Influencer: 8 law hacks on how to expand your business
Regardless whether your business focus is advertising, blogging or international e-trade, several of the legal issues are more or less the same.In my role as a business lawyer I’ve supported influencers to develop their brands into a prosperous business. In this post, I’m sharing eight of the most important steps on the journey to creating a strong business with a powerful digital presence.
You are your brand. As an influencer, you are your core business. It is therefore important to carefully develop and protect your uniqueness. You as an an influencer do this by being clear on your personal message and your social identity and tying your brand to the right domains, products names and the design of your online context; UI and UX. The legal tools we use to support this are registered trademark protection, domain registration and agreements with your web developers and web designers.
Team up with the right partners. Use strong partners as means for early visibility and revenues. In advertisement, sponsor-deals, product placement or commercials it is important to clear your and your partners rights to use your name and brand. It is also important to avoid pitfalls of being cast out from popular social media platforms for breaking their internal rules and regulations (often concerning advertisement and product placement) or being locked up by an unfavorable deals with a partner.
Own your business. Having a limited liability company as your platform for growth gives you an unmatched opportunity to take on obligations (assignments, deliverables) and resources (employees, investments). The creation of a limited liability company requires registration and share capital, but in return you can ensure that your work is made in the name of the company. This means a limitation of your risks and that you incorporate the value you build in the name of the company which will simplify your everyday life and decisions. It is easy to register a Swedish limited liability company by e-services online and then you may take in capital from investors etc. There are (however) a few things you need to do as the owner of a limited liability company; you can read more here (in Swedish).
Social Reach. Communicate and market yourself as in influencer and your offering to your target groups and followers. As e.g. a blogger and influencer, you work in the intersection between advertisement and public information, which can be confusing and complicate your possibilities to take on new commissions.
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Properly managing this requires you to know what is allowed with regards to online publishing on web sites, blogs, social media and the Swedish law on use of portraits and names in commercial information (Sw. lag om namn och bild i reklam). You also need to know each social media’s own set of rules for use of the media for commercial purposes.
Activate your followers and customers. As an influencer, you need to keep your followers active, by e.g. having recurring e-mail and newsletters or contests of various kinds. Now laws are triggered about organization of contests (lottery-legislation), marketing, as well as laws on permitted and prohibited advertisement and e-mail spam, not to mention use of your customers personal data. Publishing online and shares of publications in a social media or social community context also implies different types of responsibility for e.g. comments (racist, offensive comments or the originality and ownership of images).
Secondly, create traction by building an interesting and sharable service with offerings that are relevant to your customers. Learn how to manage the intersection of information and advertisement so you don’t violate any marketing laws. As an example, all marketing must be designed and presented in a way that clearly demonstrates that it is marketing. Ensure that you know how to correctly build a customer group and use their e-mails and how to design your direct marketing. Remember that your customers always shall have the right and opportunity to refuse future e-mails.
Thirdly, do not link other’s trademarks – or use other’s trademarks – as meta tags or descriptions of your posts, images etc., since this may be seen as a trademark infringement and you risk paying damages.
Finally, create and defend your own trademark. This is especially important if you sell directly to consumers and have a strong product focus. Once you’ve succeeded to create a powerful customer and user group, keep track of how clients, partners and the media use your trademark, your branded content etc., so that you trademark remains strong. In each partner agreement or agreements with your supplier, make sure that use of your trademark and company name is properly regulated. This is often done by a separate license chapter in the agreement.
Convert your followers with e-commerce solutions. To many influencers, a large and active group of followers and users also imply great opportunities to sale and distribute goods. Use this opportunity!
Create an awesome team! Your company is as good as the people around you. In the beginning, it may be cost effective to use external consultants since this means you do not have to pay pension nor social fees. Another alternative is to hire staff on a project basis. It is important to be smart when negotiating these deals and consultancy agreements, see our advice on best practice for consultancy agreements here (in Swedish).
If you plan to hire you should consider creating suitable incentive for your staff. You might want to consider option programs where your staff eventually becomes share holders or bonus systems that reimburse their efforts as a kick back.
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Do you have more questions? I am always curious to learn about your thoughts and take on this post so feel free to leave comments. I will reply as soon as a I get a chance.
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