IAB declares Facebook comments don’t constitute advertising

The Interactive Advertising Bureau has given its official view regarding ‘comments’ on social media, following confusion about exactly what constitutes advertising.


The industry body has stated that comments written on social media platforms such as Facebook, directed towards an organisation or to other users, don’t constitute advertising.


But companies still have to make the extra effort to engage with users on social media and clear up any possible misconceptions.


The confirmation is a welcome one. About a year ago, the Advertising Standards Board declared a brand’s Facebook page constitutes an advertisement. The ruling sparked confusion among small businesses.


The crux of the ASB’s ruling was that a Facebook page is essentially used as a marketing tool.


Although the ASB has no actual legal authority, there was misunderstanding over the decision. The new IAB announcement is meant to clarify some of that confusion.


The IAB’s director of regulatory affairs, Samantha Yorke, told SmartCompany it needs to be spelled out exactly what Facebook comments are classified as.


“After a careful analysis of existing laws, regulation and industry practice around social media, IAB Australia has reached the view that user comments directed towards an organisation or social media platform, or to other users who are drawn to a particular organisation, do not constitute advertising,” she says.


Yorke says the decision was made because, if organisations view comments as advertisements, there is a risk they will “err on the side of caution” and be heavy-handed in their moderation, potentially impacting the “spirit” of social media.


Yorke says the IAB had some concern with the ASB decision because it would require all businesses to take the exact same approach to moderation.


“We didn’t think that would necessarily be reflective of how businesses wanted to operate in this space.


“Some businesses will want to have a conservative approach, while others will want to push the envelope and talk about controversial things,” Yorke says.


The IAB says companies still have a responsibility to moderate comments extensively, and have prepared a list of guidelines for how businesses should do so. Some of these include developing moderation guidelines and publishing them, developing a moderation schedule and creating a “crisis management plan”.


Such plans are useful in case social media sites are hacked – which has become a slightly more common occurrence among businesses both large and small.


The complete plan is available through the IAB.


Yorke says for now, businesses need to make sure they treat their Facebook pages “consistently” – and it’s easier for them to do if user comments aren’t viewed as advertising.


“But there still needs to be a sense of responsibility,” she warns.


This story first appeared on SmartCompany.


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