Twenty years ago, social media consisted of chat rooms on America Online (AOL for the uninitiated) and linked webrings on Yahoo! GeoCities. Now you can hardly find a website that doesn’t have a string of buttons encouraging you to like, share, and tweet.
In a lot of ways, that’s a boon to your small business. Social media lets you stretch your advertising dollar further because it’s an easy way to:
- Engage current customers.
- Boost customer loyalty.
- Increase brand awareness.
- Find new clientele.
The flip side, however, is the possibility of a mistake. Post the wrong thing on social media and you could be sued for an advertising injury.
You can find plenty of in-depth information about protecting your business in our free eBook Tweet or Twibel: The Small-Business Owner’s Guide to Advertising Injury. But if you’re in a time-crunch, this post can serve as a primer on advertising injury and how you can avoid it.
What Is Advertising Injury?
Advertising injury is a type of third-party personal injury. Typically, you hear personal injury and think car accident or a slip-and-fall mishap. Just remember that for insurance, personal injury refers to damages that don’t cause bodily harm. For advertising injury, that may mean instances of:
- Defamation (i.e., damaging someone’s reputation). A negative tweet about a competitor could turn into an accusation of libel, the written form of defamation.
- Copyright infringement (i.e., using someone’s work without permission). Such as copy and pasting a copyrighted image to your blog.
- Invasion of privacy (i.e., intruding on someone’s life without just cause). Misappropriation of someone’s likeness or name, say in your online advertisements, is a common way small-business owners might invade a person’s privacy.
Get more details about the different types of advertising injury in Chapter 2 of Tweet or Twibel.
How to Reduce Your Advertising Injury Risk
The more you use social media, the more chances you have of slipping up and posting a libelous tweet. But once you’ve drunk the Twitter Kool-Aid, how can you give it up? It helps make advertising so much simpler.
Chapter 7 of Tweet or Twibel provides tips for reducing the possibility of an advertising injury claim, including…
- Creating a social media policy. You might want your policy to designate a point person, outline appropriate online behavior, and prohibit defamatory comments about your business. Remember to update the policy regularly.
- Assuming materials are copyrighted. If you start with the presumption that the work you want to use belongs to someone else, you may be more likely to seek permission and less likely to infringe on a copyright.
- Pausing before every post. Social media is so easy to use that many people forget to scrutinize their posts. Proofread and verify all your sources, and then ask yourself if it represents the way you want consumers to see your business.
These steps can reduce your risk, but nothing is a 100 percent effective. Luckily, most General Liability Insurance includes advertising injury protection. This coverage may pay for your legal defense should you face a lawsuit. Read through your General Liability policy with an insurance professional to see if you’re covered.