Doctors have medical malpractice insurance, a specialised type of professional liability insurance that covers them if something dreadful happens and a patient (or a patient's surviving relatives) sues them. Should social media influencers have something similar?
Hear us out. There's a world of difference between a highly qualified medical practitioner who has your life in their hands and someone with an Instagram account and an audience. But what happens if that influencer posts something or does something that lands them in legal trouble? And what if that influencer is you?
Social media influencers carry plenty of... well... influence. Research by the Digital Marketing Institute found that 70% of US teens trust influencers more than they do 'traditional' celebrities, while 86% of women use social media for purchasing advice. What happens if an influencer shares a negative opinion about a brand or business? Could they be sued? And would their insurance cover them?
In 2010 (which is about three millennia ago in internet years), US property management company Horizon Group sued Chicago renter Amanda Bonnen after she tweeted to her 20 (yes, twenty) followers: 'Who said sleeping in a mouldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's okay.'
Horizon sued her for defamation – and lost. But what if you were to diss a brand during an unboxing video for your audience of 20,000 followers?
'Generally, influencers are individuals and will never be able to face any large claim coming from a brand,' says Stéphane Rogovsky, founder and CEO of influencer agency R-Squared. 'This risk can be mitigated by well-designed contracts, which would require influencers, if requested, to delete any post, dissociate themselves from the brand and/or publish apologies.'
Even though very, very few influencers actually do it, Rogovsky says it's worth considering taking out a professional indemnity insurance policy that covers against any claim or indemnity resulting from a breach of contract, mistake or misconduct – especially if the influencer is working with a brand on #sponsored content.
'If anything goes wrong and the content turns into a PR nightmare that harms its reputation, the brand might want to claim indemnities equivalent to the direct and indirect losses,' he explains. 'In extreme situations, those direct or indirect losses (e.g. a value of the shares drops on the stock exchange) may reach levels that no agency or influencer can bear.'
Fortunately, most sponsored-content contracts are short term by nature. We're not talking multi-year brand-ambassador deals where the influencer becomes the 'face' of a brand, like Oscar Pistorius or Tiger Woods with Nike; most influencers are expected to do two or three posts in a month, and they're done.
As long as they can keep themselves out of trouble while they're doing it, everybody's happy and nobody gets sued.
But what if the influencer does something wrong, or if an accident happens? Influencers don't necessarily have to worry about physically injuring themselves on the job if they're doing a standard unboxing video at home. But what if they decide to do a wacky stunt, and injure themselves in the process?
Again, Rogovsky says he's not aware of any influencer taking out any insurance other than a medical aid policy covering for accidents. 'I suppose that if there is an accident, the fine line between "it was the influencer's choice to go on a hike" and "the influencer only went on a hike to achieve his/her duty as an influencer" would determine liabilities,' he says.
This is where business insurance cover comes into the picture. If you have a deal to post sponsored content by a certain deadline and you lose access to your Instagram or YouTube account and aren't able to deliver, business insurance may be your only safety net. (In the entertainment industry, this is known as 'Unable to Perform' coverage.)
If you're serious about being a full-time influencer, it may be worth considering your options when it comes to business insurance. Our business insurance quote tool will show you what the options are for small business.
In the meantime, think carefully about what you say whenever you post your content, and try to limit the high-risk physical stunts. (Or at least make sure you keep your camera rolling.)
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or medical advice.