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Using social media? Know your legal risks

An Article in  the SMH MySmallBusiness - Using social media? Know your legal risks

If one of your employees posted a dodgy comment on Facebook, or a customer tweeted a false claim against your business, would you know your legal rights?

The benefits of social media are becoming increasingly obvious to many SMEs, but the medium comes with its own array of risks - unless you develop a robust media policy and thorough staff training, experts say......

Reputation is everything

Vivienne Storey, general manager of law firm BlandsLaw, agrees that staff training is key to mitigating not only legal risks, but also the risk of damaging or ruining a business' reputation.

“Social media is just another tool – and just like driving a car, you need rules to make it safe to use," says Storey.

"Businesses have to understand that social media is a very public medium and that what's said on social media platforms is permanent. Smart companies educate their staff about this and once people understand that, there's usually a shift in the way it's used.”

Storey says it's essential for every business to develop a social media policy and highlight privacy and confidentiality issues to staff.

“As the laws in this area are still developing, it's important to have an ongoing discussion about what the company's policy is,” she says.

Storey uses BlandsLaw's own social media policy as an example.

“Our policy is very free. We allow staff to access social media at any time during work hours and everyone here is allowed to talk on behalf of the organisation and about the organisation. But there are only six of us in the firm. If you're a larger business, you probably don't want everyone to talk on behalf of the business,” she says.

“Social media is just a tool, but it is a high risk, high benefit tool. What's important is trying to help people understand how to manage those risks through education and clear policies.”

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