Social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, along with blogs, forums, wikis, podcasts, and more, greatly expands the ability of creative agencies to advertise and promote brands. But the very interconnectivity of social media, coupled with the fact that it is virtually impossible to completely remove content once it’s been posted on the Internet, also ramps up the legal risks.
Generally, the law treats digital advertising and marketing through social media in the same way as traditional print and TV media. The Federal Trade Commission, along with state agencies, enforces laws prohibiting false advertising and other deceptive or misleading conduct regardless of where or how it is published.
Social sites generally have contractual agreements, such as privacy policies, community use guidelines, and licensing arrangements, and your use of these sites binds you to their terms, which are not negotiable. Even though the FTC is the primary authority on online privacy and security issues, the U.S. does not have a federal data privacy and security law, so states have stepped in with various regulations, making it more difficult to know if you are engaging in prohibited behavior.
- Consult with your attorney and create a social media policy for your agency. Identify acceptable and unacceptable online activities and spell out consequences for breaking the rules. Train your staff on how to use social sites responsibly to minimize your exposure to liability claims and then enforce your policy consistently to give it teeth. See this Advertising Age article for tips on creating a social media policy that does not violate federal law.
- Keep up with evolving state privacy laws. Over two-dozen privacy laws were passed in more than 10 states in 2013 alone, creating a patchwork of guidelines and making compliance more difficult, particularly for agencies with clients in multiple states.
- For more on social networking privacy issues, visit this Privacy Rights Clearinghouse page.