These days, it is not unusual for businesses to have an online presence that extends beyond their websites. From small business owners to giant corporations, more and more businesses are opting to use social media in a variety of ways. Some use social media to educate the public, while others use it to advertise sales. Some use social media to network while others use it to keep the shopping experience engaging and dynamic for their customers’ benefit.

If your business is opting to use social media, please do so carefully. This platform can be beneficial for business and branding, but it can also lead to potentially costly business litigation if it is misused in certain ways. For example, your business could be hit with an unfair competition suit or other advertising-related claim if you do not adhere to related laws while you are on social media. Although Internet advertising law is a relatively new area of law, many of the same standards used in print media apply to advertising and corporate comments on the Internet.

It is important to follow the same kinds of scrutinizing practices you use in print campaigns generally. For example, you could get into real trouble if you used an individual’s photo without permission in a print campaign. This same risk applies when you post a photo online without a participant’s permission. If you are not using stock photos, you may also need to get the photographer’s permission. In addition, you need to consider permission issues related to art, music, quotes, videos and other items you might want to post on social media. Failure to consider these permission issues could land you in hot water.

Source: Findlaw Free Enterprise, “Top 5 Legal Tips for Small Businesses on Instagram,” Daniel Taylor, Nov. 20, 2014