Legal requirements in social media can be overwhelming — but they’re a reality social leaders have to face.
Make legal your partner — not your blocker — in social media.
Trish Nettleship says, like a lot of marketers, when she first got involved in social media at AT&T, she didn’t expect legal compliance to be a big part of her job.
Now, as the Director of Social Media and Influence at UCB Pharma, she says, “Legal has become a very integral part of everything we do in the social media space.”
1. Don’t let legal lead the process.
“Make legal your partner — not your blocker — in social media,” Trish warns.
She says, instead of letting them be a driver of social media decisions, ask them to be a key participant. She advises bringing your legal team into the planning process early instead of just asking for permission later. For example, Trish shares her yearly plans with her legal partners and asks them about potential obstacles.
2. Educate your legal team on social media basics.
“Helping legal understand social media makes you more compliant and helps you stay out of trouble, and it also makes them more willing to work with you. They need to understand the risks as well as the opportunities.”
That means sharing the basics as well as the broader context. At UCB Pharma, Trish tries to share the social media tactics along with the business goals behind them.
“We really saw the game change for us at UCB once legal understood that we were trying to achieve broader business goals. Once they saw that this wasn’t just a Twitter campaign or a Facebook program, they got it.”
3. Assess the regulatory environment.
Don’t use regulatory challenges as an excuse to stop you from doing anything.
Trish says staying on top of new regulations is about more than just reading all of the different guidelines. She recommends building relationships with the people at the FTC, the FDA, and other enforcement bodies.
“Get to know these folks and ask them questions. They’re not going to tell you exactly what you can and can’t do, because that’s not how they work. But they will give you some guidance and advice along the way,” she says.
“Listen to their boring webinars. They’re boring, but they’re helpful. They help us understand what their view is and how they see the environment.”
Trish also works with legal to create templates for UCB Pharma’s regulatory requirements on every type of social media post to create a standard for making sure they’re compliant.
4. Provide risk mitigation.
“Don’t use regulatory challenges as an excuse to stop you from doing anything,” Trish says.
Instead, she suggests getting creative and trying different things to account for the risks you face. For example, she shares these key risks and possible mitigations to work from:
5. Create a practical process.
Finally, Trish says to keep your approval processes and procedures simple. At UCB Pharma, they bring in their legal team champions every month to review concepts, test for roadblocks, and create guidance and guardrails.
Trish says it’s all about trusting your team to make the right decisions with the guidelines you put in place. For example, create a simple “If this, then that” chart with outcomes like, “green” (go for it), “yellow” (get a second opinion), or “red” (don’t do it).
“I’ve got my legal compliance lead coming to me with social media ideas now,” says Trish.
Legal teams aren’t inherently anti-social — Trish says sometimes, they just need help understanding the ins and outs. And according to her, it’s the social media lead’s responsibility to teach them, build those relationships, and make them a part of the process.
“They want to be involved. And now, they’ve become our partners as opposed to just saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on an initiative.”