Navigating Social Media Legal Risks

If you've got a website, or participate in social media, then you really need to read this book. I rarely make a statement like that. I've read thousands of business books over the years and many of them are useful but not critical. Another portion aren't even very useful. This one, though, has it all. It's practical. It provides great examples. It explains complicated issues in a straightforward way. It summarizes each chapter with simple do and don't language to ensure you know what to do. It provides a dense appendix area if you need to learn more about a specific topic or issue.

The chapters are broken out so that you can go to the area you're most concerned about, or you can read it straight through, as I did. I highly recommend reading the entire thing and then keeping it for reference.

The starting chapter is a key one for many people. It's on sweepstakes, contests, and lotteries. Did you know that to run a sweepstakes you should have all of these things? Rules must say no purchase to win. A start/end date. The sponsor's complete name and address. Any age / other limits. Retail value of prize. How winners will know they won. Where the winner's list will be. "Void where prohibited". And that's just to start. McHale highly advises it being US only, since rules vary wildly from country to country and in some countries it is completely illegal.

Not only that, but different social networks have their own rules. Twitter wants restrictions of only 1 entry per day, and only 1 entry per human (no multiple account entries). Facebook says you MUST use their platform app, and it must only be done via a fan page like, checking in, or connecting to an app. It can't be for liking a wall post, commenting, or uploading a photo. Not only that, but a "like" can't auto-enter a person. The person must ALSO fill in a separate entry field. And you can't notify winners via Facebook.

Especially with Facebook cracking down on people who use them without following their rules, this could be another area where violators get their accounts shut down permanently, without warning.

The book covers all areas with this same thoroughness. Did you know if a person who writes a review or testimonial of a product knows the product's maker, the relationship must be clearly disclosed in the review? That, if you're sent a free product to review, you MUST disclose that in the review? If the review is a YouTube video, and it's primarily a talking video, the disclosure should also be done verbally. On Twitter, he recommends using a #paid-ad hashtag to indicate there was compensation (even if just a free item) and linking to a more full description in the profile link.

McHale highly recommends every website have an easy to find social networking policy that lays out how the website uses social networking. If the site has employees or volunteers, the social networking policy should ensure that feeds should never be used to harass, bully, or malign others.

From COPPA to copyright, each chapter covers a different aspect of how the law impacts web use. The real life examples provided are wonderful, informative, entertaining, and make the point clear. Where most other social media books seem to be years old, here he's talking about Pinterest and other current issues. He warns to be careful when sending any "cold call" business email - this could be considered spam. He warns about gathering ANY data from those under age 13 - that could violate COPPA laws.

A reader might say, "well but everyone else runs sweepstakes on Facebook". It could easily be that you're the one page Facebook happens to find, for whatever reason. Do you really want your fan page that you carefully built up from zero fans to suddenly vanish entirely, all because you did something illegal? It's always better to do things properly.

Highly recommended. The few hours you invest in reading and studying the book could easily save you enormous grief later on.

I was sent a free review copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program.

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