Online advertising legal conundrums

Service providers come in many shapes and sizes, some shadier than others and this extends to the online environment. There are, of course, marketers or clients who, in spite of their best intentions, simply don’t know the extent of their accountability. If you find yourself in either of the categories above, read on.

Let’s start with the basics of sharing an account. Sometimes clients create accounts and instead of sharing access, they share their log in information because either they are asked to do so or don’t know any better.


Rule 1

Regardless of platform or service, your account is your own

Whether we’re talking about social media accounts, AdWords or newsletter services, your accounts are your own and you should treat them as such. You wouldn’t share your email password, would you?

The best way to go about it is to assign page admins (Facebook), grant access to the interface and API (AdWords & MailChimp) or connect social media accounts through specialized software such as SproutSocial, Argyle or Klout.
I’ve used SproutSocial and it allows you to connect everything except Pinterest. If anyone has a solution for this platform please give me a heads up.

Rule 2

Google Images is not your personal photo album

Infringing on someone’s copyright is a huge no-no, more so online where everything you do is readily available for the world to see. If you want to create visually-appealing material for your website, social media accounts, newsletter campaigns you will need high-resolution, good quality images so investing in a license for stock images is worth it. If you’re budget is tight, there are great websites with public domain images out there.

As a rule of thumb you should trust but verify that the client or the service provider has acquired the proper license for the images, fonts and vectors they’re using. You might not want to offend anyone but business is business and ensuring the product is 100% legal should never be reason to get upset.

Rule 3

Don’t steal content, share it

This one is for the eager marketer in you. So you’ve stumbled upon this really great post (be it on social media or a blog), that’s getting a lot of engagement and you want in on the action. Share, do not download and re-post it as your own.

Why? For one, because it’s the right thing to do but if that doesn’t float your boat then consider the fact that engaging content, by nature, attracts a lot of attention. Just think about how embarrassing it would be if you got called out on it.

Sharing content, regardless if it’s from regular users or businesses shows character and that you’re not afraid to recognize quality content and deliver it to your audience while showing consideration towards its original author.

Rule 4

Make sure your product is actually marketable

The tricky part about working online is that you not only have to stick to the laws in your own country but that of the one you’re promoting your product in and acting on behalf of. You’ll have to be especially careful when it comes to products designed for military and law enforcement personnel, dietary supplements, medication.
You can find information about what you can and cannot do advertising-wise on product manufacturers’ websites, the FDA or just good old LMGTFY

Rule 5

Don’t be a spammer

If you want to run newsletter campaigns the first thing you need is a means of acquiring an audience, legally. In other words, you need a subscribe feature on the target website which will, in time, help you build your lists. But simply having the feature available won’t always be enough of an incentive to get your audience to subscribe so make sure you have an adequate strategy in place to grow your list.

Remember, exposing as many people and as often as you can to your brand and products is in your best interest, not necessarily your audience’s. Offer discounts, vouchers and exclusive content so your subscribers get something  out of it too.


The Bottom Line

The Internet is a very open community and it’s growing so fast, we often see it as a completely different environment, with rules of its own. However, even though etiquette might differ and accessibility might be greater, what’s illegal offline is illegal online as well.  Even if you never read another Internet regulation, at least use that as  a rule of thumb.


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