In the days of Friendster, social media sites were barely a blip on the radar of general counsel. But with over a billion people worldwide using Facebook and 4 billion videos a day viewed on YouTube, social media sites and apps have gone far beyond venues for connecting with long lost college sweethearts and have become major concerns for businesses of all size.

A panel, “Effective Brand Management & Risk Mitigation in the Use of Social Media,” covered this topic at the Women, Influence & Power in Law Conference in Washington, D.C.

Ignoring social media is no longer a viable option, the panel shared. Companies have faced enormous negative backlash from reckless use of social media channels by employees, so it is important to develop a strategy. Companies must monitor social media and they must develop guidelines. Once a post it out there, it is out there forever. Also, ignoring negative posts by customers is not always the best idea. Rather, engaging in a productive dialogue is better.

Social media marketing is similar in many ways to traditional marketing. One factor to take into account is the terms of service of a site. Posters should identify themselves and their relationship to a brand when posting on social media. Also, it’s important to know what the site policies are. Facebook, for example, changes its terms of service frequently, so companies must keep abreast of those changes in real time.

Employment law also intersects with social media as well. Defamation claims related to social media can come up. When developing a social media policy, companies should consider many factors, such as how to discipline workers that violate the policy. Also, see if your policy chills any rights that workers have under Section 7 of the NLRB, which allows workers to discuss freely their opinions about their work environment.

The devil is in the details, as a quiz at the end of the session pointed out, so it’s essential for general counsel to familiarize themselves with the finer points of the law and coordinate with other departments to write, train and enforce social media policy.