A Review of the Legalities of Social Media

By Account Management Intern Brandon Singletary

Last week, Dorsey McFadden, Sarah Murphy and I had the pleasure of attending the Richmond PRSA Luncheon at the Lakeside Country Club. Speaker Chris Fortier spoke about “Legalities of Social Media” and he sits on the Board of Governors for the Virginia State Bar Young Lawyers Conference as the Professional Development Liaison.

Chris’s presentation focused on social media laws and how organizations need to have a strategy in place for their social media platforms, which will allow for consistency in their messaging. In order for an organization to take full advantage of opportunities on social media, it’s necessary to invest time, money and resources in monitoring and building its platforms. As a means of doing so, organizations should establish procedures for employees and guidelines pertaining to its uses.

Managing expectations on social media is another necessity Chris touched on and setting expectations will allow for integration of your company’s social media procedures across all platforms. This consistency will allow for the organization to conduct yearly evaluations of the success of their campaigns and allow for further evaluation of the policies that they put in place.

Guidelines should also be set and should clearly explain who owns the posted content and who owns the social media account and its usage. As a rule of thumb, personal and professional accounts and content should remain separate. Content for these sites should always be sourced if ideas aren’t originally from the organization. Monitoring of content is essential to protecting the organization from any copyright infringement. Always keep in mind that once content is out there, it can’t be retracted. As Chris stated in his presentation, “if you can’t do it in real life, don’t do it on social media.”

In times of negative content, consider leaving room for conversation. This will foster deeper relationships with your public and show that your organization is listening. With the changing regulation of social media platforms, especially in Virginia where oral contracts carry just as much leverage as those that are written in the courts, one must remember that amenity is gone, all information can be subpoenaed and nothing is off limits. It’s good to keep in mind that anything posted from a company computer is subject to varying audit situations. Also, organizations should remain mindful of the LinkedIn endorsements they post for their personnel can be used against the organization in times where the endorsed employee is discharged.

So in a nutshell, the rules of law when operating on various social media platforms include:

1. Share your social media plans with your personnel

2. Plan to figure out ownership of content and the platforms used

3. Use the laws as a basis for moderation of content on your social media sites

4. Always think before you post!