Social media management: AANA vs IAB guidelines

Last week there was a rift between the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) regarding best practice for social media management of brand assets.

The AANA works in conjunction with the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB), which enforces the self-regulatory rules set down by the AANA. The ASB and AANA have developed guidelines and a practice note outlining that brands are responsible for any content posted on their social media pages. The AANA states advertisers must treat social media comments as though they are part of the campaign itself and be prepared to moderate regularly and often.

The IAB feels that the AANA’s approach to remove any comments or content that risk breaching the code is fairly heavy handed.  Samantha Yorke, the IAB’s director of regulatory affairs said,

“After a careful analysis of existing laws and 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. There is a real risk that organisations who treat user comments as advertising will err on the side of caution and moderate user comments very conservatively, which will adversely impact their presence on social platforms and which arguably undermines the very spirit under which social media thrives.”

The IAB guidelines are available here.

The AANA is concerned that if brands follow the IAB’s advice, they could be found guilty next time there is a complaint against them to the ASB. The AANA released a statement recognising the IAB’s guidelines as irrelevant to brand owners and the operation of the self-regulatory system.

However, the IAB recommends fairly standard elements in community management which mindfully recognise the voice of the individual as well as respecting others.

These elements include:

  • Development of moderation guidelines which are publically available for community participants.
  • A crisis management plan in the event that an issue arises on a managed social media platform
  • Moderation of user comments .
  • Ability to ramp up management resource to match volume of user generated comment and content.
  • Abiding by other codes of ethics such as advertising to children and the advertising of alcohol.

There has also been comment that the ASB is not a legal authority, but only a regulation committee. Abiding by the ACCC is where brands really need to watch themselves, as was the case withAllergy Pathway who failed to delete misleading and incorrect comments on their social media page – which fell under The Competition and Consumer Act (formerly the Trade Practices Act). Any brand active in the social space must still uphold The Competition and Consumer Act, they can’t misrepresent information and they need to follow the rules of platform participation, such as those provided by Facebook’s Page Terms.

Until the issue between the IAB and the AANA is resolved, following the IAB guidelines is useful for any brand page. The IAB  guidelines encourage strong and healthy community management and participation. If a page does come under scrutiny from the ASB, or even the ACCC, the brand in question can acknowledge that practices were in place to abide by the AANA’s guidelines. Social media is still new, brands and regulatory bodies are still finding their feet. Attempting to do the right thing and having the right practices in action will put any brand in good stead.