Social media platforms have become a bit of a double-edged sword for businesses. In one sense, they’re essential for marketing your business and driving new traffic to your website and services. Alternatively, any bad press or bad reviews on social media can turn online crowds against you and cause significant reputational damage to your business. 

Just last year, the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, VA, received thousands of negative online reviews within days after the owner asked press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave. It also resulted in a ripple effect on the town’s local economy, forcing the city government to spend money on digital marketing to boost tourism in the wake of the controversy. 

The damage went even further. Multiple restaurants by the same name and unconnected to the event also received negative social media attention as a result. 

Small businesses have some major watch-outs when it comes to social media: Not only can negative attention spread quickly on social media platforms, but you also need to protect your business from incidents of mistaken identity. The more prominent your business becomes, the more likely it is you’ll face claims related to plagiarism, copyright infringement, and privacy invasion.

Insurance Protection Against Social Media

One way to protect your business against the potential pitfalls of social media is through business insurance. 

The most common form of coverage will come through your commercial general liability policy. In most cases, a commercial general liability policy offers coverage for some claims related to advertising, such as libel. But there are notable exclusions, such as copyright claims.  

That said, you may need to extend your protection with a media liability policy. This type of insurance will cover named perils and can vary widely on what it provides. Media liability policies typically cover claims related to: 

    • Copyright
    • Invasion of privacy
    • Libel
    • Slander
    • Plagiarism
    • Defamation

This may be specifically of interest if you plan to blog or have a social media presence and can protect small businesses from being held financially responsible for claims brought against them. You can work with your insurance provider to develop a policy that offers coverage to best fit your industry. 

Should You Hire a Reputation Management Company?

Some businesses hire reputation management companies to help fight back against negative reviews and comments on social media. These businesses typically operate in the shadows, and most companies that employ them do so privately.

While an option, it’s best to carefully consider your alternatives before hiring a reputation management company. Make sure that those hired are not manipulating reviews and social media responses, as this could cause further damage to your business.

Additional Tips to Protect Your Business From Social Media

Your business could be extremely vulnerable to social media unless you take a few steps to ensure you stay on the friendlier side of the internet.

1. Avoid divisive topics. Small-business owners, especially, should avoid posting divisive and controversial topics online, including on your personal social media pages. If you choose to hire employees for your business, then you may want to implement social media policies that include certain forms of commentary and engagement.

2. Respond positively to reviews and comments. Social media users love when businesses respond to comments and reviews, but they are quick to turn on you if you respond combatively or negatively to criticism. You’ll want to show humility and deference, even when it comes to negative reviews.

3. Strictly monitor what your company shares on social media. Whether you hire a social media guru or share the content yourself as a small-business owner, make sure the content is free from copyright infringement and potentially offensive material. You may want to implement a standard checklist for anyone you hire (or even for yourself) to reduce your risk.

Small-business owners can make social media work to grow a business more rapidly. Still, it’s also important to hedge your bets against the potential damage caused by bad reviews, negative comments, copyright infringement, and other dangers that exist on social media.