Social media and your company

The risks and rewards of your company having a presence on social media sites.

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Social media and your company
By  Ziad Choueiri Published  October 17, 2010

Companies in this day and age are constantly looking to take advantage of the growing number of media portals and opportunities to make themselves available online. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and a plethora of others, provide valuable forums for a company to promote itself, obtain market information on their customers and clients and important feedback on how to better improve their products and services.

But is all of this good news? Would exposing your company online through such forums provide you with what you’re looking for, or would it open you up to public criticism and debate? If it does what are your legal rights and how would protect yourselves from any derogatory or defaming statements?

Social media sites are forums where the public are free to share and express their opinions on a number of topics, in particular products and services. The sites are often unregulated, save for mass complaints or acts of personal defamation against individuals. Conversely, companies may not be privileged to certain laws of protection against defamatory remarks in many jurisdictions. And there in itself lies the greatest legal challenge, jurisdiction.

Online social sites are global in nature and as such regulating what is said and posted in different jurisdictions bears separate rights and courses of action. As a result of this, should a company dewcide to expose itself online, constant monitoring of the information and posts made need to made. Managing this information is crucial to reducing legal costs and liabilities.

A good example involves a very large international household brand who are constantly criticised by the public for certain corporate decisions made effecting the less fortunate for capital gain. This corporation decided that establishing a Facebook page would allow them to tap into the market and feel the public’s pulse on their policies and boost their public relations and advertising exposure.

Unfortunately this resulted in a backlash with thousands of posts condemning their corporate decisions being posted all over their wall. Even when having posted achievements that they believed the public would appreciate, these were ignored and the remarks kept growing and the more the corporation attempted to answer the allegations the more they exposed themselves. At this point an individual may well have the right to take legal action for defamation, providing the information posted lacked evidence and/or was in its essence false. However, firms do not share this privilege.

This exposure resulted in the corporation having to make numerous public apologies and tried to desperately turn around a situation that was to be of benefit to them.  So how did this happen? Why did they not seek some sort of legal recourse? Their first mistake was to decide to open a social media site without implementing the right regulatory procedures. The public inundated them with their opinions and they were slow to react to mitigate the exposure.

At this point the only option would be to diligently maintain the site and remove any remarks that may be deemed negative in nature. As the site itself, like many other social media sites, did not impose any restrictions on what can and cannot be published the corporation’s legal rights to file cases would have more than just jurisdictional problems. The cost for filing cases, the negative PR that the case itself may generate and raising awareness in the wider public’s eye about the problem/statement in question may all result in far worse repercussions than a posting on a social site.

Rather than chasing an individual for a comment that could have been removed, monitoring the site and removing remarks would be far more efficient.

Ziad Choueri is a lawyer at The Rights Lawyers.

2838 days ago

Dear Ziad,
Thanks for an interesting article.
If a company uses social media then they have to accept all what is being said, be it negative as well as positive remarks. Thats the price of exposure.

2966 days ago

Great article, hope to read sooon more...

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