Guest Post by: Dan Harris

Yesterday I attended the Internet Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) How to be Safe and Social event.

Of particular interest was the presentation by Malcolm Phillips, the Code Policy Manager at theCommittee for Advertising Practice (CAP), on updating the digital remit of the CAP code and the new Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) guidelines for online advertising that come into effect from 1 March 2011.

Of primary importance to me, and to the way FreshNetworks functions as a social media agency, are the rules regarding the re-purposing of user generated content.

While the ASA and CAP understand that marketers and brands cannot be held responsible for content produced by independent consumers and third parties, it’s how that content is used that will be come under scrutiny. From the 1st March, if brands decide to re-purpose user generated content in their marketing strategies, they become liable for the content from the time of use onwards – it falls within the same guidelines as any offline or brand-generated marketing content.

So what does this actually mean for brands and businesses using social media marketing?

  • Any user comments re-tweeted by a brand will require proof that the claims made are true. For example, re-tweeting a comment that your brand makes the best coats will require proof that the coats are the best.
  • Drinks companies will have to be very careful with any galleries they create on Facebook as advertising rules governing alcohol promotion state that no under 25s can be shown in the marketing material (CAP code point 18.6).
  • A brand is responsible for any messages it produces that are then re-tweeted by followers. If it goes viral, the ASA may well ask for the brand to clarify the purpose of the message and its content.
  • If any branded messages are re-tweeted with additional comments from the follower, the ASA will not hold the brand accountable for the additional user generated content.

The new rules also raise a number of additional questions that need clarification:

  • At what point does user generated content fall under the brand control?
  • How much additional information do you need to add to a tweet to ensure it isn’t misleading, and will a link to more information suffice?
  • At which point does PR become marketing and visa versa?

The ASA are not actively looking for breaches of these new regulations, however it only takes one complaint from a customer or competitor brand and they will consider making an investigation. This will not be retrospective and will only be applied to content produced on or after 1st March 2011.

All in all, the IAB How to be Safe and Social event has thrown up just as many questions as it has answered. 2011 is shaping up to be a very interesting year for online marketers, especially within Social Media, and there are bound to be a few real life examples that will set a precedent for what is and isn’t deemed acceptable.

Image courtesy of ETF trends

Original Post: http://www.freshnetworks.com/blog/2011/02/how-to-be-safe-and-social-asa-and-cap-guidelines-social-media/