In one of my posts from early last year, I decried the way many marketers abuse their in-bound content, by refusing to keep commercial messages separate from their various opinion pieces.
It seems that various peak industry bodies are starting to make more noise about the problem, with the Internet Advertising Bureau in the UK releasing a very useful set of transparency guidelines for their members to follow.
The Communications Council here in Australia also has a similar code of practice regarding social / online content standards (uploaded – ironically enough – only a few days after my original posting).
Both guidelines are reasonably comprehensive, and put similar emphasis on the need for total transparency and a visual demarcation between your opinion pieces and promotional content.
Some industry commentators are arguing that these guidelines don’t go nearly far enough, and their should be greater legislation to protect consumers.. but this is a totally moot point in my view frankly, as both the ACL (and the Retail Trading Act before it) both have very clear provisions against misleading representations in published materials of a commercial nature, and have done so for decades.
Obvious as it might seem, it still bears repeating – just because your message might be only 140 characters long, that doesn’t mean it can’t get you in a heap of trouble if the commercial context around it isn’t clearly defined.
It’s a message worth engraving above the screen of every mobile phone: If you share it, you’re liable for it!
(…and yet the trolls still thrive. It’s astounding.)