Facebook Rulings Affect Not for Profits

The heated discussions began with mainstream media attention about recent rulings made by the Advertising Standards Board (Board) concerning the official Facebook Pages for Smirnoff and VB.

The complaints concerned comments on the Facebook Pages said to be obscene, sexist, racist, and depicting irresponsible drinking and alleged to be breaches of the Australian Association of National Advertisers’ Code of Ethics (Code). The two most important rulings from the Board are:

1) The provisions of the Code now apply to an advertiser’s Facebook Page:
“As a Facebook page can be used to engage with customers, the Board further considered that the Code applies to the content generated by the advertisers as well as material or comments posted by users or friends.”

2) Brands are now required to monitor user-generated comments on their Facebook Pages:
“ … social media is an advertising platform that requires monitoring to ensure that offensive material is removed within a reasonable timeframe and that content within a Facebook page should, like all other advertisement and marketing communication, be assessed with the Code in mind…”

These rulings echo comments made by Justice Finkelstein in ACCC v Allergy Pathways. The Court found Allergy Pathway had made misleading representations about the company’s allergy treatment on its website and social media accounts, including testimonials posted by clients on Allergy Pathway’s Facebook page.


What exactly do these changes mean for Not for Profits?

Community management is now mandatory and this is good news! Social media has always been about building relationships.

Whether your Facebook Page is considered advertising or not, good social media has always been about community accountability. When you build a community, some will make cruel, inappropriate or misguided comments. Experienced social media managers understand this and understand that the larger your community is, the more that needs to be moderated.

You will need to moderate your Facebook page within a reasonable time. (The ACCC has suggested within 24 hours for large companies.) This means allocating this task to a staff member and giving them the authority to respond directly to the public. If you do not currently have someone in this role, approach someone in your customer service team, for example, who is used to responding to challenging questions or concerns.

Social media managers currently moderate using:

  • Community guidelines that help to set boundaries around appropriate and encouraged behaviour. Staff reference community guidelines during moderating or responding to feedback.
  • Delete/report buttons to delete obscene comments. If comments are misguided, staff can offer insights and re-iterate community guidelines. If the community guidelines are breached thereafter, the community manager has grounds to delete the comment.
  • Content directed at reoccurring comments or complaints. Some forward-thinking organisations use this approach to address barriers to donations. For example: creating content on accountability to address misperceptions over administration and overhead.

Responding to criticism is often uncomfortable, especially if your organisation is not experienced in having open dialogue with the public. Some quick tips Richenda Vermeulen gave to Channel 7 recently:

Don’t wait until you have an “official statement” to respond to criticism. Give your social media team the authority to respond immediately and honestly at the same time that you are processing the situation internally.

Say sorry if you have done something to upset your community. Respond directly to the community member, and align your response as the situation unfolds (if the complaint spirals, draft a public post). Ensure all your communication is personal, authentic and honest. Speak as if you are talking to someone face to face rather than drafting a public relations statement.

Tell your story when a situation spirals and you feel you have been misrepresented, create further content that explains your story. You can do this through a blog post, video or article on your website.

It is vital that your organisation is prepared to answer the tough questions. If you are unprepared to step in to the social media dialogue, do not be afraid to ask for help. Seek social media mentoring or guidance from an experienced social media manager or Not for Profit organisation forging ahead.

Read this article on the ProBono Australia website.

Image courtesy: AP via Daily Mail UK.

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