Social media platforms are taking over our society. They have made it possible to communicate, connect and become a part of a community even when we are home alone. They may also be responsible for two people bumping into each other as they walk, because they aren’t watching where they are going; and they may have caused you to continuously waste most of your lunch break. Although, social media does have its upsides, and I don’t just mean the cat video you saw last night that made you chuckle. In a business sense, social media platforms have become a great means for online marketing.
Marketing can be hard, it takes time, and it can cost a great deal of money. For a lot of owners operating small to medium sized businesses, that’s money they may be short on or don’t want to spend on advertising. Fortunately, in our technologically savvy society, where the elderly to the inappropriately young are using the many forms of social media available, we have the opportunity to communicate with our markets in a very simple and cost effective way. Hence why we have seen such a boom in the use of social media; – predominantly Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – for promotion and marketing communications.
And rightly so, businesses today have a chance to communicate directly with consumers on easily accessible platforms. When it comes to social media marketing for your business, there can be great benefits, although you must also be aware of the responsibilities under law that you have on social media. As we become more and more familiar with marketing on social media we must also become equally mindful of our actions in doing so.
Below are several precautions you should take to ensure that your marketing operations on social media are accessing the benefits, whilst avoiding the pitfalls.
The Competition and Consumer Act of 2010 states that “A person must not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.” This includes any form of advertisements or statements made by your business, whether it be on an in-store banner or a Facebook update. Obviously we all consciously avoid being deceptive by lying to our audience, although the law is also concerned with any conduct that is likely to mislead or deceive. Therefore it is important that when promoting or communicating with individuals on social media we are being completely accurate and holistic with our information. For more information on avoiding misleading and deceptive conduct as a whole see our recent Blog post here.
Social media platforms, you may be surprised to find out, don’t take the weekends off. In-fact they operate around the clock. If you are marketing on social media, then you have to be prepared to respond to activity on your accounts at all times. Now this doesn’t mean you need to be sitting on Twitter 24/7, although it does require you to be aware of what is going on with your account as much as possible. For example someone may comment something on your businesses social media page which contained misleading information about your product or service. If you are aware, you will be able to remove this information or respond to it. Because if you don’t, you can also be held responsible for posts or public comments made by others on your social media platforms which are likely to be deceptive or misleading. According to the ACCC:
“In 2011, a court case concluded that a company accepted responsibility for fan posts and testimonials on its social media pages when it knew about them and decided not to remove them.”
Be aware, and prepared to act!
One way in which to reduce the risk of online marketing, is to only say things that you would be willing to say in other forms of advertising. Because social media marketing is obviously based upon the social aspect of media, it can be easy to sink into the culture where slang and colloquialisms are very evident. In some cases this may be fine, although they may lead to information being perceived as something that it isn’t. It is very important to always stay professional, yes speak the language of your audience, but be accountable to marketing best practises and ask yourself if you would be willing to say this in another form of advertising.
Social media marketing can be very cost effective, although it must be approached with some measure of caution. The ACCC can require companies to substantiate any claims on their social media pages and if there are infringements of the law then the ACCC can take court action.
For more corporate and commercial legal information please see the news section on our website and if you require legal advice then please contact us at Tri-meridian and we may be of assistance. Whilst we are on the topic, make sure you find Tri-meridian on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Who is communicating on behalf of your business?
- Do they have the necessary supervision in doing so?
- Does your business have parameters in place for what is said on social media,
- Which social online communities are being interacted within? And,
- Are you being aware, accountable and accurate?
For further information, please contact the author.
This article is posted in Adelaide, South Australia by Tri-meridian Corporate & Commercial Law and is intended to be used as a guide only. It is not, and is not intended to be, advice on any specific matter. We do not accept responsibility for any acts or omissions resulting from reliance upon the content of this article. Before acting on the basis of any material in this article, we recommend that you consult your professional adviser.