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3 new social media guidelines that you should be aware of

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Growing your business on social media has never been more effective. With some clever planning, creativity and science, you can gain new fans and drive sales by using a mix of organic and collaborator-driven stories.

Most of us are pretty aware that it’s illegal for businesses to make deceptive, false or misleading claims about products and services by consumer protection laws governed by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC).

But did you know that these laws apply to social media platforms in the same way they apply to other marketing and sales channels?

As far as the ACCC is concerned, you should be treating all your content on social media accounts like you would for a print, radio, television or web advertisements.

Here are some of the new guidelines and how to navigate them:

1. You’re responsible for third party content related to your business.

Yes, you’ve read that right. The ACCC will hold businesses accountable for any deceptive, false or misleading claims, even if it’s written or uploaded by a third party such as your customers or influencers that you’re working with.

To combat this, it’s better to err on the side of caution and delete anything that has a hint of prohibited claims. I know it’s hard–especially when it’s a favourable review for your products or services. In 2009, Allergy Pathway Pty Ltd was fined for failing to remove misleading medical testimonials posted by their fans on Twitter and Facebook.

It goes without saying that you should stay on top of comments and activity on social media by using social media monitoring platforms such as Hootsuite, Google Alerts or Brandwatch. If you’re managing a Facebook brand page, the Facebook Pages Manager App is also a great (and free) tool that you should be using daily.

2. You’re responsible to monitor your social media accounts at all times.

Haven’t got a social media manager? Time to get on that. Social media is 24/7, which means misleading comment may appear on your social media page outside of business operating hours. The ACCC expects you to be aware false, misleading or deceptive contents on your account and remove them as soon as you are aware of it. So what counts as a timely response, you ask?

The ACCC takes two factors into account: the size of the company and the number of followers. The bigger the company is, the faster ACCC expects the prohibited content to be dealt with within 24 hours. Likewise, the bigger following you have, the more responsive you have to be. This is due to the risk that more people will be exposed to, and potentially spread, misleading content.

No matter the size of your company, aim for a 12 to 24-hour response time.

3. You must declare influencer content.

Paying an influencer to promote a product or service they’ve never used before is a definite no. If you’re collaborating with a social media influencer, ensure to check their content before posting or amend it as soon as you are aware of any content that goes against the guidelines. To be on the safe side, regularly scan the social media circles you frequent to keep an eye for potentially misleading or deceptive claims in influencer’s content, even if it’s a positive unpaid review.

The Australian Association of National Advertisers’ (AANA) new provision code of ethics (effective 1 March 2017) requires brands to ensure all forms of advertising, including influencer posts on social media, to be ‘clearly distinguishable as such to the relevant audience’. Hence why you may have seen social posts containing hashtags including #ad, #sponsor or other variations.

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, now has a Paid Partnership feature that influencers must use when posting a sponsored post. It created a sub-header that makes a clear indication of a sponsored post and the business that’s advertising. This is a blessing for businesses as it will help to give back control and visibility to track and monitor influencer content.

Paid partnership on Instagram imageThe ACCC and AANA new guidelines above are a good indication that social media advertising regulation is on the increase. Therefore, you should pay extra care and attention to your social media marketing practices.

What tools to you use to monitor your social media accounts? Share with us below.