Are you using Facebook, Twitter or another social media channel to promote and advertise your retail business? If so, it’s worth remembering an online business ca not make false claims or misleading statements when promoting their products or services. Just as with in-store ticketing, the way you display your promotions and the claims make online about your business must comply with consumer laws.
7 things retailers must know about social media marketing
Just as with bricks and mortar retail stores, your online business will be governed by consumer protection rules and regulations. While each consumer act might be slightly different, they outline the responsibilities retailers have when participating in social networking. These rules can be particularly tricky because social media tends to happen in real-time and you may be under obligation to observe the consumer act of any country where you are making sales. Additionally, some consumer acts make the retailer responsible for all behaviour, comments and posts on a brand’s social channel. This means claims made by your fans or customers on your site must be compliant with consumer protection laws, as well.
1. Do not make misleading claims on social media
Any ticket, sign or advertisement you post on social media must meet the standards of the consumer act. For example, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission clearly states,
“There are no specific or different consumer laws or rules in place for social media. Consumer protection laws which prohibit businesses from making false, misleading or deceptive claims about their products or services have been in place for decades. These laws apply to social media in the same way they apply to any other marketing or sales channel.”
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In addition, it’s imperative you’re not making unsubstantiated claims on your site. This extends to celebrity endorsements and client testimonials. Using words like ‘best’, ‘first’, or ‘only’ in your social media posts can get you in trouble if you can’t prove the claim.
2. Do not allow fans or followers to make misleading claims
A particularly thorny issue for retailers is the obligation to ensure no one else makes false claims on your social networking properties. If a Facebook fan is posting incorrect information on your page or someone is leaving a comment on your blog that’s not true, the retailer is obligated to correct and/or remove the comment.
This extends to comments made about competitors. What may be viewed as a bit of light sport to brand champions could get you in serious trouble with consumer protection advocates.
3. Know how to minimise the risk to your business
You should behave online the same way you would in your own store. Ensure your social media posts are accurate. If you wouldn’t print it on a sign or ticket in your store, don’t post it on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, either.
It’s a good idea to have group ‘rules’ posted somewhere on your site. This gives your fans and followers a clear idea of what is expected and establishes the tone of your site. In addition, it aids your social media managers in monitoring the site. Don’t hesitate to get legal advice on social media rules.
4. Monitor social media pages around the clock
One of the challenges with social media is it’s always on. If you’re running an international operation, your shoppers could be posting any time during a 24 hour period. Evenings and weekends can be particularly tricky times as people are more relaxed and more likely to post negative or inaccurate information about your company.
Establish a plan around monitoring your social media channels. This may require the use of special tools or a roster system for your staff to ensure your organisation is aware of any questionable claims that may be posted outside of normal business hours.
5. How to respond to false, misleading or deceptive comments
Best practice for social networking says you should never delete a comment. Indeed, many businesses have caused themselves additional trouble by deleting negative comments if consumers feel like it’s an attempt to hide poor customer service. Still, you might consider removing comments in certain situations that cause a breach in consumer laws. If your response to a misleading comment is insufficient to override a false impression made by the original comment, it might be safer to remove the conversation.
6. Understand the role of consumer protection in social media marketing
Make no mistake, the consumer protection bodies assume the same authority for social media promotions and advertising as they do with your bricks and mortar store. You can be held liable for breaches occuring on your website, LinkedIn company page, Facebook, or in your store.
7. Offer your customers a refund
If a customer has made a purchase because of a false or misleading statement made in your social networks, offer them a full refund. Even if it’s a statement made by someone in your online community, it’s important for you to offer the refund. This is why it’s essential you maintain a consistent monitoring program so you can reduce the likelihood of a refund situation.
What this means for retailers
Social media is a fantastic way for retailers to reach a wider consumer base. It’s an incredibly easy way to promote your products with a very low investment. It’s also a terrific way to foster word of mouth referrals and develop a legion of brand ambassadors. Retailers must keep in mind, however, that what’s said in your social networks – by you or one of your fans – must comply with your local consumer protection laws and even the laws of other countries. This applies to text, images, video, infographics, comments or any other type of update made in your social networks.
If you would like more information about ticketing or promotions, please contact SignIQ. We have all kinds of ideas about how you can promote your products without running into trouble with consumer protection regulations.
Are you using social media to promote your retail business?
A version of this post originally appeared on the SignIQ blog and is used with permission.