More people in the world have access to a mobile device than have access to a toilet. That’s shocking, isn’t it? Well, maybe it’s not. Not when you consider that being connected with other people is probably one of those essential things for life that follow the top three - water, shelter and food. Our devices keep us even more connected than ever before because they also give us access to social media. So, it’s no wonder that social media has become big business.
Social media has massive influence and, in many ways, has created a new playing field for businesses because even small businesses stand a chance of cutting through on social media, even without the buying power of bigger brands. To achieve this though, a proper strategy is essential and good social media managers can create this. Social media management has become a growing sector and, whilst many companies will have this in-house, many also outsource this. The role is very appealing for a small business owner or freelancer since it is possible to have multiple clients and manage working hours. Plus, it can be done from anywhere. Furthermore, it is fairly simple to transfer skills from a marketing, business, media or admin background, to the social media world. Especially being that there is a lot of training, courses and qualifications in social media management that can be undertaken. Many professionals have launched careers as social media consultants or social media managers or even launched their own social media agencies in the last decade and the trend continues. Social media has reached the forefront of many businesses’ marketing plans and so it’s very much possible to build a profitable business as a social media manager. However, in the fast-paced world of media management, where we are counting followers and engagement and responding in real-time, learning consistently as the algorithms change and the sector grows, the legal aspects of the business can be overlooked. Going into, or continuing to run a social media-based business without the knowledge of the legal aspects, advertising guidelines, and compliance demanded in the UK, is highly risky. This includes advertising regulations, regulations around tracking of users and issues around ownership of content and media, related to copyright law.
I know - it all sounds very complex and overwhelming. So, in this article and guide to legal advice for social media managers, I will go over the essential legal knowledge you need to know and explain it without jargon. After reading this, if you do have any queries or want further advice or help with your social media contracts, then please do get in touch.
Legal Guidelines For Tracking Users On Social Media
As a social media manager, being able to provide your clients with data and statistics is going to be crucial. There are many rules and regulations around the tracking of online activity and these have become more complex post-Brexit since we are still waiting on new UK Data Protection Legislation. Fortunately, most social media managers will be using data provided by the social networks themselves or through other software. It is then the responsibility of the platform or software to ensure that it is tracking users in accordance with legislation. So, although you are benefiting from the data provided, you are not directly responsible for how it is gathered. However, if you are using in-house systems then you need to be confident that they are complying with UK data protection laws, and possibly GDPR too if your clients are operating in member states of the EU.
Aside from being privy to social media platform data, you may find you’re collecting personal information directly too, for example you could be running a competition whereby users share contact information with you. Handling any data requires you to be familiar with and compliant with UK Data Protection.
What data you collect and for what purpose
How you protect this data
How you store this data and for how long
Legal Advertising Guidelines For Social Media Managers
Whether you are running paid adverts or posting on social media to elevate your client’s brand, you are being paid to represent the business online and therefore you need to be very familiar with advertising guidelines. The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) uphold the guidelines on what can and cannot be included in adverts, as defined in the CAP Code. This includes who you can advertise to, what can and cannot be reasonably claimed in adverts and what could be deemed discriminatory. Being reported to the ASA is something social media managers will definitely want to avoid. It risks both your client’s brand reputation and your professional reputation too.
As a social media manager, it is your responsibility to ensure any advertising you do on behalf of your clients meets with the CAP code regulations, even if they are requesting you place a specific advert that risks non-compliance. Ultimately, if they have outsourced the work to you it is likely it will be you who will suffer and you may even end up having to pay the fine. So, consider it part of your role to ensure your clients stay within the ASA guidelines. One of the most important things you will need to know about advertising guidelines as a social media manager is that any paid promotion, whether it’s a paid advert through the platform or something you have paid an influencer to promote, should be labelled clearly as an advert/sponsored endorsement. Remember the importance of the #Ad.
You can find out more about the ASA guidance in my blog What Do Small Businesses Need To Know About The ASA.
Legal Advice For Social Media Managers Working With Influencers As a social media manager, you may also find yourself working with influencers. It is essential that you manage this process and ensure they are operating in accordance with the ASA too. It may be that Influencers are contracted directly by the company or you may manage this yourself. If you are managing this, you will need to supply them with and ensure the signing of an Influencer Agreement. Aubergine Legal offers the drafting of Influencer Agreements as part of our commercial law services. To find out more about the legalities and other aspects of working with social media influencers, please see my blog 5 Legal Considerations When Working With Influencers.
Legal Contracts For Social Media Managers
In addition to the above, you’ll also need other contracts in place that apply to anyone who is self-employed and/or running a business! For general guidance on the legal processes you may need to understand when launching a business, please see my Legal Checklist For Launching A Start-Up. Arguably, you’re most essential contract is your Terms And Conditions. This is the contract that lays out how you work, how you get paid for your services (including when), what your cancellation policy is and what your responsibilities are as the contractor, as well as what your client’s responsibilities to you will be. As a social media manager, you may instead have a Marketing Service Agreement. You may consider adding in processes relating to:
Client supply of content and materials necessary for you to carry out the work
Approval and signing-off processes for work you create
How reporting is conducted and when reports will be supplied
Intellectual property stipulations (who owns the content you provide)
Notice periods for dispensing with your services
In your Client T&Cs, remember to include a promise (aka a warranty) from your clients (to you) that any content/IP they provide to you (for use in any campaigns / social media content) is either theirs or appropriately licensed, and that they have the right to share that content with you. You'll also need an indmenity (in case they break this promise), so that you can go after them if they didn't have those rights and you are subsequently sued by a third party for breach of IP rights. This might be one of your biggest risks - so it's super important to make sure these two points are covered in your client T&Cs.
Aubergine Legal works with many media-based clients and can help you to draft fair and robust contracts to protect you when working with clients.
Get in touch to find out more about my social media contract services and packages which may be a more cost-effective way for you to ensure you have all your legal documents in place and are fully protected.