The successful prosecution of the company Allergy Pathway by the ACCC demonstrates the importance of reading and reviewing any testimonials posted on Facebook pages by you.
In the case concerned, customers of Allergy Pathway posted comments about the company on their Facebook page. The company knew them to be false as they had previously received a probationary warning from the ACCC from previously making similar comments themselves about their products. Because the comments weren’t removed by Allergy Pathway, they were deemed by the court to be the publisher of the material and therefore responsible for that content – as if they had written it themselves.
The case points to the importance of monitoring what is written about you on your Facebook page or on other social media pages that you control. It also acts as a good reminder that it’s important to know what people are writing about you in all forms of media.
Some steps you can take to monitor what is said about you
When you come in to your office each day, the first things you will probably do is have a coffee and check your email. Add check your Facebook page to the list of things you do. It’s best to play it safe: if there’s a comment about your business that appears to paint your business in a way that you wouldn’t paint yourself, then delete it. This was the main point of the ACCC’s case: it was not so much that people were making these representations, it was that the material was not deleted even though they were able to when the company became aware of it.
This should be extended to affiliate marketers. In the United States, the courts there are moving to hold companies responsible for what affiliates say about their business to their customers. It’s more than likely that this type of ruling will spread to other countries of the world, including Australia, so it’s a good time now to check what your affiliates are saying about you.
Sign up for Google Alerts with your business name as the keyword. This will give you a lot of false positives if your business has commonly occurring words in it, but it will give you a good heads-up on what people are saying about you, right in your inbox.
If your business is big enough to get media attention, then you should be paying for a media monitoring, website monitoring or media clippings service. If you have a public relations company working for you they will often be able to do it for free. Look for a service that does positives and negatives scoring preferably using a weighting system for the level of exposure that is generated (e.g. a page one headline mention or breaking news mention online has more weight than a page 20 inner section mention).