Social media is an indispensable tool for modern businesses to connect with their customers, gather feedback, offer incentives, and participate in meaningful conversations. However, social media platforms present a host of compliance risks for businesses. Some of these risks stem from the trend of merging personal and professional lives. We often take our work home with us, and there are cases of employees tweeting sensitive posts from a business phone or computer.
Businesses in heavily regulated sectors like finance and healthcare are subject to numerous state and federal regulations. In this case, your social media posts must meet the advertising regulations that apply to your organization. Fortunately, a risk management program can help you identify, measure, and monitor the social media risks that can affect your business.
Types of Social Media Compliance Risks
Social media compliance risks vary by industry and location, and there are often more requirements for firms in heavily regulated industries. The common risks include:
1. Privacy And Data Security Laws
Today, employees discuss business-related content on social media and are likely to overshare sensitive information. Such information includes details about products in development or discussions about work technologies. Subsequently, cybercriminals use these details to launch attacks. In fact, a single post can facilitate a company-wide data breach.
Government regulators like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulate the disclosure of company proprietary information, trade secrets, and other sensitive data. If such information leaks on social media, therefore, you are liable for steep fines and penalties.
It is essential to check the confidentiality laws that affect your industry to avoid hefty penalties. For example, healthcare organizations must observe the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). As such, you can’t post or share photos or information without explicit consent.
Any data you collect from social media is subject to various state and federal privacy and security laws. As such, you need to provide sufficient security for social media data, collect only the information required for a specific business purpose, and safely dispose of information that is no longer in use.
2. Advertising Claims
Social media marketers must also be aware of marketing and advertising regulations. If your business deals with food, beverages, and supplements, check the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules. Commonly, businesses pay social media influencers to sponsor their products and services. However, you will be liable to penalties if such sponsored posts feature unverified claims.
Keep in mind that social media advertisements should have sufficient disclosures. Additionally, ensure that such posts comply with the FTC regulations on Endorsements and Testimonials. For example, an influencer advertising your product may need to disclose any free items they received from you and place the disclosure prominently in the caption's first three sentences.
3. Copyright Laws
It is essential to check copyright laws when sharing third-party content. If using stock photos, check the fine print on the website. When asking for user-generated images or videos, ensure you have a takedown policy based on the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Also, create structures that govern the solicitation of third-party content to avoid having direct responsibility.
The Customer Reviews Fairness Act describes the obligations that accompany consumer reviews. It is vital to understand the policies that apply when you encourage consumers to leave reviews, including disclosing material connections. If endorsers give reviews, you need to ensure they describe the typical customer experience and are not misleading. Moreover, brands cannot remove negative reviews on social media platforms. Also, you may not solicit your employees to leave favorable reviews on the company’s social media accounts.
A Social Media Compliance Program Can Help
A social media policy should be an essential part of your company's compliance management efforts. Such a policy outlines the behavioral guidelines for employees to avoid exposing the company to social media compliance risks. Also, the program lets customers know how to identify themselves on social media platforms.
It is impractical to limit employee access to social media to mitigate compliance risks. Instead, train your team on the security measures to observe when connecting with peers online. You can set up an employee advocacy dashboard with approved posts for staff to share.
If business posts must be approved, ensure that you plan ahead to keep churning out timely and relevant content. For example, you can allow the compliance officer to access social media management tools and approve content as it is created. Also, use social media management systems, which have approval and archiving features and allow teams to collaborate on campaigns.
Businesses operating in the digital age must include social media in their risk assessments. Social media exposes organizations to many compliance risks, including privacy, data security, copyright, and advertising. Therefore, you need a solid social media policy to govern your company’s presence on these platforms.