Ninety-seven percent of consumers search for a business online before making a purchasing decision. That means that if your business doesn’t have a web presence, you’re missing out on potential customers. It also means that you’re missing out on an opportunity to define your brand and create recognition.

But along with all of the pluses, creating and maintaining an online presence can also come with a few downsides. People often assume that the internet is like the wild west – anything goes. But if you don’t play by the rules – and you ignore laws and regulations – you can end up in very hot water.

As a business owner, the last thing you want is to have to deal with legal problems. Luckily, playing fair online is easy to do.

Here are four simple ways to keep your business on the right side of the law – and to make sure no one takes advantage of you – when it comes to the web:

Online Presence

Creating an online presence is easy, given the right tools. And having a website or social media profiles is an amazing way to get your products and services in front of the right people. But what happens when someone else takes your blog, your photos, or even your goods and tries to pass them off as their own?

If you’re sharing unique content, you’re going to have to take steps to protect it. A few ways to do that include:

  • Register a trademark for your business’s logo
  • File a patent for your new or unique product, which will prohibit others from using, selling, or creating the product as described in your patent claim.
  • Register a copyright for any creative works such as books, music, photos, advertising copy, and so on.
  • Ask employees and subcontractors to sign a confidentiality agreement, requiring them to keep proprietary information a secret.

Social Media Marketing 

Like your website, anything that you share on social media is vulnerable to theft – especially things like music and videos. It’s important to remember, however, that it works both ways: just like you don’t want anyone else stealing your intellectual property, you should not steal theirs. It’s not only entirely uncool, but it leaves you open to legal repercussions.

Another pitfall many small business owners regularly fall into on social media? The “sweepstakes” versus “contest” trap. People just love a good online game – but the rules are dicey. And if you promote your event the wrong way, it could end poorly

In a nutshell, sweepstakes are used to spread awareness and require little to no barrier to entry with winners chosen at random. A contest usually requires more from the participants (share a post, check in at a location, like a photo, etc.), and they are subject to the rules within your state.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing can get tricky – especially if you are the influencer. Many different factors come into play, including FTC disclosure, copyright compliance, and fair advertising rules. One of the most important things to remember? It is vital that consumers be able to make informed decisions based on real information. That means that if you are being paid to promote a product or give a review, you must disclose that information!

Business Blog 

Creating a blog is a great way to connect with your audience and share useful information, but it can come with some risks. Things to steer away from include:

  • Sharing damaging information about another brand or business.
  • Theft of intellectual property rights (that means making sure to cite other people’s information if you use it!)
  • Leaking confidential information.
  • Harassment–inadvertent or not, using your blog to intimidate or harass people either outside your company or within it is a big no-no.

Liability can come from any number of online activities if you are not careful – and the responsibility isn’t yours alone. Employees, contractors, and even members of your audience can leave you at risk. For more information on this and other topics like it, subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates straight to your inbox.

 

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