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Can social media help your company fend off lawsuits?

Social media -- for better or worse -- is very much a part of many people's lives. It's also become a tool that smaller companies and brands have learned to leverage against their bigger competitors when they seem to be engaged in an overreach.

In the past, a letter from a big-name company threatening a lawsuit unless a slogan was changed, a product was re-named or an ad was canceled was about all it took for the bigger company to get its way. Most of the time, smaller companies simply didn't have the financial wherewithal to fight the issue out in court. Even if they were sure they had a right to do whatever they were doing, the smaller company would cave rather than take a risk.

That's changing. Social media is becoming such an effective tool in legal fights that the process even has a name. It's called "lawsourcing." In essence, it means calling on the public to render a verdict via social media campaigns. When public opinion goes the right direction, it can cause local governments to back away from adding new regulations that might hurt a company's business model and make giants in an industry rethink their demands.

What does it take to leverage social media this way? Experts say that you stand a better shot when your brand:

  • Has an authentic approach in all your operations and dealings
  • Has a strong social media presence that genuinely engages consumers
  • Focuses on its story, highlighting the moral or ethical stance that puts it in the right
  • Directly appeals to consumers for support

That doesn't mean that you can forgo legal advice when you have a business dispute. It does mean, however, that you may have more than one way to fight back when there's a complaint against your business.

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