Rules for using social media responsibly – legal risks and how to mitigate them
Rules for using social media responsibly – legal risks and how to mitigate them

Social media has become one of the most important tools for businesses. In today’s world, there is no platform better to market and reach consumers, than social media. But what are the rules for using social media responsibly? What are the legal risks and can you mitigated them?

The massive reach of social media platforms makes it the perfect place for businesses. The ability to instantly communicate brand messages to millions of users and receive instantaneous feedback makes it an extremely powerful tool for businesses.

Although the benefits of social media are numerous, it comes with potential dangers too.

This article points out what businesses should consider before posting on social media.

1. Intellectual Property

Problem: Although the use of social media can aid in promoting a brand and disseminating copyrighted material, it can also facilitate third-party abuse and unauthorized use of trade marks and copyright.

If you fail to do thorough research before using your intellectual property, you could end up violating a third party’s intellectual property rights.

Solution: Ensure that your trade marks are registered. The registration certificate will be sufficient to prove ownership of the trade marks.

Regularly monitor social media to ensure that your intellectual property is not being misused by third parties. This will enable you to take prompt action against the infringer.

Do thorough research to ensure that you are not violating another party’s intellectual property rights. It would be advisable to check the South African Trade Marks Registry to determine whether another company is already using an identical or confusingly similar mark.

2. Compliance with POPIA

Problem: If you collect personal information such as identity numbers and contact details from customers on social media, POPIA is applicable. This means the you will be required to comply with POPIA to avoid facing imprisonment and hefty fines.

The same applies if you are using an agency to run the business’ social media accounts. They will be collecting and processing customer information on your behalf, or at least, they would have access to view and capture customer information. The agency is required to comply with POPIA on your behalf.

Solution: Have a set system in place to ensure that the business is complying with POPIA. If you are unsure about POPIA compliance, take a look at our POPI Act Compliance Checklist.

3. Adhering to Advertising Laws and Regulations

Problem: Social media is largely used to market and advertise goods and services. This means that anything posted should comply with Advertising Laws and Regulations such as the Advertising Regulatory Board’s Social Media Code. The Social Media Code provides a clear set of rules around social media marketing.

Solution: Obtain legal advice to ensure that you are not violating any advertising laws and regulations.

4. Refrain from making false or misleading statements

Problem: While you want to make your product or service sound as attractive as possible, you need to ensure that your advertising remains truthful and that it does not mislead consumers. Your business can be held liable for false or misleading statements about its products or services.

Solution: When posting on social media be sure to fact check any statements being made about the product or service. For example, you claim that you are the oldest cleaning service company in South Africa but there are a number of other cleaning service companies that predate yours. This statement would be false and misleading and could land your business in trouble.

5. Defamation

Problem: Beware of making false claims about your competitor’s products or services. False claims could harm the reputation of your competitor and may result in a defamation claim against your business.

Care should be taken when comparing your product or services to that of a competitor. Always ensure that what you are saying about a competitor’s product is true and accurate.

This applies to comments too. If someone makes a false comment on your post that damages someone’s reputation, it is your responsibility to deal with it.

Solution: It is advisable to have social media policies in place which clearly state the ground rules when it comes to social media marketing and what can or cannot be done.

Additionally, approval processes could help minimize errors and continuous oversight can allow for prompt corrective action.

6. Compliance with Terms and Conditions of Social Media Outlets

Problem: Social media websites generally have terms and conditions in place that govern the use of the sites. Some sites’ terms and conditions contain provisions specifically regulating advertising and other commercial practices conducted on the site, including consumer sweepstakes, contests, and giveaways.

Solution: Appoint a team to consider the various terms and conditions of social media outlets and have them work with a lawyer to ensure that the company complies with the terms and conditions.


Brand and reputation are important to a business and can become its main asset. Social media has the potential to make or ruin a business’ reputation and brand in a day. Many of the legal issues addressed in this article can be difficult to navigate and good legal advice will empower you, to successfully navigate these issues.

If you have concerns about your business and social media get into contact with Xellerate.
Click here to reach out to our team for a free, no obligations chat.

Or contact us on: or 072 438 8275.

Written by: Accelerate Legal Solutions
July 14, 2022