Turning social influence into a money-making brand requires knowledge of running a business. That knowledge needs to include at least some understanding of the law and how it applies to your social influence. Remember, the law does not care how many followers you have.
So let’s turn our attention to one area that I think gets overlooked on social media because people believe it is their right to say whatever they want whenever they want. The legal truth is this, it’s not, and what you write or say about others in your captions or videos can definitely land you in legal hot water.
Defamation is the legal term used when someone writes, or says something (libel/slander) that damages or ruins the reputation of someone or something (a business). I know that being an influencer requires that you give recommendations and reviews about certain products or services but the caveat here is that these recommendations and reviews must be truthful and honest, and even when the truth is harsh, I would consider thinking twice before you hit record, send or post. To help you visualize when this might be an issue let’s go through a little fake scenario.
Let’s imagine that Felicia the Fitness influencer was given an opportunity to take a trip for a famous fitness expo being held in Las Vegas. A hotel reached out to her and told her she could have a room for free for the duration of her stay. Felicia arrives at the hotel and immediately checks out the gym which only contained one treadmill. She then orders room service before heading out for the expo. Unfortunately, the food arrived merely warm, and on her way to the expo Felicia’s wallet was stolen as she walked down the strip, and she was accosted by rude tourists. Felicia finally made it back to the hotel later that evening after what she would describe as a terrible day. Rather than call it a night and go to bed, she decided to take to Instagram to post about her horrid experience. Except she decided to bring the hotel into it. In the caption of her photo she states she got food poisoning from the mediocre hotel food, she tripped while on the hotel’s treadmill because it suddenly turned off while she was mid-run, and she says she was attacked right outside of the hotel and they did nothing about it. Her 500k + followers see this post and the hotel’s reputation is suddenly ruined. Multiple reservations were canceled and the hotel immediately lost business as a result of Felicia’s post.
This is what we would consider defamation. While some of what Felicia wrote about could be “true” she exaggerated quite a bit and unnecessarily blamed the hotel for her bad day thus causing damage to the hotel’s reputation and business.
When it comes to product and service reviews you need to be truthful. The law allows you to tell the truth, even when it is bad. Your honest telling of a situation is, in fact, a defense to a defamation suit. But, as we see above stretching the truth won’t be much of a defense.
Of course, just because what you’re saying is true doesn’t mean that a bigger company wants you to make those statements about them to your followers. Even if its honest and true that doesn’t mean you won’t get hauled into court over your statements. While I am not suggesting you should be inauthentic with your followers, I am suggesting you think your statements through before you make them.
Being an influencer at any level comes with quite a bit of responsibility. If you’ve made the leap from every day social media posting to legitimate business through your influence you need to stay apprised of the legal issues that exist around both your business and your position as an influencer. Defamation is just one of the issues to stay aware of. Check back next week for another legal issue I think you need to know about. If you have questions on anything you’ve read today or need help with something feel free to email me at Shannon@montgomerypllc.com.
Please note that this is not meant to be legal advice for you or your situation, this is merely some legal research and knowledge on the given topic