On Monday evening, Oct. 22, the #SocialChat community on Twitter gathered to discuss the legal considerations businesses must keep in mind when using social media. Our guest expert, David Adler (@AdlerLaw), is an attorney, author and entrepreneur with a multidisciplinary practice focused on intellectual property, media and entertainment law. He keeps his community up to date on legal news at his blog AdlerLaw.
Q1 @adlerlaw Is there a difference in how the law views individual vs brands use of Social Media?
David: Yes and no, both are responsible for what is said or posted. A brand is subject to Truth in Advertising Requirements. A person is responsible for not making defamatory statement (false accusation or publication of private fact)
Q2 @adlerlaw How can brands protect themselves from what their employees say on Social Media?
David: Have a Social Media Policy; but that’s not as easy as it sounds! In the US, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled almost every single social media policy it has reviewed as unlawful. Even more important than having a policy in place, train employees on how to properly use social media. Employees are brand ambassadors, therefore companies have to be very specific about what is allowed, what channels may be used,what tone to take, how to respond to flames, etc. The trick is to balance protection of company Intellectual Property, Brands, and secrets with the employees’ rights to discuss employers, other employees, and the work environment.
The NLRB has published 3 memos discussing social media policies. They have also published their legal decision in ruling on Costco’s policy.
Q3 @adlerlaw who owns SoMe accounts/Post & how can brands protect themselves when an employee leaves?
David: Ownership of social media accounts is tricky because it’s public info. This includes tweets, followers, or who one is following. To protect company social media accounts, treat the login and password info as a trade secret or proprietary information of the employer in those situations where the employee is using the account on behalf of the employer, as opposed to personal.
Q4 @adlerlaw Can you share specific precedents that show the consequences of in proper use of SoMe?
David: An issue for Labatt’s immediately comes to mind. They sent a nastygram to a newspaper that ran a photo of a serial killer holding a Labatt’s. The story went viral and was exponentially more damaging than the original photo. There was also a guy in ad firm who posted bad comments about client on his personal Twitter account. His personal tweets got him fired, and the advertising firm lost the contract with that client. How a brand responds can be WAY more damaging that the perceived slight.
Q5 @adlerlaw What are some key items to address in a corporate Employee Social Media Policy?
David: Definitions and Examples; Make sure Employees understand what should be protected and why. Blanket prohibitions without guiding context will be deemed unlawful.
Be sure to follow the hashtag live on Twitter next Monday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern as we discusses the best use of hashtags on Twitter with special guest, Linda Bernstein (@wordwhacker).