The idea of a white lie or exaggeration might be acceptable when it comes to complimenting a friend’s unfortunate haircut but, there’s no grey area when it comes to false and/or misleading advertisement. Now that we are social media centered in our marketing and advertisement, avoiding posts that are misleading or just plain false is critical, and it also applies to those that post for you. We’ve compiled an easy to reference list that can help keep your posts on the truthful straight-and-narrow both now and in the future when introducing a new product or service to the internet.
Five ways you can avoid a false advertisement claim on social media:
- Keep it honest and avoid dramatics in your advertisement language, unless you can back it up with real evidence. Don’t fluff up a product or service and end up misleading consumers. If you are in the wellness community, be wary of making definitive statements without reliable medical backing. The recent Goop lawsuit is a great example showing the importance of marrying products and factual information.
- Utilizing influencers is a great way to gain exposure and grow your business. Monitoring your brand and policing what is said on your behalf is an important business practice. Statements made by influencers or consumers online who are representing you need to be true and not include misleading information. If endorsers are receiving a gift, payment or any incentive, it needs to be disclosed to followers. (When in doubt, hashtag it out. #ad #sponsored) It’s recommended to have a blogger policy linked on your website and keep endorsements updated.
- Document all efforts of guidelines and police false information. It’s a, “better safe than sorry” situation. If you see false advertising on your behalf, reach out with clarification and instruction on how to resolve this falsified information, and save this exchange. If you end up in a worst case scenario, you have records of your efforts and attempt to follow guidelines on your side.
- Avoid a defamation claim and don’t criticize competitors in efforts to boost your ratings. In light of apps like Yelp, we have become obsessed with reviews, whether they are negative or positive. You may feel tempted to knock your competitors down a peg by paying for negative reviews, but this is a form of false advertisement. If you do decide to proceed with a forum for consumers to review competitors’ products or services, monitor it closely. You can be liable for the information you did not create, so set guidelines and be certain reviewers are staying within them.
- Make sure your payment policies and guidelines stay consistent and easy to understand. For example: If you are requiring a monthly payment from consumers for $50.50, don’t surprise them with a hidden cost of $110 for annual membership fees, unless this is clearly stated from the beginning. This would classify as false advertisement and a quick way to get into trouble is taking money unannounced.
The key to keeping the truth at the center of advertisement is over-communicating guidelines to your employees and any endorsers. Make this your top priority. Protect your brand by doing your research and following up on who is representing it. These are simple steps to reduce your risk of lawsuits, defamation claims, or having regulators knock on your door.