It's easy to forget that Facebook has only been open to the general public (provided they are over 13) since the last quarter of 2006. On top of this, the changing ways in which people are using this and other social media, driven partly by the relatively recent surge in smartphone usage, means that businesses are regularly needing to update their marketing strategies. This may go some way to explaining why many clients ask us to advise them not only on the legal issues around marketing via social media, but also on the practical methods for managing both the legal and reputational risks of this ever-changing marketing channel.
Managing user comments – especially negative ones - is understandably a key concern for most clients. Approaches will depend on the social media platform in question, but in all cases where users will be able to post content or comments, it is crucial to consider how (and by whom) the business' page(s) will be monitored and what approach to take to moderating posts. Recent developments in the law affecting the liability of online intermediaries have shown that taking the right approach to monitoring user content can be crucial to protecting businesses from unexpected liability. In terms of brand risk, consistency is key, especially for high profile businesses. For example, a corporate Facebook page that allows open discussion one week and deletes unwanted comments the next can find itself committing social media suicide in PR terms.
Of course, social media marketing isn't all about managing risks and adverse comments – it is about building a closer relationship with customers. And like any relationship, things work better if everyone knows where they stand from the outset.