Social media platforms have become an increasingly pivotal aspect of marketing, particularly throughout the challenges of a digital economy. It’s one of the easiest ways to interact with existing and potential customers from the comfort of their own homes.
Although social media draws many benefits for businesses and customers alike, social media needs to be treated like traditional forms of advertising in that comments and opinions are not false, misleading or deceptive.
Business owners are responsible for the content on their pages, irrespective of who is the actual author and publisher of it. Employee or customer alike, the business has a responsibility to ensure that their content does not harm or discriminate.
Consumer protection laws apply to social media in the same way they apply to any other marketing activities. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) may require businesses to substantiate any claims that may be false, misleading or deceptive on their social media pages. A common way to establish this is through a disclaimer or through terms and conditions.
To avoid breaching any consumer protection laws, business owners should consider the following:
Business owners are accountable for the posts and public comments made by others on their social media pages. Therefore, it is your business’s responsibility to monitor comments to ensure they are not false or likely to mislead and deceive consumers.
Social media pages need to be regularly monitored to ensure followers of your business’s page do not post claims that could be considered false, misleading or deceptive. The amount of time you dedicate to monitoring your social media will depend on the size of your business and the number of followers you have.
Consider establishing ‘house rules’ that apply to the behaviour expected from your social media followers, and ensure it is featured prominently on your pages. Followers who breach these rules should be blocked from your pages.
Similarly, employees should be held accountable for how they respond to social media posts, or for what they post. Ensure that there is an agreed-upon code of conduct regarding posts that reflect the business, how their views may be interpreted and what is acceptable for them to be posting on behalf of the business.
Businesses can choose to respond to false or misleading comments instead of removing them but it may not override the false impression made by the original comments. In most cases, it is safer to remove comments as soon as you become aware of them. On some social media platforms, this can be done through hiding or deleting those comments. Be careful not to remove valid reviews or criticisms – rather, addressing those will assist you in being seen as accountable for your actions.