Facebook fallout: Your responsibility for users’ comments on Facebook Pages

Facebook and Smirnoff and VB - changes to facebook responsibility

Glass half empty? Alcohol Facebook Pages under new scrutiny (Image by timparkinson via Flickr)

Some rulings around advertising standards and inappropriate comments on Facebook Pages made the news last week and has the social media world all atwitter.

In essence, the Advertising Standards Board, a body that ‘polices’ Australian advertising guidelines for those advertisers who are members of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA), has declared that comments made on Facebook business pages fall under the same standards as advertising.

What does this mean for businesses?

In essence, your advertising needs to adhere to certain standards of behaviour that fits within general community standards and your messages must not be misleading.

What brought last week’s discussion to a head were comments on Facebook Pages for Smirnoff Vodka and VB beer. Smirnoff was not found to be in breach of the standards and VB was.

Smirnoff was under scrutiny for pictures of people drinking and pictures of empty vodka bottles but was able to show how all correct procedures were followed to make sure people drinking were of age, were not drunk, etc.

VB had problems based by users’ comments to a conversation started by the VB Page Administrator asking about what would make for a perfect Australia Day celebration. Some comments were lewd, others were ‘abusive’ towards homosexuals and women.

The brands argue they cannot be responsible for commentary in a public forum, and cite the large volume of comments they receive.

I argue that this is ‘social’ media, which suggests at least a two-way nature to the conversation. If there is no real engagement with users on behalf of the brands, this is defeating the point of social networking and a recipe for disaster (we all know that people act more carelessly and with false bravado when they feel anonymous – maybe even more so with a few vodkas or beers under their belts).

So it comes back to size. I believe size does matter and that small is beautiful in social media terms (I hate to think what conversations that comment would stir on the VB page).

Small businesses are best placed to make best use of social media and social networking IF they are creating content that attracts and informs the right people (their target markets). These tools allow a small base of people (or even a solo operator) to make more efficient use of their time in connecting with an audience that matters in a way unheard of before these online tools.

In the style of a famous jingle:

You can get it clowning
You can get it frowning
You can get it by not knowing how
As a matter of fact I’ve got it now…
A big social network needs some big cold love
And the biggest social network is FB
Forever Bitter (if left on its own)

As it happens, the VB page will now be monitored daily to make sure comments adhere to suitable standards.

You can read more about Social Media grows up: Businesses responsible for Facebook Page comments in my original post yesterday at Baker Marketing (it includes references to documents and press coverage).

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