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If you’re actively using your Facebook page for promotion, you should be aware that you comply with advertising and customer standards.

You may have heard of certain criteria and rules being applied to your advertising material by the Advertising Standards Board (ASB), but what about the same standards being applied to responses to your Facebook posts? Even though you might be careful not to post anything “ethically questionable or factually incorrect” on your business Facebook page, what happens if your fans or other users are not as vigilant?

The ASB recently ruled that Facebook is an advertising platform, meaning that comments left on pages by third parties can be considered advertising, and can leave a business (just like yours) liable for hefty fines (and public censure) if comments contravene advertising standards.

The ruling specifically targeted two Australian alcohol brands, after public complaints about inappropriate content and offensive comments on their Facebook pages that were seen to encourage excessive alcohol consumption. The businesses were deemed responsible for all the content on their Facebook pages, and ordered to moderate user comments.

The brands were seen to have actively solicited comments and images that were inappropriate, although they may not have paid for them in the same way a business pays for more traditional forms of advertising space.

So what does this mean for your business? Are we all going to have to start moderating our business Facebook pages? The simple answer is yes. As a business owner, you should already be monitoring your Facebook page, and setting up alerts for any mention of your business online (google alerts for example), so hopefully you will be aware of whether your Facebook fans are posting anything that might be deemed offensive or incorrect. This is not censorship, but good marketing practice.

Your Facebook page is a mechanism for you to directly engage your customers. For this to be effective, it needs to work both ways, but allowing sexist, racist or otherwise offensive content can reflect negatively on your business.

Regularly joining in the discussions on your Facebook page and replying to comments can give you a good opportunity to correct obviously false statements relating to your products or service, and monitor potentially offensive content, without necessarily having to resort to heavy-handed tactics, or being worried that your page might contravene advertising standards.

The ASB ruling emphasises the fact that conversations on facebook pages are not just between the brand and its users. Due to the viral nature of social media, comments made on business pages can end up in the newsfeed of friends of commenters, and their friends, and therefore be disseminated among an extensive readership.

This is exactly what makes Facebook such an attractive means of promotion, and is why businesses seek to encourage conversation and interaction on their pages.

If you run a small business, and only have a handful of Facebook fans, moderating third party comments and conversations might not be too much of a daunting task. But if you do have a business with a strong social media following, and an active fan base, it might be wise to consider having someone in place to moderate comments on a daily basis.

Jo Macdermott

Jo Macdermott

<a href="http://au.linkedin.com/in/jomacdermott">Jo Macdermott</a> is the Chief Marketing Consultant at <a href="http://www.nextmarketing.com.au/">Next Marketing</a> in Melbourne. She has 15 years of marketing experience, is a Certified Practising Marketer and is a sought after marketing media commentator. Jo specialises in working with small and medium businesses. Follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/NextMarketingAU">Twitter here</a>.

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