Social media's marketing appeal can also be its biggest drawback: anything your small business posts could reach thousands of people. And that's certainly a good thing so long as everything goes according to plan. But what about the instances when you write something you wish you could take back? Or worse, what about when someone else hacks into your business's social media account and poses as your company?
It's times like these that a broader audience means you have to redouble your damage control efforts. Though small business insurance can cover a number of social media missteps and cyber damages, it's still important to understand the risks you face every time you log in.
Can You Be Held Accountable for What Others Say on Social Media?
Consider this scenario: you let an employee operate your business's social media account. But at some point during the day, someone comments on the company's status, saying your business doesn't hold a candle to your competitor. In a rush to defend your business's honor, your employee scribes a lengthy response to the comment, and in the process, inadvertently drags the competitor's name through the mud. The disparaging remarks are spread all over Facebook, and Buzzfeed even compiles a list of screenshots of the most incriminating posts. By the end of the day, your company is caught up in a viral, libelous scandal.
The worst part is that these public mistakes happen all too often, thanks to the accessibility of social networks. At best, your company's reputation would suffer from the faux pas. At worst, the competitor could sue your business for libel.
The important thing to keep in mind is that you could be held liable for whatever happens on your business's social media account. This includes…
- Libelous posts written by your employees.
- False offers / inflammatory remarks posted by your former employees under your business's account.
- Content that hackers post through your account (such as false claims about sales, promotions, or other offerings).
Though it may seem unlikely that a hacker would take over your business's social media account just to stir up a little chaos, it's not unheard of. And if they post false claims about sales or promotions, you may be responsible for following through on those promises.
How to Mitigate the Risk of a Social Media Hack
Though the social media hacks and mistakes can lead to revenue losses and costly lawsuits, your business can take steps to minimize its chances of facing these events. Consider the following tips to keep your business out of harm's way on social networking sites:
- Create and enforce a social media policy. Tailor your plan to your company's specific needs, its social media accounts, and its risks. Be sure you train your employees on the policy so they understand what they can and can't do online. Social media platforms change quickly, so be sure your policy is always up to date to reflect these changes and emerging sites.
- Carry insurance coverages that indemnify and defend your business. When your business is dragged into court by someone who claims you committed libel or falsely advertised, the costs can add up quickly. You'd have to take time off to appear in court, retain an attorney, and potentially pay a considerable amount in settlement fees. (Read more about the high cost of social media lawsuits in the blog post "Social Media Advertising Injury Lawsuits Cost a Lot (Even When They Don’t Go to Court).") Fortunately, adequate insurance protection can pay for your legal costs when you are the target of a social media-related claim. For example, a General Liability (GL) policy can step in to cover advertising injury claims arising from slander, libel, privacy invasion, copyright infringement, and misappropriation.
- Promptly respond to cyber breaches. If you notice that your social media account has been hacked, notify the appropriate platform administrators immediately. For example, Facebook has a "Hacked Accounts" page that walks you through the steps to take when your profile has been compromised.
The bottom line: Safeguarding your business against social media hacks and reputation-damaging posts you to be proactive and prepared. Only a comprehensive risk management approach is sure to maximize your recovery and offset potential losses. Read more about potential online dangers and ways to mitigate your risks in the blog post "Social Media and Business Risk: Slander, Libel, Invasion of Privacy, and Copyright Infringement."