While the ASB dismissed all the complaints filed against Diageo, the ASB Status Report provides some insights that could shape the future of Australian social media marketing.
Social media’s commercial consequences
Media headlines gave a sense of despair as brands would now be burdened with the responsibility for consumer generated content published on their social media pages.
The legal precedence that is generating headlines occurred back in 2009. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) claimed Allergy Pathway had undertaken false, misleading and deceptive conduct.
At issue were misleading product statements posted on Allergy Pathway’s Facebook wall and Twitter page.
Justice Finkelstein from the Federal Court ruled that: “while it cannot be said that Allergy Pathway was responsible for the initial publication of testimonials, it is appropriate to conclude that Allergy Pathway accepted responsibility for the publications when it knew of them and decided not to remove them. Hence it became the publisher of the testimonials.”
This legal precedence means brand community managers need to understand decisions to publish and to moderate content are considered equally as grave if the content is commercially misleading and/or violates industry specific guidelines.
The selection of a qualified Strategist and/or Community Manager must reflect the commercial and corporate reputation risks a brand faces when participating in social media.
When is social media considered advertising and/or marketing communication?
Under the Australian Association of National Advertiser’s, advertising and/or marketing communications means “any material which is published or broadcast using any Medium or any activity which is undertaken by, or on behalf of an advertiser or marketer, and over which the advertiser or marketer has a reasonable degree of control, and that draws the attention of the public in a manner calculated to promote or oppose directly or indirectly a product, service, person, organization or line of conduct.”
While the definition is broad enough to argue social media is an act of advertising and/or marketing communications, it’s also vague enough to argue that social media is not an act of advertising and/or marketing communications.
In their response to the ASB, Diageo Australia claimed their Smirnoff Australia Facebook page is not ‘advertising’.
Here’s the Diageo Australia response.
“The Smirnoff Facebook page is a tool to network with adult consumers of legal purchase age for alcohol (18 years within Australia), given the consumers who like the page are generally already Smirnoff purchasers. On this basis, we assert that the Smirnoff Facebook Page and all inclusive content should not be considered as advertising”.
In today’s new media driven marketing world, social savvy brands see their customers as one of their top marketing assets. Building advocacy is particularly relevant for the increasing number of organizations adopting the Net Promoter Score to track customer advocacy.
I appreciate the Diageo Australia response to the ASB was written with the intent to mitigate risk. But taken outside of the ASB context, a branded Facebook page publishing brand related content engaging customers is a form of advertising/marketing.
It’s time to get serious about social media
Australian social media marketing is in the infancy of its development. For social media to meet it’s potential as a viable tool in the marketing mix, it cannot rely on vague definitions of advertising and/or marketing communications to help structure it’s growth.
Social media professionals/institutions must take it upon themselves to produce a set of protocols/guidelines that serve the best interest of the customer and effectively represent the brand.
What’s the risk? The missed opportunity that social media marketing could languish in mediocrity. An accreditation program could:
- profile existing best practice ensuring social media marketing professionals are operating with the latest and greatest information;
- highlight the various business, communication and regulatory elements that combine to reflect the unique dynamics that make up corporate social media; and
- teach the skills required to build social media marketing business cases that generate an agreed upon ROI.
Should Australian social media marketing professionals be accredited by a professional / academic body?