Social media is one of the fastest growing channels for brands and advertisers seeking to connect with consumers. With billions of people connected to the world via social media, advertisers have been quick to hop aboard the vast and growing ability to reach the population en mass.

However, due to the casual nature of social media, it is easy for advertisers to forget that the legal guidelines for advertising still apply. Therefore, it is important for all forms of advertising, including social media, to stay cognizant of what is prohibited when advertising.

In general, all advertising remains governed by the New South Wales Fair Trading Act. This governing body requires that all advertising be truthful and overall prohibits businesses from making false or misleading statements in any of their advertising. This includes advertising accurate pricing, having an actual quantity of the product available for purchase, and a truthful description of the quality of the product.

In addition to Fair Trading, there are other agencies that self-regulate advertising in New South Wales. Two such entities are the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) and the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB). The AANA was established in 1997 and has formulated a code of rules and ethics that apply to the industries of advertising, marketing and media. The AANA has developed and promotes the use of a second party to adjudicate claims against advertisers. This agency is known as the Advertising Standards Bureau.

The Bureau enforces both the codes and regulations promoted by the AANA and also, those established by themselves. Claims against advertisers for false or inappropriate content, are resolved through the established processes of the ASB.

However, it is best if an advertiser does not find themselves in a position of having to defend their marking content or media presence. There are several things a brand can keep in mind as they pursue advertising on social media.

Do not make false or misleading statements

While it may seem as if social media is a more relaxed atmosphere through which consumers can be reached, the rules of proper advertising and ethics still apply. Be sure that all statements that are made on social media that pertain to your business are accurate and truthful.

Be careful of allowing others to post information on your site about your business or product

In general, it can be a huge boost to any businesses advertising to have customers post positive statements about your product online. If you are going to allow this on your particular business social media site, it would be wise to have an employee reviewing the public’s postings and have the ability to remove any statements that might be unclear or misleading to the public.

Minimise risk by remembering that social media is no different than any other advertising platform

Be equally vigilant on social media by remembering not to make any statement on a social media site that you would not be willing to make in a more traditional form of advertising such as on television, radio or in newspaper or magazine print

Remember, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission can require any business to show proof of truth on their advertising content on social media

Prior to posting any content on your social media site be sure that your claims about your product, pricing, availability and quality can be supported. In the event that you post information on social media that cannot be substantiated, the ACC can take legal action against you and your business. 

Lastly, it is important to keep in mind that there are specific issues presented with each type of brand product that is advertised. For example, a company that promotes an alcoholic beverage cannot encourage binge drinking. These rules apply to all forms of advertising and marketing content, not just the traditional forms. Therefore, there is no dispensation for crossing these boundaries because of a business’s target audience on social media. In our current times, it is best to operate under the assumption that social media reaches a population of all ages. If you are uncertain as to the particular legal or ethical issues associated with your businesses product, remember to consult the advertising and marketing information that is particular to your industry.

In the event that you have any questions and concerns about what is permitted when advertising on social media sites, it is best to seek the advice of experts in the field. At Owen Hodge Lawyers, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.