Taking Care of Business on Social Media


30 November 2017
Posted by Suzy Wood and Sebastian Marcu (Studio Legal intern)


Social media has become a part of everyday life for an overwhelming number of Australians. The Sensis Social Media Report found that 79% of us are active on social media, with three out of five respondents using social media every day.

Social media has also affected the way we do business. It has become an invaluable marketing tool and an essential part of consumer interaction. Businesses can easily promote their brand, keep their customers in the loop with their products, strengthen customer loyalty and receive quick feedback. And the costs can be low, compared to other forms of marketing.

So what’s not to love?

With such power comes a number of risks that could really harm your business.

Reputational damage

The risk: An employee posts content on their personal social media that tarnishes your business’s reputation.

What can you do? Implement a social media policy for employees, including training on induction and during employment, with clear guidelines on appropriate use. Your policy should also clearly state that employees must not hold themselves out as a representative of your business when participating in social media in their personal capacity.

Also consider toughening up your employment contracts with provisions dealing with social media use, especially post-termination and the confidentiality of your social media contacts and resources.

IP infringement

The risk: You receive a letter of demand claiming that something on your social media infringes third party intellectual property.

What can you do? Just because something is available online, doesn’t mean you have the right to reproduce it in your social media. While simply linking to third party content does not in itself create a risk of infringement, you should be wary of copying images or text created by third parties in your blogs.

Consider using openly licensed work (e.g. work with a Creative Commons licence), but don’t forget to adhere to the terms of the licence. Otherwise, obtain permission from the owner of the content you want to use. Or best of all: get creative and make your own original content!

Breaches of Advertising Code of Ethics

The risk: You give free services to an influencer to promote your brand, without realising that the influencer’s posts need to make it clear they’re paid for the privilege.

What can you do? Recent amendments to the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics have added a rule requiring all advertising or marketing communications to be “clearly distinguishable as such to the relevant audience”.

Check out the AANA’s best practice guideline to help ensure your business doesn’t fall foul of the new rules. Be particularly wary where your business engages social media “influencers” to give your brand publicity in exchange for free products or services. Where your brand has some level of control over the content posted, the influencer should ensure to distinguish the post using #ad or a similar disclaimer.

Breaches of confidence or privacy obligations

The risk: You take a happy snap of the office. In the background, yet clearly visible, is a  confidential piece of work for a client! Or, you steal your client’s thunder by announcing their new product before they do. D’oh!

What can you do? Triple check content before posting to ensure it does not include confidential information, even faintly visible. Don’t forget that many social media platforms allow viewers to zoom in on images posted. And when you’re announcing exciting client news, get your client’s approval first to make sure you aren’t killing their launch!

Think you might have a problem on your hands? Studio Legal’s team of media, intellectual property and creative business lawyers are here to help. Get in touch on (03) 9521 2128 or hello@studiolegal.com.au for a no-obligation consultation.


The information in this article is of a general nature. It does not constitute formal legal advice, and should not be relied on as such. Please see the full disclaimer in our website terms. Please contact Studio Legal if you are seeking advice about a specific legal matter.