scenarios, this is the host platform through which the anonymous person has interfered with your social media.
Lawdit Solicitors can guide and support you through this whole process, applying our knowledge and experience to ensure you have the outcome which you desire. Not only will we act in your best interests and in line with your instructions, we will also be at your beck and call at any time to offer some guidance to put to bed any concerns that you may have.
At Lawdit, our customers are at the forefront of any action we take and this includes the successful obtainment of Norwich Pharmacal Orders.
Please contact us to start proceedings and bring those hidden behind their screens to justice.