Legal Beagles: How We're All Just Sniffing Around Social Media

by Jeannie Walters

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Last week, I attended the Soho Social Media Seminar and heard a fantastic line-up of speakers. For better or worse, I couldn’t make it for Day #2 because of some client obligations. (For better = having clients. For worse = missing another great day.)

The final speaker on Day 1 was Diana Matigian, an Attorney there to enlighten us on the legal concerns around social media. (Let me say this to underline a point – I’m not a lawyer. I don’t pretend to be. I may have some wording wrong here, so these are ideas I heard that I’m sharing. I’m paraphrasing and inserting opinion. Take at your own risk!*)

* Can you tell we spent some time with lawyers!? 😛

Attorney Matigian did a great job at honestly highlighting what’s happening today with this subject:

Nobody knows.

Case law is immature, regulators are behind, and overall this is brave new world territory.

What does this mean for those us using social media as part of our business or personal lives?

Here’s a quick summary of concerns.

1. Defamation of Character

With social media, things are in writing. It’s easier to find evidence of this than before.

2. Confidentiality

Trade secrets, non-compete clauses, and other concerns loom large here. Social media is considered public.

3. Restricted Speech

Regulated industries such as investment and financial planning have lots of rules around this. Social media is considered (again) a public domain, so be careful what you tweet.

So what can we do today, before all of this is figured out?

1.Be Aware.

Understand what the risks are, and use your legal and HR teams to guide you.

2. Have standards.

Your employee manual should have rules about how to engage. Develop policy and procedures about social media for your employees at and away from the company.

3. Explain the consequences.

If an agent of the company communicates inappropriately via social media, outline what the consequences are as part of the explanation.

AND a 4th Reminder from yours truly:

4. Be nice. Be good. Be thoughtful.

Don’t go shooting off your mouth about something without thinking about it. This is true in real life, too.

For more examples of social media governance, check out

Thanks to SOHO for organizing a great event.

Any more tips to add here??

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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