In a recent landmark decision by the Australian Advertising Board, the standards bureau declared that third-party posts that appear on Facebook brand pages constitute as advertising and must therefore comply with ad industry guidelines and Australian consumer law. Meaning, the law requires that the onus is on advertisers to vet public posts or comments to ensure they are not sexist, racist, vilify certain sections of the community or are factually inaccurate. The decision was prompted by several photos and comments on Smirnoff’s Facebook Wall that connected “alcohol consumption with sexual or social prowess.”
The ruling is a game changer for Australian advertisers. Of course, brands that are doing it right are already moderating comments, but for large brands that receive thousands of comments per week on their Facebook page, it will be difficult to keep up. To scour every comment, every photo, every link and every innuendo will completely alter the way brands are able to participate in real-time conversations with their fans, effectively eliminating the impetus for brands to have a presence on Facebook in the first place.
The ruling could also be disastrous for Facebook in a pivotal time where they need to start making money. The value of the two-way conversations that brands are able to have with its consumers is the fundamental reason why brands are investing so heavily in the platform.
If this law ever makes its way to the U.S., could we start to see a mass exodus from Facebook by brands? If Facebook is indeed an advertising platform, consumers will find another place to go. And when that place is infiltrated by marketers, another platform will pop up. Brands need to embrace the social nature of its consumers but apparently, the consequence for trying to do this is severe.
Megan Mason is a Senior Strategist, Social Media at Razorfish. Disclaimer: Her Klout score is only a reflection of her focus on client results. To find almost funny material, you can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.