by Jon Wade
August 10th, 2012

The Advertising Standards Board (ASB) ruling in Australia on the back of the Smirnoff case — that a brand’s Facebook page and the content contained on it, both brand and consumer-generated, is subject to the same legal regulation as the brand’s advertising — at first glance seems counter-intuitive to conventional wisdom about social media. However, when you dig into it, it actually should not be a massive concern for brands who are taking the channel seriously. Moderating the conversation on a brand’s social media platform is more than best practice, it’s imperative. We recommend that all of our clients publish a ‘house rules’ on their page which details what will and will not be allowed to remain on the page.

Profanity, sexual content, racism and the like are all completely unacceptable on any brand’s Facebook page and need to be removed instantly by the community manager looking after the page. Extending this to other illegal conversation is not a massive leap. However, I accept that defining exactly what might break the ASB’s regulations is open to debate. But that’s the art of any form of communications. Creating content that engages human beings whilst still adhering to what society deems acceptable is the business that we’re in and being great at it differentiates the brands who are going to make it from those that won’t.

All brands that are moving into the social space need to accept that it is not as simple as opening up a Facebook page, ticking the box and turning away. With a platform comes a commitment and responsibility to the communities that you are engaging with as well as the brand or organisation you are representing. With that commitment comes a required investment in skilled communicators who can safeguard the brand whilst generating engagement with the community that builds its reputation and increases business value.

Jon Wade is head of digital, Asia Pacific, at Weber Shandwick

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