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Legal Issues in Social Media

I was provided a copy of Navigating Social Media Legal Risks – Safeguarding Your Business (amazon affiliate link), by Robert McHale, Esq. for review, and I must say that despite my initial reaction of “this is a law school textbook”, I found this book to be full of very useful information for the business owner whether a beginner or seasoned veteran within social media.

Navigating Social Media Legal Risks outlines, in plain English, areas of the social media field that can quickly turn into major headaches for the small business. 

Contests v. Sweepstakes

One of the best chapters was the first, Social Media Promotion Law: Contests and Sweepstakes, since this is a very popular avenue for marketing within Facebook.  But, did you know the difference between a contest, sweepstakes and a lottery?  I thought I did, until reading this chapter (Here is the answer: Sweepstakes are when winners are chosen predominantly by chance; Contests are promotions in which prizes are awarded primarily based on skill or merit; and Lotteries are when you have random drawings for prizes where participants have to pay to play.)  Why is this distinction important?  One reason would be that if you don’t structure your promotion properly, you may create an illegal lottery.  Did you know that even little promotions requiring an entrant to encourage friends to “Like” your page on Facebook may be an illegal lottery?

Navigating Social Media Legal Risks goes on to also discuss online endorsements and testimonials, the proper use of social media when interviewing prospective employees, employee discipline and regulation and the risks of user generated content within your website.  All of this information is very important to the small business owner, and can prevent them from the pitfalls of improper use of social media.

Also included in the book are chapters on using social media in litigation and e-discovery, trademark protection and brand-jacking (having your brand hijacked by others), and the effect of social media on privacy and security compliance.  And while these chapters may be interesting for attorneys and owners of large corporations, I believe the information was less relevant to the typical small business owner.

Would I recommend this book?  I would say that overall there was some great information that could be put to good use.  Especially the chapter on contests and sweepstakes.  I don’t, however, recommend it be read from cover-to-cover, as each chapter can stand on its own.

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