Management August 29, 2011 Last updated August 29th, 2011 3,889 Reads share

Don’t Open Your Business Up To Online Lawsuit Possibilities

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You have worked years to position your business to succeed and then you get served paperwork.

While having a top-notch Web site, you failed to monitor your forum and someone posted a disparaging remark about a competitor. That competitor, in turn, has decided to sue for defamation and it could cost you plenty in more ways than one.

Hopefully your business never gets to that point. Not only is the potential monetary loss to losing a lawsuit and attorney fees a threat to your survival, but your company’s name could be dragged through the mud.

Make It Your Business to Monitor Site

As someone who for several years monitored an insurance Web site forum, I can speak first-hand about the potential pitfalls of a business site forum. First, however, let me point out a positive aspect or two on such a venue.

A business Web site forum is a great means by which to communicate with both current and potential customers. The forum can serve as a setting for an exchange of thoughts and ideas, along with offering customer feedback.

Now, the most obvious pitfall is having someone post negative comments on the forum page.

The best way to avoid such a situation is by constantly monitoring the forum. Checking in on forum content once every few days is not the answer, as it just takes one comment to slip in there and cause you and your business a major headache.

Where I previously worked we monitored the forum during business hours Monday through Friday, with off and on attention on the overnight hours and weekends.

So, can you guess when the most dangerous posts found their way onto our forum? Yes, the overnight hours and especially on the weekends.

As this became the case more and more often, extra attention was given to the non-working hours to view what individuals were posting.

The majority of negative comments were not in turn directed at our company, but at insurance agents who people felt had not served their best interests. It just takes one true or false comment to potentially lead to a decrease in business or worse, so you can understand why businesses are very worried on getting tagged on an online forum.

Screening Content Proves Important

For Web site owners who offer a forum for their readers, take several steps to protect your product.

First, be sure to screen what goes on your pages, using common sense as to what can stay and what should go. If a post even hints of being potentially negative, don’t hesitate to review it with company officials and/or key employees and come to a consensus on whether or not it could land your business in hot water.

It is also advisable to put a disclaimer on your site that the comments are being monitored and can at any time be removed if they purposely attempt to slander someone or something. With a strong legal disclaimer clause, you have everything covered from liability limits of your company’s site to what is expected of the guests coming to your site.

It is not uncommon for many companies to hire in-house or freelance legal counsel to deal with issues just like Web site matters. If you have even the slightest doubt about whether or not your disclaimer language is appropriate, pass it along to someone who deals with such issues so you’re company and its employees are protected.

You’ve worked hard to put your business together and to make it successful; don’t let one forum comment potentially bring everything crashing down.

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