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Protecting Your Club Against Social Media Liability

Love it, hate it, or have no opinion about it, social media has taken its place among the mainstream of American culture. Networks such as Facebook and Twitter can be a great way to enhance your club’s brand with your current members and to reach out to potential members as well.

That’s the good news.

The not so good? While social media networks offer much potential to help your club, they possibly could hurt your club at the same time. Social media does not adhere to the old adages, “What happens in Vegas…” or “What you see here, what you say here, what you do here, let it stay here.”

No, social media operates in the public sphere. What you say on social media is available for public consumption, so you must be careful about what you put out there. What you consider to be a euphemistic statement, for example, could lead to legal action if the statement is deemed offensive enough.

Consider These When Posting on Social Media

  1. If you can’t say it to your mother, don’t say it. At the end of the day, social media is a casual medium, tempting you to say something online that you wouldn’t say in person.

Maybe you’re tempted to make a joke or share misleading information about that other club across town. Resist the temptation. If you write anything on a social media network that you KNOW is false and that could adversely affect another’s business or reputation, you could be sued for libel.

  1. Keep confidential information confidential. As owner or manager of your club, you spend considerable time conversing with members; after all, PR goes with the territory. During the many conversations you have with members, you learn a great deal about their families, their businesses, their personal lives. They trust you with that information.

Perhaps not even thinking about it, you might unintentionally leak something on Twitter that a member wanted you to keep confidential. That could lead to a lawsuit.

  1. Use caution when posting photos. Users have uploaded nearly 220 MILLION photos on Facebook since the social media network launched. Your club’s Facebook page is probably full of photos taken at various events you host during the year.

Be very careful of what photos are posted to your club’s page because you could be civilly or criminally liable for posting certain photos. If you post a photo that doesn’t belong to your club, you could violate someone’s copyright. A photo of an intoxicated club member at your club’s Christmas party could damage the person’s reputation. And, think twice before posting photos of children. Some states are working on laws that would make it illegal for anyone other than a parent to photograph a child.

  1. Don’t infringe on another organization’s copyrights or trademarks. You should avoid using logos, trademarked images, or other copyrighted material belonging to another club or organization except when allowed under “fair use” guidelines.

If you mention another club or company (for example, a club manufacturer or food and beverage distributor), make sure you’re absolutely clear you’re not taking credit for the other’s products or images.

How You Can Protect Your Club Against Social Media Liability

Social media liability insurance has become increasingly popular as more businesses turn to social media as a marketing tool. Similar to media liability, social media liability insurance covers defense and settlement fees for lawsuits that accuse policyholders of libel, violation of privacy, unfair competition or infringement of copyright.

Some exposures on social media may be covered by your club’s General Liability policy, but if your policy was written prior to the birth of social media, there could be gaps in your coverage.

As your club’s owner or manager, you are ultimately responsible – and accountable – for the content that appears on your social media networks. Remember…what goes on the internet lives forever. What may appear insignificant today could turn into a huge issue down the road.

We recommend you develop a set of social media guidelines for your club, and adhering to those guidelines should be expected of anyone responsible for posting to your club’s social media sites. At a minimum, the guidelines should include how to:

  • Avoid copyrighting and liability issues
  • Establish appropriate tone for each message
  • Avoid publishing confidential information
  • Ensure permission when publishing photos

Every post should be thoroughly proofread by appropriate and authorized employees. And, if something is posted that could potentially harm your club or your members, it should be taken down as soon as possible and club management notified.

We suggest you visit with your insurance agent or broker who can answer your questions about social media liability coverage and provide you with the most competitive rates in your area.

By David A. Harnois, CCM, CPL.
David is a Proud Employee Owner of Affinity Club Underwriters, specializing in commercial and group program business. David provides insurance solutions for hundreds of clubs and may be reached at (319) 800-6676 or at david.harnois@affinityclubs.com.

ABOUT AFFINITY

Affinity Club Underwriters, a division of VGM Insurance Services, is a wholesale program insurance provider specializing in the club, golf and hospitality sector. They offer claims management services; operations and coverage audits; policy and information storage and archaeology; RFP preparation; market analysis; and help in developing specific loss control programs.

Affinity is the exclusive provider of the Affinity Club Program for private and semi-private Clubs. Affinity is an industry leading insurance program administrator led by Club industry experts.  

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