By now, pretty much all businesses know the importance of social media. Worldwide, there are nearly 5 billion social media users. In four years’ time, that number is projected to hit almost 6 billion. This represents an enormous pool of customers waiting to be engaged.
But wait – before you get too carried away, you first need to think about the rules. Social media compliance sounds easy. But if you’re not paying attention, you might find yourself in a heap of trouble.
In this article, we’ll explore 8 important lessons about social media compliance – but first, what exactly is it?
Table of Contents
- What is social media compliance?
- 1. You need a compliance strategy
- 2. Be aware of advertising mistakes
- 3. Always consult experts
- 4. Handle personal data with care
- 5. Create a content library
- 6. Your own posts aren’t your only concern
- 7. Be sure to train your staff
- 8. Internal policies are needed
- Wrapping up
- Frequently Asked Questions
Social media compliance simply means following the rules. You might think you’re already doing this. You’re following the guidelines set out by the platform, such as not spamming users or posting sensitive media.
But social media compliance goes beyond following the rules of the social platforms. Each industry has rules and regulations that they must comply with online. These cover areas like data privacy, advertising, and intellectual property.
Demonstrating authenticity in your online presence also plays a role in compliance. It’s important to ensure that your online interactions and content align authentically with your brand’s values while adhering to these rules.
1. You need a compliance strategy
At best, failure to be compliant can make you appear red-faced in front of your customers. You’ll damage trust and give people the wrong impression. At worst, you could incur painful legal fees.
To avoid this, you need to implement a compliance strategy. That way, everyone is on the same page and knows exactly what’s expected of them when posting or replying to customers online. Designing the right strategy can take time, as there are lots of factors to consider.
Luckily, a compliance strategy can have a lot of advantages. These include:
- A better brand image. Since your business rarely runs into trouble, you’ll be seen as uncontroversial and safe. Customers will trust you to behave in the right way, boosting brand loyalty.
- Stronger ability to adapt. Today, topics like data privacy are often making the news. It’s not uncommon to see new social media regulations crop up. With the right strategy in place, you can adapt more quickly to new regulations.
- Reduce the risk of fines. Some regulations – such as data privacy and protection laws – have painful fines attached. A compliance strategy can help you avoid these and stay on the right side of the law.
2. Be aware of advertising mistakes
Advertising is one of the major reasons brands use social media. In fact, social media accounted for 33% of all ad spending in 2022. But before planning your adverts, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the rules.
Of course, depending on your industry, the rules will be different. The rules for a business selling practice management software for lawyers will be different from a healthcare business, or of a company selling catering services.
Let’s stick with the latter. The food industry in the US is accountable to the Food and Drug Administration (FTC). The FTC monitors advertising that relates to food, particularly in relation to influencer marketing. You can incur a fine of up to $50,120 per violation.
The bottom line is that whatever your industry, find the body that you are accountable for. Build your compliance strategy around these rules.
3. Always consult experts
As mentioned, compliance laws differ between industries and markets. Familiarizing yourself with these laws helps minimize risks going forward.
If your company has compliance experts, they should be your first port of call before posting. Organize a process for approving posts before they go live. This approach will take a little longer, but this is a price worth paying to ensure compliance.
If you don’t have an internal compliance team, consider consulting an external expert who can help make sure that your posts meet regulations.
4. Handle personal data with care
As mentioned, personal data is a topic high on the minds of the public. When advertising on social media, you’ll collect a lot of useful data.
But how you use and maintain this data will be subject to many different regulations. Each individual market has its own data privacy laws. And don’t think that because you’re based elsewhere that the laws don’t apply to you. For example, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies to all businesses that collect data from EU users, whether they’re based in the EU or not.
Learning and understanding these laws takes time. You’ll most likely need to invest in professional legal support to remain compliant.
5. Create a content library
Content marketing can be a useful strategy. But remember, all content belongs to someone. If you use an image, video, piece of music or any other content on social media, you need permission. By not doing so, you might find yourself on the receiving end of a lengthy legal battle. To be safe, before using any content online, track down the creator and pay for the rights.
