Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Does Your Social Media Policy REALLY Protect Your Dealership? (You DO Have One, Right?)

Chances are, since you’re reading this post, your dealership or company is involved in social media. That’s good - it’s hard to imagine how difficult it will be moving forward for organizations that have not embraced social networking. Although Social Media is relatively new (and certainly exciting), its meteoric growth has unfortunately caught the early attention of the legal powers-that-be.

Despite the widespread use and misuse of social networking at work, 45 percent of all businesses still do not have a social media policy. Many of the policies that companies are using do not adequately address potential legal issues. Regulators have been bringing complaints against companies arising from their social media activity, thus, highlighting the need for companies to demonstrate that they are exercising due diligence to promote legal and ethical conduct in the context of social media activity.

No surprisingly, plaintiff’s attorneys have also jumped on the bandwagon. Companies are being sued regularly by employees and others based on social media use. Beyond legal risks, employees can harm a company’s reputation by disseminating controversial or inappropriate comments regarding the employer or its business activities.

There are a number of legal considerations that every company should be aware of when establishing their social media policies and procedures, such as social media use in employment decisions; posting of online reviews, testimonials and endorsements; ‘fake’ and paid-for reviews; advertising on social media; potential overtime claims; harassment, discrimination and defamation claims; copyright and privacy issues; sweepstakes and contests laws; and CAN-SPAM requirements.

It's more important than ever to craft a policy that's both practical and legally defensible. You can protect yourself by insisting that participants in your social media programs comply with the law and training them how to do it. The Federal Trade Commission specifically says these steps may limit potential liability and will be considered in any prosecution. According to FTC guidelines, “The Commission agrees that the establishment of appropriate procedures would warrant consideration in its decision as to whether law enforcement action would be an appropriate use of agency resources. The Commission is not aware of any instance in which an enforcement action was brought against a company for the actions of a single ‘rogue’ employee who violated established company policy that adequately covered the conduct in question.”

So, if you have a social media policy in place, it may be time to dust it off and re-evaluate it. If you don’t have a policy, it’s time to get started. For information on how to easily and inexpensively develop a social media policy that will help build your brand and protect your dealership, follow this link: http://www.dealercomplianceconsultants.com/socialmedia.html.