Social media is great for getting your business out there. Publicity and profitability often go hand in hand. In today’s world, there is no platform better for gaining publicity than social media. If you are just starting up your business you should seriously consider using social media as a tool for improving your business. 

However, if you decide to use social media you have to be aware of your responsibilities on the site as well as your rights as someone creating content on a social media platform. 

Read on to avoid the pitfalls of advertising and engaging as a business on social media, so you can get the full benefits with none of the negatives!

Does Australian Consumer Law Apply On Social Media? 

Social media for personal use does not apply here. However, if you’re conducting business on social media, then the Australian Consumer Law will apply to your advertising. When using social media for publicity or other advertisements, you are responsible for any false or misleading statements made about the products. 

So what do you need to look out for to remain compliant? 

Avoid Making False Or Misleading Statements 

While you want to make your product as attractive as possible, you need to stick to the truth to avoid legal ramifications. When posting on social media ensure to fact check any statements you make. The ACCC will be on the lookout for businesses that are making unsubstantiated claims. For example, if you claim you have the oldest taco stand in South Australia but there are a number of taco stands which predate yours.  This is a false or misleading statement and you must avoid it. 

What About Commenters? 

If it is your social media post/ad, it is your responsibility. This means that if a fan of your product is giving you some publicity that’s a little too good you must correct or remove the comment.

As an extreme example, if a fan comments on Soap Co.’s advertisement, “I used this soap once and I have never had to shower again!” you should correct or delete this comment. It adds an extra responsibility and means you have to be carefully monitoring your posts.

What Else Do I Need To Be Aware Of When Advertising On Social Media? 

An organisation called the Australian Association of National Advertisers has created a ‘advertising code of ethics’. This code of ethics is designed to help the advertising and marketing world ‘self-regulate’. The code is detailed but broadly it regulates advertisements affecting business competitors and on consumers. If you’re a business operating in Australia looking to advertise on social media, you must be aware of this code. 

Section 1: Competition Complaints

This part of the code establishes a set of guidelines for how competing businesses should handle their advertising. It also establishes a low-cost dispute resolution mechanism. This means if a consumer has a problem with your businesses advertising it will go to the AANA before the courts. 

Section 2: Consumer Complaints

Section 2 applies where a business has put an advertisement up aimed at promoting a product which a consumer has a problem with. 

It regulates the amount of violence, nudity, explicit language and sexual themes in your advertisements. It also covers how you portray certain people in your advertisements. 

Running A Giveaway On Your Social Media? 

Lots of businesses run giveaways to promote their products, or as a thank you to their loyal customers. However, did you know that depending on the size of the giveaway, you may need a permit? And if you don’t get one, you could be running an illegal giveaway!

The competition thresholds differ a little between States and Territories. We’ve broken them down here in this article: Competitions: Do I Need A Permit?

Along with Australian law, you also need to be compliant with any policies that the social media platform might have. You can read the Instagram rules on promotions here and for Facebook here

Intellectual Property and Social Media 

As a business, when posting content on social media you are creating something new! This means that it may be covered by Intellectual Property law. If someone uses your branding, videos or other posted content you may have an action against them. It’s important to note that this area of law is not entirely settled, meaning that what is and isn’t copyright on social media can sometimes be confusing. 

However, a good starting point is the terms and conditions of the website that you are posting on. Some websites, like Facebook, contain terms and conditions which protect people reposting content from copyright infringements. 

You might want to register for a business name, but this doesn’t offer you trade mark protection. If you want to protect the logo or name of your business, it might be best to register a trade mark to prevent people from taking your work. 

Privacy 

When you advertise on social media you gain access to information about your consumers and who is engaging with your posts more broadly – a lot of information. Social media privacy has been a big issue in recent years and there is a spotlight on how businesses use and protect the information given to them through social media. This attention means you need to take extra special care with the information that you collect. 

But People, Right? 

People are consenting to give you their information when they click on your posts. However, they are consenting only to give the information to you and your business. This means that once you have the information, you have the responsibility to protect it from people trying to take it. If you do not take steps to protect this information then you may be found to be in breach of some privacy laws. To make sure this doesn’t happen you need to be aware if you are taking information and the necessary steps you need to take to protect this information

Defamation 

Trolling and talking trash about others on social media is sadly commonplace these days. However, as a business you are more likely to face legal consequences if you make false claims which damages someone or something’s reputation. These legal consequences come in the form of hefty fines that you pay to the damaged party. Keeping this in mind you need to be careful of what you and your employees are posting on social media. However, it goes even further than that!

Commenters, Again!

It is a good rule of thumb that you are responsible for all content on your page – including comments. This applies for defamation. If someone posts a comment on a post that you are responsible for that is false and damages someone’s reputation you must deal with it. In the past businesses have been charged with defamation for comments posted on content they have uploaded. Once again, make sure you are carefully monitoring your posts and how they are developing and being used because there are serious consequences if you do not. 

Worried About Your Employees’ Social Media Presence?

Brand and reputation are important for a business. Social media has the potential to make or ruin a business’ reputation in a day. You would be right to be worried about what people who represent your business are saying online. 

But how far can you go in restraining what they post? Sprintlaw has a few articles on this topic: 

Still Unsure?

We don’t blame you! Many of the legal issues touched on in this article such as defamation, intellectual property and data privacy can be difficult to navigate.

If you have concerns about your business and social media get into contact with Sprintlaw. Reach out to our team for a free, no-obligations chat at team@sprintlaw.com.au or 1800 730 617.

About Sprintlaw

Sprintlaw is a new type of law firm that operates completely online and on a fixed-fee basis. We’re on a mission to make quality legal services faster, simpler and more affordable for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

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