The Ongoing Growth of Social Media
Social media has changed advertising, and while traditional media still has a place in the market, social media’s massive potential consumer base is hard to ignore. Advertisers must now concentrate on social media engagement. This medium allows consumers to make real-time product and service decisions. This requires advertisers to improve consumer engagement. Advertisers must also follow social media advertising rules.
Navigating the Rules
Social media advertising requires three considerations:
- Social media is risky.
- Reactions are unpredictable.
- Social media advertising follows traditional media rules.
Despite its communication power, social media misuse can cause PR disasters. Social media’s unpredictability and consumers’ complete brand control pose risks. With diverse opinions and sensibilities, a message may be misinterpreted.
Predicting social message reactions is impossible. Numerous examples have shown how seemingly harmless or humorous content has drawn criticism or legal threats. Marketers and lawyers must adapt to this changing environment and make quick, risk-aware decisions.
Contests and Social Media
Since studies show that fans spend more on products they support and recommend them to friends, contests are a popular way to gain fans and followers on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The basic rules of contest law still apply, but advertisers must also consider the terms and policies of each social media platform and guidance from regulators like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the U.S. and the Competition Bureau in Canada.
Recent Competition Bureau and Ad Standards guidelines stress the importance of disclosing contest entries and material connections on social media. Advertisers should require contestants to use hashtags like #contest or #prize in their social media posts to indicate a promotional contest. For example, consider Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
- Facebook: As you navigate the process of running a contest on Facebook, it’s important to keep in mind the various guidelines that must be followed. First and foremost, your contest must include a release of Facebook from any liability by each participant, as well as an acknowledgment that Facebook is not sponsoring, endorsing, or administering the contest.
When creating and managing your contest, make sure it is legal in the regions where it will be held. While it’s not allowed to require someone to “like” your page in order to enter the contest, you can ask users to take specific actions using Facebook features or functionality, such as liking a post, commenting, or uploading materials on a wall. Additionally, Facebook features can be used as voting mechanisms in your contest.
However, be cautious about offering incentives for sharing information about the contest on Facebook without first consulting legal counsel. Also, steer clear of using personal timelines or friend connections to administer promotions, as these are not permitted.
Keep in mind that Facebook will not provide any assistance in administering your contest, so it’s important to have the necessary provisions in place to manage it independently.
In summary, while Facebook offers various features and functionalities to enhance your contest, it’s essential to adhere to their guidelines to ensure a smooth and compliant promotion.
- Twitter: Organizing contests on Twitter is relatively more straightforward compared to Facebook. When administering a contest on this platform, make sure to prevent participants from creating multiple accounts or repeatedly posting the same tweet. Encourage them to use contest-relevant topics and adhere to Twitter Rules, as well as all applicable laws and regulations.
Since entering a Twitter contest might not be intuitive for all users, it’s crucial to provide clear instructions in the contest rules. Guide participants on using the appropriate hashtags, mentions, and retweets, while also including any necessary disclaimers. For example, instruct participants to use #contest or #sweepstakes in their tweets to comply with disclosure requirements.
- Pinterest: Pinterest is an image-driven platform, making it a great place for visually appealing contests. As with other social media platforms, you should be familiar with Pinterest’s guidelines before launching your contest. Avoid encouraging participants to pin the same image multiple times, as this could be considered spam. Instead, focus on original content creation and engagement.
While it’s permissible to use Pinterest’s features as a voting mechanism, refrain from using the number of pins, comments, or likes as the sole determinant of a winner. Combining these factors with a panel of judges or a random drawing can help maintain fairness and ensure compliance.
In summary, Pinterest contests can be a fantastic way to boost engagement, but it’s essential to follow the platform’s guidelines to avoid any potential issues.
Sponsored Posts and Influencer Marketing
Sponsored posts and influencer marketing are gaining popularity as advertisers seek to capitalize on the trust that consumers place in online personalities. However, transparency is crucial to maintaining that trust. In the U.S., the FTC has specific guidelines for sponsored posts and influencer partnerships, which require clear and conspicuous disclosure of any material connection.
Similarly, in Canada, Ad Standards’ guidelines mandate that influencers disclose any material connection with a brand, such as payment or product provision. Marketers should ensure that influencers use hashtags like #ad, #sponsored, or #partner to disclose these relationships in their social media posts.
Embracing Change and Staying Compliant
As the social media landscape continues to evolve, advertisers and legal counsel must work together to navigate the ever-changing rules and regulations. By understanding and adhering to platform-specific guidelines and relevant laws, you can effectively and safely leverage social media for advertising and promotion.
Here are some best practices to help you stay compliant while running social media advertising campaigns:
- Be transparent: Ensure that all promotional content is clearly marked as advertising, whether through the use of hashtags, disclosures, or other means.
- Educate your team: Train your marketing team on the relevant laws, rules, and platform guidelines applicable to your advertising campaigns, and stay up-to-date on any changes.
- Monitor and manage risks: Work with legal counsel to assess the risks associated with your social media advertising efforts and implement strategies to mitigate potential issues.
- Keep records: Document your advertising campaigns, including the content, approvals, and any issues that arise. This will help you track your compliance efforts and serve as evidence in case of disputes or investigations.
- Adapt and learn: Continuously refine your social media advertising strategies based on lessons learned from past campaigns and changes in the regulatory landscape.
Social media advertising presents significant opportunities for brands to reach and engage with their target audience. By understanding the rules and regulations governing this space, advertisers can effectively leverage social media platforms while minimizing the risks associated with this powerful marketing tool. Keep in mind that social media is constantly evolving, so staying informed and adapting to changes is crucial for ongoing success in this dynamic environment.