As an entrepreneur, there are a number of key concerns you’ll want to consider when marketing via social media. Let’s think about those…
- Who Controls Your Social Media Accounts?
- If you contract out or have an employee run your social, think about what protections and policies you want to have in place.
- Will the account interact with the public? If so, how? Some brands choose to be very interactive on social media. This can be engaging but it can also cause problems if the account goes “off brand.” Make clear what expectations you have for those running your social media accounts.
- Respecting the Intellectual Property and Personality Rights of Others
- Avoid using materials, brand names, logos, or slogans which infringe the copyright or trademark rights of others.
- Not only because of the legal risks but also because social media sites can suspend an account if they believe intellectual property infringement is occurring through it.
- There are protections for personality rights in statute (in some provinces) and at common law. Avoid exploiting an identifiable person’s name, likeness, voice etc. to suggest an endorsement for a commercial purpose unless they’ve agreed to endorse your product.
- Use of Celebrities or Influencers
- Consider what’s expected of the endorser:
- # of posts
- the content of the post
- what are they to be paid?
- what if they do wrong?
- All advertising, including on social media, needs to be truthful. In Canada, it’s illegal to make representations in advertising that are “false or misleading in a material respect.” Presuming your social media posts will reach an audience in the United States, you’ll also want to consider US law.
- To stay within the law, you’ll likely need to disclose that the posts are paid advertisements. This could take the form of including hashtags like “#ad” or “#sponsored.”
- Pay attention to recent communications from the Competition Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission as expectations of those advertising on social media are constantly evolving.
- Social Media Contests Also Raise Issues
- Online contests need to be operated in accordance with contest law in the jurisdiction where they are held.
- In Canada, consider the requirements of the Competition Act, the Criminal Code and Québec’s Rules respecting publicity contests (if applicable).
- Also consider what rules the social media platforms you’re using have (age restrictions, interactions with the platform, liability etc.). If you don’t follow these rules your contest could be removed from the platform prematurely.
Social media marketing can be a valuable tool to develop your business but you’ll want to approach it carefully and deliberately. This includes having training/guidelines in place and revisiting those guidelines on a regular basis or when a new social media platform emerges.
Patience Omokhodion | Partner, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP