Like Me? Follow Me.
This is the first time I've seen the ASA actively soliciting to find complaints - but perhaps this is down to the internet being a lot harder to monitor and companies' online marketing activities a lot more difficult to discern.
The remit clearly covers paid reviews that aren't labelled as such, and paid links that aren't labelled but what else does it cover?
Fake consumer reviews
According to UTalkMarketing, fake consumer reviews have been illegal since 2008, so if you're writing your own reviews, or paying somebody to write them, then you're violating the law. Not only that, but if you get outed, you will look really bad to potential customers.
Our advice: don't do it. Ask happy customers to write reviews for you instead.
Fake likes, shares and retweets
When we pass on content via social media networks to our 'friends', for all intents and purposes we are recommending a page, site, product or service in the very act of telling people to visit a link. When we attach ourselves to a page or a profile by following, we also suggest that this is something with which we want to be identified.
So for businesses who pay for likes, retweets, shares and even followers, this is equally misleading as writing a fake review on a consumer review website, paying for a blogger to write a positive review without disclosing the post is advertising or suggesting a link was given for free, when in fact it is a paid ad.
People expect the recommendations coming from peer networks to be legitimate, and if they aren't, if they're manipulated, then they'll stop trusting those peer networks and the businesses who are either too lazy or not good enough to acquire recommendations off the back of quality content, great service and fantastic products.
While nobody has, of yet, been called out for paying for retweets or Facebook likes, we predict it's only a matter of time as the ASA remit does explicitly cover advertising and marketing activities on social media platforms.
So, if you understand the value of brand mentions across social media platforms, but you want to stay on the right side of the ASA and your customers, then speak to a professional social media marketing consultant for advice on how to get those recommendations legitimately.