For a franchise system, social media can have a substantial marketing impact. However, it can also expose the franchisor to liability.
Because of the legal risks involved, experts recommend that every franchise system develop a social media policy. The specifics may vary depending upon consumer loyalty to the brand at large versus the local outlets, but policies should address certain important issues.
Internal Franchisor Policy for Social Media Use
Franchise system policies need to include internal rules to guide the online social engagement of the franchisor’s employees.
The internal franchisor policy should cover the necessary do’s and don’ts for maintaining confidentiality and ensuring compliance with both the law and brand marketing protocol. In addition, it must contain procedures for dealing with unwanted content and competitor infringement.
Control Over Franchisee Social Media Communications
For franchise systems in which the franchisor and franchisees share the social media space, the policy for online engagement should include clear-cut rules for franchisee communications.
Most franchisees will already know that they cannot defame someone or disclose confidential franchise system information. However, because copyright and marketing laws are quite complex, policies should outline the differences between lawful and unlawful conduct.
Franchising experts also recommend that policies contain guidelines on how franchisees should approach online social engagement. Providing examples of desired content and a suggested post frequency can be just as helpful as telling franchisees what they cannot do.
Strategies to Minimize the Risks of Online Social Engagement
A carefully crafted franchise system social media policy can help reduce liability to a franchisor for the actions of a franchisee. Working with a highly experienced franchise attorney is the most effective strategy for minimizing legal risks. A lawyer can help create a policy that:
- Clearly specifies the rights and responsibilities of the franchisor and franchisee for online franchise social accounts and their content
- Requires franchisees to maintain separate personal and social accounts, with no reference to the franchise, franchisor or any brand trademarks on the personal accounts
- Disclaims the franchisor of any obligation to monitor the online social activities of the franchisee or their employees
- Protects the franchisor’s confidential and proprietary information by ensuring that franchisees comply with all applicable laws
Franchise attorneys can also offer sound advice on many other aspects of an online social engagement policy, including whether franchisors should retain administrative privileges over franchisee social accounts and procedures for accessing franchisee electronic communications.
Are you a franchisor? If you need expert help crafting a solid policy for online social engagement that minimizes your legal risks, turn to the professionals at the Franchise & Business Law Group.
Our attorneys have decades of experience working to protect the rights of franchisors, and we’re known as forward-thinking leaders in franchising and business law. Our legal advice can help you achieve success in business expansion throughout the state, across the country and around the world.
For more information on the Franchise & Business Law Group, or to schedule a consultation to discuss developing a social media policy for your franchise system, contact our Salt Lake City, Utah, office today.