A new profession has arisen with the proliferation of social media and user-generated-content (UGC). That profession has been given the name ‘Influencer’. While older generations may be quick to dismiss it, they likely don’t realize that even a micro-influencer (w/10,000–50,000 Followers) is able to generate enough monthly income to cover a sizable mortgage payment. There are currently over 55,000 Influencers in Canada, with a large number of them right here in BC. That number is expected to grow exponentially given the potential for financial independence.
While the role has opened up a wealth of opportunities for those with a knack for UGC on platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, it has also opened them up to liability risk. Unfortunately, many continue to collaborate with brands, post content, and make recommendations in bliss, without realizing that a financially debilitating claim could be coming around the corner. The good news, is that you’re here and searching for information on social media influencer liability insurance. Below is everything you need to know.
5 Tips to Mitigating the Risk of Liability Claims Against You as a Social Media Influencer
I. Establish an Agreement with Brands that You’re Not Liable for Their Defects
Where possible, enter into a contractual agreement with brands that not only stipulates traditional monetization terms, but also removes you from liability should there be a claim made against you – the person who recommended their product/service. They are often willing to do so, as they also request the same, should an Influencer end up in a controversy that they want no association with.
II. Make it Clear in Your BIO That You’re Not Liable for Brand Product Defects
With or without a contractual agreement in place with brands (above) make it clear on your social media profile BIO that while you may support the brands, you are not liable for their product/service defects and shortcomings. In having that in place, users will be dissuaded from going after you should they want to make a claim.
III. Avoid Slander
Influencers and brands eventually part ways. In some cases, the end to the relationship may not be a pleasant one. You may feel as if you were blindsided by the end of the collaboration, and as a result have lost a significant amount of monthly income because of it. You may be tempted to talk badly about that brand in your social media posts. Don’t do it. If you do, you could be held liable for slander. Should a brand collaboration come to an end, it’s better to say nothing of it.
Moreover, avoid criticizing other (where there is no relationship) products and services. You are not like the average social media user who does exactly that. You have tens of thousands (or more) of Followers, so what you say holds weight. If a company feels that you have slandered them to your audience, and that audience is large, they have a reasonable shot at filing a claim should your criticism be unfounded and based solely on opinion. Your words can cost them significant revenue – so they will look to you to recoup it in claims court. If you’ve got nothing nice to say, don’t say anything.
IV. Secure Yourself Against Cyber Crime
As someone with tens of thousands (or more) of Followers, you are a target for hackers. They want access to your audience so that they can get into all sorts of mischief. This may involve slandering the very brands you collaborate with, but may also involve getting Followers (who are influenced by you) to do things that put themselves and/or the public in harm’s way. You can see how important it is to take cybersecurity very seriously. You have a responsibility to many others, and may therefore be held liable for anything a hacker does when posing as you.
Multi-factor -authentication (MFA) is important. MFA is a cyber security protocol that requires users to provide two or more verification factors to gain access to a device, software application, online account, or other digital resource. With MFA “installed” it protects devices and accounts from being accessed, even if hardware (smartphone, laptop, etc) and/or a single password falls into the wrong hands. If you leave your phone or tablet (the gateway to your influencer persona) at your local Starbucks you’ll have peace of mind that anyone who finds it (or steals it) won’t be able to access your profiles and act maliciously. MFA apps such as Google Authenticator, LastPass Authenticator, and Microsoft Authenticator all come recommended from PC Mag and other experts. That being said, even MFA has its vulnerabilities. So, it is important to keep up to date on how to protect your business against cyber attacks and to secure appropriate cyber insurance.
V. Set Yourself Up as an Actual Business and Get Appropriate Commercial Insurance
Despite the nuances involved with being an Influencer, you make money from social media marketing. Given that you work for yourself, you’re self-employed and should therefore set yourself up as a business. To begin with, you can establish yourself as an independent contractor (sole proprietorship) but as you grow you may consider expanding. It is not uncommon for mega-influencers (1,000,000+ Followers) to hire staff to help them manage UGC and coordinate engagements. When you set yourself up as a business, you also open up commercial insurance opportunities that may protect you against claims. That said, there is a lot of insurance and liability grey area in this enterprise of yours, so you will need help from an expert in business insurance. If located in BC, contact Park Insurance today to discuss your options with a independent broker.