Social media can be a small-business owner’s gold mine–or the worst enemy. These mistakes can leave your business with some SERIOUS problems.
Social media is a key component of any small business’ marketing efforts. To get know. To get seen. To find new customers. When done well, a social strategy helps your business connect directly with customers, with the potential of creating a good will among others.
As in anything on the internet, for all the power and potential of social media, there are pitfalls as well. The internet can look like a cavalier place when it comes to copyright rules, but there are plenty of no-nos that you need to follow if you want to stay out of legal trouble. To make matters worse, now attorney’s have built their own system prowling the internet, looking for images that match their clients and then send out demand letters that can run into the the thousands of dollars for a single photo or graphic.
So how do you avoid this problem. Here are 7 of the most common errors I have seen:
1. Using photos without permission
At Multimedia Designs, I have worked with a LOT of small business owners who only recently stared using sites such as Instagram and google to find graphics. The dangers of just downloading and using verses asking for permission.
Permissions work differently for businesses on the internet than individuals, however. Any time you use a photo on social media, you must make sure that you have permission from the owner of the image.
Most business will be happy to allow you to use their photos as long as you ask politely and give them some kind of credit or link. Some may ask you for a license fee in exchange, which you can work out on a case-by-case basis. The same holds true for individuals as well–even if you took the photo yourself, you have to make sure that the person photographed is okay with you using their likeness. This is especially true, with professional photos, where models may have been used and royalties are legally required for use of their likeness.
2. Not getting reviewers permission
Just because someone mentioned your brand or took a great photo of your product doesn’t mean you’re allowed to repost their content, though, since it’s their intellectual property.
Before you “repost” that awesome pic of your product on Instagram, post a quick reply and thank the original poster for the praise. Then ask if they’re okay with the company re-using their original post. Once you’ve gotten the go-ahead, be sure to clearly label that the photo and accompanying text came from the original user, and tag them in your post.
3. Using logos or other copyrighted materials
If you’ve found the perfect inspiration for your logo, and it’s already in use by another company, you’re going to have to keep looking.
It doesn’t matter if the name or logo is for a company in a different country–their intellectual property claim still holds up (so long as they’re copyrighted and patented these items). If you truly want to take inspiration from another company’s logo, work with a graphic designer who can help you pinpoint which parts of the design you like.
4. Not identifying paid influencer posts
Influencer advertising can be a great way for companies to spread their message. Influencers promote products and brands in exchange for free goods or a sum of money. They can help drive their social following to your brand’s social channels, or to your website.
Make sure that your influencers always mark that their post is sponsored by your company, or that they received free products in exchange. Companies are just as liable to punitive actions as the individuals doing the posting.
5. Talking Negative about your competitors
It’s tempting for brands to look at industry-leading companies’ social media handles and try to emulate their tactics. Some brands like to live on the edge by replying to comments with sarcastic remarks, or jabs at their competitors, but they also have a team of lawyers to protect them.
The best rule of thumb for social media is to never post something you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying out loud. If you would never consider walking into your competitors’ shop and saying something to the owner, I say don’t post it on the internet.
6. Not posting contest terms and conditions
Contest are a wonderful way to get attentions. Give some product away in the hopes of gaining more public exposure. But giveaways and contest on social media still have to follow the same rules and regulations as their offline counterparts. Thus it is extremely important that you specify the terms and conditions, clearly posted in order to participate in those contest.
7. Attacking Negative Reviews
It is tempting. A customer does not like your product or service. What do you want to do is delete it or lash back. DON’T. This is where you have to rise above the attack and in the process you turn a negative into a positive, showing how you work with customers. Respond with a positive, that you are sorry for the experience and ask them to reach out and contact you. In this way, others will release you are not going to be negative and hostile to work with.
Plus a social media page that looks “perfect”, also looks unreal.
Social media is a fantastic resource for small business. Economical and allows you to compete against the giant brands on a equal footing. But it is also too easy to make avoidable mistakes that can do more harm, destroying the pluses.