Research Handbooks in European Law series
Edited by Andrej Savin and Jan Trzaskowski
Chapter 17: Commercial communication in social media
Social media services play an important role in many people’s communication with each other – as such services offer a convenient tool to express, share, and discuss thoughts, opinions, experiences and so on with a large, familiar group of people (aka ‘friends’). The opinions and discussions (‘buzz’) expressed by different people about brands and products are important for businesses – particularly in social media where such information can spread rapidly. Negative buzz can be devastating and positive buzz can be fundamental for success. Thus, businesses should pay attention to this buzz and may be inclined to influence it. This chapter discusses legal aspects of businesses’ communication with consumers in social media, including in particular the requirement of disclosing ‘commercial intent’, the use of unsolicited electronic communication, and the (ab)use of private individuals to serve commercial ends. In that vein it is important to understand that the business must accept certain terms before using social media services and that these terms constitute an important part of the legal framework in which the business operates on the social media. Facebook is used to illustrate and discuss some of the points of this chapter. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss legal aspects of situations where businesses communicate with individuals through such social media services. Of course the business must also comply with other aspects of the law, including general obligations and industry specific requirements.