To help you manage your digital media and allow easy access, it’s useful to create a content library that aligns with your social media content pillars. This centralizes all digital assets such as video, images, and music, in a repository. That way, whenever someone posts to social media, they can draw from sources that they know are safe to use and will align with the company values.
If you use a live dashboard (like Keyhole’s), you can easily keep track of your profile presence and see what’s been posted and when. Additional features, such as finding trends, viewing profile analytics, and cross-platform publishing make it that much easier to streamline content management.
With these insights, you can check that none of your team has inadvertently used a copyrighted image in a post, for example. And if an author does contact you to suggest that this has happened, you’ll easily identify the post in question.
And remember, if your business is tight for cash, there are plenty of public domain websites that provide royalty free access to content.
6. Your own posts aren’t your only concern
Your business will probably have multiple people posting on its social media timeline. It’s easy for an employee to slip up and make a mistake. If you’re not plugged into what is being posted, you might miss compliance issues.
Of course, it might not only be your own posting that you need to watch out for. If your brand works with affiliates who sell your products, you’ll need to consider what they are posting. Any inappropriate claims could see you referred to The Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC). You might find yourself being held accountable for someone else’s mistakes.
Unconvinced? This kind of event isn’t unprecedented. In 2022 the DSSRC found the catering company Tastefully Simple to be responsible for incorrect income claims made by affiliates.
To avoid this kind of scenario, always try to partner with reputable brands. But even if you have faith in your sellers, keep an eye on their posts.
7. Be sure to train your staff
No matter how clued up you are with compliance, if you don’t share knowledge with staff, they won’t learn. For existing employees, make sure they receive education and training. Share materials to help educate them on compliance-related issues. Ensure that members of the compliance team are on hand to answer questions.
For new employees, embed the topic of compliance from day one. Make compliance training a part of the onboarding process. Update staff regularly on the latest changing to compliance laws.
At the end of the day, the more you talk about compliance, the more employees will listen.
8. Internal policies are needed
How exactly should employees behave when representing your brand on social media? What procedures are in place in case of a mistake? Let’s imagine the worst-case scenario, an employee has accidentally deleted an account. What can you do to recover deleted Instagram accounts?
Without a clear set of policies, you’ll leave your employees guessing. It’s best to separate your policy to address different areas of social media.
- General use. This is your chance to show how you want your brand to appear online. What tone do you want to use? Most importantly, which laws should your posts comply with? Outline the process for post-approval, for instance, do posts need to be sent to the compliance team?
- Influencer guidelines. Influencers may also represent your brand online. They will need to be aware of regulations and other factors that might impact posting.
There are lots of benefits to advertising your brand on social media. But don’t underestimate the risks either. Too many brands rush into social media posting without considering compliance. A slap-dash approach could see you in a lot of hot water.
Today, we’ve shown how you can enjoy the advantages of social media whilst remaining compliant. Begin by educating yourself and your employees on the risks. Remember, don’t go it alone. Legislation like GDPR is multilayered and complex, so employ outside help if need be.
When you’re ready, draw up a thorough compliance strategy. With the compliance issue sorted, you could focus on social media success. So, why not get started with a free trial of Keyhole’s real-time social media analytics tool!
Frequently Asked Questions
Social media platforms collect a lot of personal data from users, and you have to keep it protected. It’s also vital that you comply with advertising regulations, to avoid making false claims about your product or service. And you must not use copyrighted material without permission. If you don’t follow the rules, you’ll fall foul of data privacy laws and regulations, face legal action and heavy fines, and risk losing your loyal customers.
2. Are there different regulations for different industries?
Yes, some industries have specific rules and guidelines. For example, healthcare organizations have to comply with HIPAA, which mandates that you don’t share any protected health information on social media. Financial institutions must follow the regulations set out by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in the US and the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has guidelines for food, beverage, and cosmetics companies.
3. Should my organization write its own policy?
Definitely! It’s well worth creating a social media compliance policy or handbook for your organization, and making it accessible to all employees who might post on your networks. That way, everyone knows the rules—and they can consult the policy any time they’re unsure. The policy should also outline the potential consequences for non-compliance. Just make sure your guidelines align with local, federal, and industry-specific regulations.