Use Social Media? Make Sure You Have a General Liability Insurance Policy
When a small business uses social media, its risk of accidentally committing libel, slander, copyright infringement, and privacy invasion increases. All those tweets and posts can lead to lawsuits, but a General Liability Insurance policy can help. It includes protection for "advertising injury," meaning claims from your competitors that you badmouthed them in an ad.
Let's take a look at social media marketing risks and how General Liability Insurance can protect your small business.
What Is Advertising Injury, and What Does Social Media Have to Do with It?
Commercial General Liability Insurance guards your business from third-party lawsuits over bodily injuries and property damages. But it can also protect your business from advertising injury lawsuits.
A General Liability Insurance policy can help pay for legal expenses when you're sued over the following social media mistakes:
- Libel: a written defamatory statement that hurts someone’s professional reputation (e.g., you write a mean tweet about a competitor's moral failures and publish it for all to see).
- Slander: a spoken defamatory statement that hurts someone’s professional reputation (e.g., you post a YouTube video in which you made some snide remarks about a public figure who ate at your restaurant).
- Copyright or brand infringement: a copyrighted work used or claimed as your own without the creator’s permission (e.g., you swipe a copyrighted Pomeranian photo from the web and use it to promote your business without first getting permission). Learn how to defend against these accusations in “Fair Use and Copyright Infringement.”
- Privacy invasion: an intrusion in someone’s personal affairs without just cause (e.g., you post a picture of a client on your business's Facebook page without their consent). To learn more, review “Can Social Media Be an Invasion of Privacy?”
Your small business can be sued over these advertising injuries even if it's an honest mistake. That's because a post can’t just be deleted – once it’s on the Internet, it lives on through screen grabs and shares. In other words, a rogue tweet or misguided post can continue causing damage, even if you didn't intend it.
For more examples of social media missteps, read our post “General Liability Risks from Social Media.”
Tips to Avoid Social Media Mishaps
Investing in a General Liability Insurance policy can help you survive a lawsuit, but that's only half the battle. If your business is going to thrive online, you have to make a plan to keep your advertising injury exposure in check. Avoid social media snafus with these tips:
- Create a social media policy. Make guidelines for what is and isn’t acceptable to post. Make sure your employees read and understand the policy.
- Check the facts. Whatever topic you’re posting about, make sure any statements about others are true. Verify your sources.
- Make a schedule for updates. With a schedule in place, you’ll know when to post without eating up your time or overwhelming your audience.
- Listen and engage. Social media is about meaningful interactions. Engage with your followers by delivering interesting content that starts conversations.
- Tighten up security. To prevent a nefarious third-party hacker from hijacking your social media accounts, create strong passwords. Update passwords frequently and only share them with employees who have permission to post on behalf of your business.
- Pick fair-use images. Don’t use images that put you at risk for a copyright violation. Search for images available free of charge or take your own pictures.
Lastly, make sure your General Liability Insurance policy includes advertising injury coverage. Mistakes happen, and this coverage can help your business bounce back after making one.
For more tips and tricks on handling social media, read and share our comprehensive eBook Tweet or Twibel: The Small-Business Owner’s Guide to Advertising Injury.