In a recent feature for the Qantas Inflight magazine I commented:
Social media is only going to increase in importance and it can be very influential in the way your business is perceived online and how people find you. [It is] so influential, in fact, that it’s very dangerous. It’s worse to leap into social media badly than to not do it at all.
Well the Advertising Standards Board has set the regulatory cat among the social-media pigeons in a decision this week, ruling that posts by users to a company's Facebook page are advertisements by that company.
What this means is if an visitor to your Facebook page posts something like "your widgets are the best widgets in Australia!" to the Facebook page then that comment is treated by the Advertising Standards Boards as if your company had used that line in an advertisement - so you'd better have some empirical evidence that the your widgets are verifiably the best widgets in Australia.
Also this puts a huge responsibility on page admins to moderate posts which, even if funny, could possibly be construed as legally actionable. If someone posts to your Facebook page "I love your widgets, never buying those Acme widgets again! They're crap!" then that is your company publishing an advertisement that describes your competitor's product as crap. Cue the lawyers.
This is of course a huge "what the!" moment for Internet marketers, but right now, that's the law. See:
If you don't have a social media policy in place, get one now - or talk to someone who can help!