More and more companies are taking to blogging and social media to promote their services or business. While this is an extremely effective way to provide low-cost marketing for your business, the risk of running into trouble rises if you're not aware of potential legal pitfalls. With the excitement of new avenues to promote services, freelancers and self-employed individuals can get caught up and forget about basic legals rules. To help you avoid some of the more common pitfalls, take a look at these five legal tips every freelancer should know about blogging and social media.
1. Be aware of copyright infringement
With social sharing at an all time high, it makes sense that copyright infringement would be a huge issue for bloggers and artists. Those images that you are grabbing and posting on your Facebook timeline to get more likes – chances are they are copyright protected. The best way to make sure you're protected is to only use material that you've created yourself, that you've paid for or have written permission to use. In addition, you'll also need a policy on how you plan on removing copyrighted material from your site. Keep in mind you could be targeted from someone else posting copyrighted material on the comments area of your website or your social media profiles.
2. Don't use a customer's or company's name for promotion without their permission.
3. Understand defamation
One mistake many bloggers make is using their blog as a venting tool. While it's certainly okay to vent, you need to ensure that any derogatory statements you make against someone or another company are clearly represented as your opinion. If something can be proved as false and is harmful to a person's reputation, then it would be considered defamation. The best practice is to practice a little restraint. Remember, if you don't have anything nice to say, you probably shouldn't be saying it anyway.
4, Avoid fake reviews and misleading statements
The Federal Trade Commission has fairly strict rules regarding blogging and endorsements and testimonials. For instance, if you receive a free product for review, if you review it on your site, as a general rule, you will need to disclose this relationship. The same goes for fake reviews or endorsements on review sites or within your own website. For more information about this area, tHe FTC has put together thorough guide to review endorsements.
5. Understand the terms and conditions of third-party sites you use.
Every company has different rules and regulations regarding using their services. It pays to take the view extra minutes to read through them before you find yourself with shut down accounts and even worse, facing a lawsuit. With the number of third-party sites in use today, it really makes good common sense to be aware of these restrictions. For instance, did you know…
- On Twitter – If you follow significantly more people than follow you, your account could be flagged as a spammer and possibly terminated?
- On Facebook Pages – If you post your contact information in your cover photo your account could be removed?
- On MailChimp – If you promote affiliate products your account could be shut down and you lose access to your email subscribers?
What are your thoughts on this topic? I'd love to hear them in the comments section below!