Social media could affect your firm
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Merging social media, business and the law could boost your business (Illustration: Sylwia Szyszka)
A survey by YouGov showed that only one in eight small businesses turn to a solicitor to solve a legal problem. As a lawyer, I find this shocking, so here are my top 10 tips on managing your business, media and the law.
1. TWITTER DON’TS
Someone reponsible must manage a company’s Twitter account. The Sally Bercow vs Lord McAlpine case should be a lesson to all in “Twitter libel”.
Be cautious or a tweet could become a very costly customer relations disaster.
2. SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY
Companies are waking up to the fact that employees are socially active and capable of being brand ambassadors and brand detractors.
A company-wide social media policy with guidelines on confidential and proprietary information will mitigate risk and ensure that observance becomes a condition of an employee’s contract.
3. REGISTERING IP
Logos, inventions and brand identity are forms of intellectual property (IP) .
If IP protection — from registering domain names to trade marks —will protect your brand, long-term benefits will outweigh short-term costs.
An owner can enforce IP rights and put the company in a stronger commercial position.
4. DOMAIN NAMES
Protect your brand by registering a domain name that is relevant to your business. Don’t forget about other suffixes in addition to the “.com” address.
5. ONLINE ADVERTISING
Online advertising is growing fast so stay on the right side of the Advertising Standards Authority.
Make sure your brand is not misleading or advertising anything illegal.
Remember to add the fine print. Make sure you state who qualifies for your offer. This will ensure you are not misleading members of the public.
6. GET IT IN WRITING
If you’re instructing an agency to create an app, a website, or an online ad design, make sure you specify that the copyright is owned by you.
With anything that is designed by a third party, there is always the potential for a dispute over ownership.
7. ACT SWIFTLY
If your company issues a misleading statement — deal with the issue immediately. If you cannot fulfil an order because of inaccurate advertisement, then refund payment straight away.
If a complaint is about using another’s IP without permission, remove it to help protect you from claims.
8. TERMS OF ENGAGEMENT
If you operate an e-commerce website, have a set of terms to cover liability issues — for instance, you might be liable to compensate visitors who suffer loss from a virus on your site.
9. RISKY BUSINESS
Engaging in any business through a limited liability entity is cleaner and generally smarter than putting yourself personally on the front line.
Weigh up the advantages and disadvantages, such as, limited liability, costs in filing and paying advisers and taxes, and the fact that you will be obliged to publicise your company and financial information.
10. FUNDING YOUR BUSINESS
It is important to be clear as to what you need from an investor. There is nothing more appealing to an investor than a solid business plan fronted by a driven and focused team who could be described as “investible”.
This article provides general guidance for which the JC is not responsible.