Getting social media right
People love sharing their experiences of food on social media, which is great news for contract caterers – but not without risk, warns Gemma Pearmain, senior associate in the food team at law firm Cripps.
While contract caterers may not be engaging in the large scale promotional marketing campaigns of consumer-to-consumer businesses, careful use of social media can still help raise your profile, promote your successes and attract the best staff. This means there is also potential for damage to reputation and unintended liability if things go wrong.
Here are ten tips to help contract caterers avoid the potential pitfalls:
- Take control and know which social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc) are used by your business, your customers, key suppliers and competitors, understand how they work and monitor them. Limit access and posting rights on behalf of the business to a small number of trusted and trained employees.
- Implement a social media strategy to give direction and ensure consistency with company messaging.
- Be aware promoting your goods or services may fall within the remit of the Advertising Standards Agency and need to be compliant with advertising rules.
- A clear social media policy will make it known to your employees what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour and that any non-compliance may lead to disciplinary action. The line between work and private life is increasingly blurred, and staff need to be reminded, for example, that if their employer is identified by them when using their own private social media accounts, the employee still needs to ensure the company’s reputation is not tarnished or any confidential information shared.
- It is all too easy to find an image or other content online and to copy and paste it for your own use, but doing so without permission of the owner could be copyright or trademark infringement. Look out for infringement of your own copyright or trademarks by your competitors too.
- Have a plan of action in case there is an objection to something posted by your business. Time will be of the essence for responding or removing it to limit any potential liability.
- Ensure your complaints procedure covers social media. Dealing with genuine negative online feedback is really a PR exercise. If appropriate, apologise and say what remedial steps have been taken. Ideally move discussions offline.
- Monitoring social media for posts about your business and any IP infringement is vital for protecting its reputation. If false or malicious statements are made the damaging content can be reported to the platform and its removal requested. There may also be other legal avenues to explore, such as a claim for defamation or harassment.
- It is all well and good having policies and procedures in place but they need to be regularly reviewed and staff given training on them.
- If any issues do arise, it is best to seek legal advice at an early stage to ascertain your legal position and to put in place an effective plan to protect the reputation of your business.
Good planning, policies and procedures are, as is often the case, the best ways to ensure your business makes the most of social media. If you would like to know more contact Gemma Pearmain on 01892 506 229 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article first appeared in B&I Catering in April 2018.