Steven Spielberg – “Social media has taken over in America to such an extreme that to get my own kids to look back a week in their history is a miracle, let alone 100 years”
This guide explains exactly what is meant by ‘social media’ as well as in what forms it can take shape. This will allow you to get a better grasp of it as a concept before considering it in its many forms for your business.
While social media has been described in many ways, the consensus is that any online platform that encourages and supports communication in a community or collaborative way is deemed as a social media outlet. The majority are created to allow quick and easy content sharing.
Types of social media
Due to the nature of the beast, social media in evolving all the time so cannot be completely categorised, however there are some clear groups in which the majority of established social media platforms can fit into.
As technology develops and the internet grows stronger and more prominent every day, it has never been a more important time for businesses to become IT savvy.
A big part of the internet’s power, is its ability to give immediate and flawless connection between people on the other side of the globe or those who speak a different language.
Connection and communication is the key to the growth of a successful business. Developed in recent years, social media has become the most effective way to get this connection.
Therefore, it is important that as a growing business, you understand and get a full grasp on social media and how you can use it to your advantage.
It is important to get social media right as it is the storefront of your business. Therefore,
we suggest that you do not get overwhelmed by creating numerous sites. We recommend
sticking between two to three making it manageable so you can clearly present your
message to the world.
It is the key to unlock your growing future and make the most of any networking opportunities.
This will give you all the information you will need to be a social media master, from exactly what it is, in what forms it comes as well as existing platforms that can get you a step above the rest.
Lawdit, as a firm, are on the cusp of technology and are here to guide and support you through any issues you may have and can help make you and your business social media savvy.
It is first important that you get to grips with what exactly social media is and forms it can take. Once you have developed your social media, you need to be clear on how to behave online and possible offences that could occur.
Social media can be the ultimate tool to promote a business and ensure it reaches all
potential customers. With these benefits there are pitfalls.
As social media is always developing; users and business owners alike need to be aware that every post stays with you. Poorly thought-out or insensitive posts could cause detriment to your business even if it is unintentional. Here at Lawdit we can deal with any legal implications your posts can incur.
Intellectual property infringement
You need to be sure when making any references on social media that you are not infringing other’s intellectual property.
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 included 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 © sign as this indicates that a person is clear on their copyright protection. Conversly, if you have an original work that you are using on your social media, it will be worth attaching the sign so others can see it cannot be used by them.
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 any third party from using your brand which has built up a reputation 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 brought against 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 built 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 infringement, especially on social media.
Therefore, be vigilant when creating social media posts, and always be your own brand.
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 still be committing the common law offence of passing off.
If consumers are being misled to believe your posts are originating from other 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 high level of evidence to prove that the mark being ‘passed off’ have developed an established reputation and the use has caused damage to this.
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 your product or service is better than any other competitor.
While this is common practise, it is not an opportunity to criticise and bad mouth any close competitor.
If you make any comment on any form of social media that has an impact on another business’s reputation in a detrimental way, you may be subject to a case of defamation. If the statement is untrue and is likely to or has caused serious harm, 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 not cast you in the best light as many consumers will be put off of a brand that has been involved in malicious activity.
Not only do you need to be clear of the civil actions that you can take and can be taken against you, there is also a number of criminal offences you need to be aware of.
These apply to more continued and serious actions on social media as they have more serious consequences. Any actions that result in a criminal penalty with personally effect you, not just your business. You could potentially receive a prison sentence if your actions are serious.
There are a number of offences that could be relevant, however the main one in respect of bad mouthing a competitor on social media.
Under the Malicious Communications Act 1988, if any communications, which include social media messages, are made 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 imprisonment 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 you can to try and prevent any further damage.
There are a wide range of actions you can pursue; however, this will of course depend on your situation. If you have a limited budget or need a resolution quickly, certain actions may not be the best choice.
There is also the issue of being able to directly contact the person who may be committing the act and hold 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 to dealing with social media content that harasses you, defames your character or infringes your intellectual property rights is by making a take-down notice.
If you report the post it will be reviewed by the social media company. They will come to a conclusion and hopefully take down and warn the poster 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; therefore any action needs to the 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.
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 online 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 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 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, the Order would be put to the person who hold the information of their identity but cannot release it.
In most scenarios, this is the host platform through which the anonymous person has infringed 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 you wish for. Not only will we act on your behalf 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 or an ear to calm concerns.
At Lawdit, our customers are at the forefront of any action we take and this includes the successful obtainment of Norwich Pharmacal Orders.
Arguably the most popular social media, Facebook will give you the ability to connect with clients, 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.
Kids love it, parents hate it or it scares them so much they don’t want to know what little Johnny or Johnette is doing! Snapchat is the mobile app that allows users to capture videos and pictures that will disappear after a few seconds.
A sister platform to Facebook, Instagram’s focus is photos and the sharing of these. They also have now 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.
The most well-known business focussed social media, 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.
Another site that has blossomed in recent years, you will not find any successful business that does not have a presence on Twitter. It is a way to instantly connect with customers and other companies, allowing you to give updates or information in 140 characters or less.
This site allows you to create a free blog where you are open to submit any content you wish in whatever form. This is a great way to connect with consumers and develop a good bond with them.
Social media guidelines
Once you are clear on how to use social media to promote your business, it is important that you also pass on this knowledge to your employees. Anyone who will be a representative of your business needs to be sure on how to act to ensure they do not damage your brand.
These guidelines apply when using social media for marketing, public relations, corporate communications, recruiting activities or when someone is acting as an ambassador for your business. Follow these guideline policies to ensure your team are social media savvy.
Your level of expertise should be reflected in your online postings and the postings should be limited to your area of knowledge. The context and what others have said should be reviewed, this is to ensure that you contribute in an appropriate manner. Where possible and appropriate please try to link to colleagues’ postings. This should ensure that we are building and maximising our online presence.
Be engaging and interactive
Please write in first person. If you feel comfortable share information that others would find interesting this is to increase appeal to others. When blogging or posting about the company please identify your connection with the company and what your role is within the company. We are aiming to create a dialogue to learn from others who are doing similar things.
Before posing please identify the value of your contribution, this could be solving problems or answering questions for our customers or peers, adding to a sense of community around the company or improving the company’s image.
Respond to your mistakes quickly
If you have made a mistake in your post act quickly to fix it, the credibility of the company is judged by the accuracy and willingness to recognise and fix mistakes, if modifying a post be upfront about it.
Do not be argumentative
Being argumentative will not only look bad on the company but also yourself, if you choose to disagree remain respectful and objective. If speaking negatively about a competitor, stick to the facts to make your point.
Do not post anything that may be offensive to others, please bear in mind that talk of religion, culture or politics can easily offend others.
Respect and comply with the terms of the sites you visit
Consequences of failure to observe these guidelines
Failure to follow these guidelines, particularly if your actions could expose the company to liability, will be subject to the appropriate disciplinary procedures, in extremely serious cases could result in termination of your employment at the company.