Social media represents significant marketing benefits to businesses; offering potentially vast exposure with minimal overhead. However, like any investment, returns will often carry risk. Gone are the days when a business' social media concerns related to the how productivity was affected through its employee's use of Facebook and Twitter at work. Now, more and more businesses are recognising the potential benefits in integrating with social media. This increased use also carries a variety of separate legal issues that businesses must address.
Integrating social media into websites
Most internet users will have had some exposure to social media. Whether as a member of a social media site, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, or via features available on websites they have visited. It is not uncommon for online newspapers to include an option for readers to "Share" or "Tweet" the content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites. Similarly, many businesses offer customers a chance to "Like" their page or product, through Facebook. However, there are many other features that may be incorporated into your website. Before incorporating any features into your website, you must turn your mind to some critical issues.
How do you intend to use the social media feature?
Do the terms allow you to use the feature as intended?
Perhaps one of the main attractions to incorporating social media into your site is that such use is generally free. However, some sites provide for circumstances where payment may be required while others provide a warning that use of their sites may not always remain free.
Can the terms change?
These terms are subject to change at the discretion of the social network provider. Changes can occur very quickly and frequently (for example, weekly) and there is no limitation on the extent of any changes. This represents a risk to businesses that include social media in their websites, as a change to the terms could cause your investment in using the application to be lost. Therefore, businesses must be vigilant in monitoring the changes and ensuring continued compliance with the amended terms. Businesses must also evaluate how easily they can cease using the social media feature in the event that the termschange in a manner that is adverse to the business.
Can you negotiate a separate licence with the social media provider?
Where the social media providers' terms prevent your intended use of the relevant feature, you may need to seek a separate agreement with the provider to allow your proposed use. Where a separate licence is negotiated, you will not be limited to the general terms and can more specifically address the manner that you intend to use the social media features. You may also consider this approach where the risk associated with a change to the terms is high. However, ultimately there is no obligation on the social media provider to enter into such an agreement.
Where to from here?
If your business is contemplating incorporating social media into its websites, ensure that you review the social media providers' terms and, where in doubt, seek legal advice on how those terms will apply to you.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.