Social Media Compliance, Regulation, and Disclosure

As social media increasingly becomes accepted and utilized by brands large and small, the legalities and regulations mustn’t be an after thought.

Brands can get themselves into a bit of hot water if the wrong things are said, or if they aren’t transparent enough in their day to day communications whether it’s in their advertising, their marketing, their sales, or their community activities. This is one of the many reasons why a business should never let an intern for the summer just “do” social and take it lightly.  Or on the flip side, just give it to someone in a random department, regardless of their years of experience.

So where does one start with all of the compliance, disclosure, and legalities of social media activities? We invited the company  CMP.LY (@CMPLY) as our special guest in #cmgrchat to help us mitigate any risks a social media manager or community manager might take in the world of social.

TheCMgr Q1) Do you as the #CMGR care about social media compliance? Do you know how disclosure differs from compliance?

CMPLY It’s an honor to be among the most talented community managers in the biz. I’m @neilglassman on the company handle

CMPLY Compliance comes from regulatory agencies, plus internal policies based on biz goals and ethics

CMPLY I sense everyone here is concerned about compliance. Unfortunately, too many companies don’t have policies.

corecorina  I care about social media compliance to the extreme. Cmgrs can’t be the only ones caring though;  you need buy in from all.

shapeandcolour   Absolutely. At the end of the day, the buck stops with me. I’m responsible to cover us off and ask Legal for help when needed.

alphamommie I think disclosure is personal ethics about who you are. Compliance is the bigger picture, the law.

thatgirlmegan   Yeah, compliance is more of the rules you follow, the “how.” Disclosure is “how much” you’re sharing

SMContractors It is very important to know whether or not your industry is regulated or not.

CMPLY @SMContractors Compliance comes into play for even non-regulated industries. E.g., FTC guidance

apdolan It’s important to disclose early – or you’ll get questions you can’t answer (or have to scramble to answer) later.

CMPLY Disclosure, of course, is personal ethics. But it is also company ethics and a best biz practice for #SM.

digiconvs Many companies don’t have SM policies, simply because they haven’t properly understood what SM is & what it does for a brand.

vargasl  Compliance needs to be a foundational element of biz strategy and then communicated in context w/role & responsibility.

TheCMgr Q2) How much time do you spend tackling compliance issues for your social media content?

Shananigans5 Legal issues always come up for me because I’m a vehicle CM, I’ve spent a lot of time educating myself over the years.

corecorina  Like many others, I am the beginning middle and end of our social media management; but even I wrote a policy for consistency.

apdolan  When dealing with healthcare companies & #pharma – compliance is paramount. Rounds of regulatory lead to what can/not be said

alphamommie  I tackle it all during an audit every year, refresh each semester & adjust as needed when new laws are created/changed.

CMPLY  Consistency is essential. And, related to the question, saves time as you have a plan.

vargasl   I prefer not to tackle. 😉 It needs to be addressed daily w/positive reinforcement / examples, playbooks, 1×1 discussion.

Jeanetteix  Part of your role as a community manager is to constantly be learning, keeping up with trends and laws

CMPLY New guidelines coming soon from WOMMA that should help with disclosure and compliance issues

corecorina WOMMA means less to us international / global village minded folks, but nice to see some precedents being set.

vargasl A policy is great, but it should not be a copy and paste of others. You need to address biz needs and culture. Policy must fit.

TheCMgr Q3) How do you work around or conquer legal limitations?

CMPLY Legal issues – disclosure, intel property, etc – can be a burden, but do not need to be creativity stoppers

CMPLY Knowing and abiding by rules builds trust, communities and yr brand. You and yr legal team have that common ground.

corecorina A policy isn’t only designed to keep social media legit; it should ideally optimize your efforts and engagement methods!

shankell  It’s a constant process. I have been here less than a year, I usually have new things reviewed by Privacy Officer/Legal 1st

JGfromOC  I don’t. Legal is there to cover my butt. I am not burning that bridge or putting myself/brand in potential issues.

JGfromOC Obviously you look for solutions, but you have to count on legal. if you go around them, you’re just exposing your brand to pain.

vargasl  You should not work around legal / regs, but work “with” – know your sandbox, outline sandbox, then play!

apdolan  This one’s a huge challenge in the health space. It’s life/death re: medications/treatments. Client regulatory = be all/end all

TheMiddle   I’d work with the legal team. If you don’t have one, it’s always best to NOT work around legal.

comfactscom   It’s important not to work around legal issues, but to comply with them in order to best serve your audience.

djfanco: 1 of 1st things I do when I join a new company is get to know corp counsel. I want him to know what I do & back me up

TheCMgr Q4) How closely do you work with your company legal teams in terms of sharing and creating content and engaging fans?

CMPLYTom To see how other companies handle SM Policies take a look at – 200+ policies listed

JGfromOC  when planning a campaign, it is always best to have legal involved at the early stages to make sure you aren’t crossing lines.

corecorina We go through legal to create solid, and I mean SOLID but updated regularly, guidelines. That way content can flow

apdolan  We have no dept for legal – team members get trained on healthcare regs. I have them make me a “what can’t I say” list

stephaniefusco  All posts and promos are reviewed & approved by legal.

corecorina  When I consult for other businesses, a social media/PR policy is usually priority #1 and I go to legal team FIRST; most rigid.

amywhiggins   I double check with our legal team before publishing

meryleeramberg What about small businesses that don’t have the budget for a legal team? What’s the best way to “stay safe”?

  • thatgirlmegan  get legal advice on from someone on retainer, look at policies of similar companies, learn from others’ mistakes
  • JGfromOC  read. a lot. plenty of data and content out there to learn from. commit the time to learning.
  • CMPLY  There are best practices. Consistent, clear disclosure and written policy is good start.

CMPLY Re: questions on resources. DM us after and will send you a list on social media disclosure and compliance.

TheCMgr Q5) Does your social media policy require disclosure by company employees? If so, to what extent?

CMPLY Social media compliance is more science; disclosure more art. Kudos to you who manage both!

corecorina I think you should require disclosure of your social media team; you can never truly hide and transparency builds trust/cred.

CMPLY  You mean disclosure when using own social media identities? If mentioning employer, it’s strongly recommended

vargasl  Ah, now isn’t that the million dollar question – NLRB memos have opened new discussions with HR / legal.

thatgirlmegan   Not a fan of those, honestly. Makes me feel like someone I trust “sold out” sometimes

comfactscom Disclosure helps add another dimension of not only honesty to the brand, but makes it easier to relate to as well.

JPedde @CMPLYTom I read somewhere even if you disclose in a bio, whatever you post could still be used against you in the future. True?

CMPLYTom @JPedde Let’s be clear, anything that we post in SM can come back to bite us, disclosure or no…

TheCMgr: Thanks to @Neilglassman and @CMPLYtom from@CMPLY for their amazing information!


This digest was taken from the #cmgrchat that took place on Wednesday July 25th at 2pm EST called “Social media compliance.”

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About the author

Jenn Pedde

Jenn is a Co-Founder of The Community Manager and the Editor-In-Chief. She’s also an adjunct professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. You can find her almost anywhere online, but specifically on #CmgrChat every Wednesday from 2-3pm ET.


Thanks for posting the Twitter chat here on the blog, so I could "catch up" afterwards. I really enjoyed connecting with many of those who participated in the chat because you connected to their Twitter handles. Thanks, Tim and CMGR Team!