For a long time now, I’ve counselled clients to be responsible for what occurs in their online communities – their Facebook pages, LinkedIn Groups, Twitter accounts, YouTube channels and so on.
When you use a social media platform to talk to your stakeholders, it’s part of your role to ensure it’s a respectful and pleasant experience. You’re the host of the party / the ambassador at the embassy / the school teacher in a rowdy class / the MC at a community meeting / the chairman at the AGM.
And for my clients, that’s made sense and it’s a guideline they’ve happily followed. They remove offensive material, respond to queries and comments promptly, and generally try to have an engaging experience with fans.
For professional community managers, comment moderation is like walking a tightrope. With the mantra of Do Not Delete firmly in their minds, they err on the side of open two-way engagement, grinning and bearing complaints and jibes. You can be quickly criticised if you remove fan posts (and indeed experience a backlash that’s in another league compared to the first individual posting).
Now, more legislative requirements have been layered over this and the fear factor has been raised. The Advertising Standards Bureau has ruled that the Advertiser Code of Ethics applies to Facebook pages. It considers “the Facebook site of an advertiser is a marketing communication tool over which the advertiser has a reasonable degree of control”. Read more detail in the ASB decision published here [links to a PDF]. Where this gets tricky for page managers, is that your fans’ posts may be deemed to be advertising material too. So if they make outlandish or misleading claims about your product, you may need to remove or correct those.
In addition, following this, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) warned that it expects Facebook Page owners to remove misleading content promptly. In a piece in SmartCompany, an ACCC spokesperson says this can be onerous for smaller businesses who are not continually checking their social media sites. There’s an attempt to draw a distinction between a large brand like Coles for example, a mum and pop operation, for which there may be more leniency. Nevertheless, any page owners may be fined for breaches.
This week, the Communications Council released some social media guidelines. These are guidelines not just for commercial use, but for personal use also, and may be a useful reference if you’re developing a staff social media policy.
What do you do? @tipereth has some sound steps listed at the end of her recent blog post. These are items I advise clients about regularly. Take advantage of these tools and approaches soon if you haven’t already.
Apart from that – forge on. For many of you, your Facebook and online community experience will be a rewarding one. You may be communicating with customers better than you ever have before. Bear these recent rulings in mind, but don’t let them make you timid.
Social media is there for you to participate in, so provided you’re aware of this legislative environment, you can jump in and make the most of your online community.