Twitter and compliance - secrets of social media success

Twitter is a fundamental element of most marketing strategies. In the era of content marketing, sharing content on social media is a key driver of web traffic and downloads. But marketing via Twitter is not without its risks.

The Advertising Standards Authority recently shared the results of some of their rulings on non-compliant tweets – which provide a useful reminder of the things that will get you into trouble on social media.

Who is the ASA?

The Advertising Standards Authority enforces advertising rules set by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP).

All firms, including those not governed by any other regulator, need to abide by the CAP/ASA rules. The requirements apply across all platforms – the CAP Code is media-neutral – which means that your social media posts need to be as compliant as your printed material or website content.

Releasing the findings, the ASA notes that ‘it’s safe to say that – from sponsored tweets and promotional marketing to brand accounts and influencer marketing – the same rules and principles that apply in other media are equally applicable to advertising on Twitter’. 

You can read more about the ASA/CAP rules in our blogs on How to comply with the CAP code and How you can avoid producing misleading adverts.

What can we learn from recent ASA rulings on non-compliant tweets?

1.   You need to disclose when your tweet is an ad

The ASA’s first ruling on an ‘influencer marketing’ scenario in social media goes back to 2012, and involved a Wayne Rooney/Nike tweet.

Any social media that is advertising must be clearly identifiable as such. When tweets come from brand-owned accounts, they are ‘generally likely to be recognised as advertising from the context’.

When it comes to influencer marketing, though – when brands work with well-known people to promote their products or services – it can be less clear.

This is probably less common a scenario in financial or professional services than it is in, say, retail, but it’s worth noting that any ads that are very similar in terms of tone as an influencer’s or brand ambassador’s usual posts are very likely to need a label to distinguish them.

The ASA says that:

‘Ultimately, if it’s not otherwise clear, we recommend, as a minimum, that tweets include a prominent ‘Ad’ label at the beginning (with or without a ‘#’, brackets or similar – though this might make it stand out better), though if the tweet is very short it could be considered equally clear when placed at the end, provided it’s not buried in amongst other hashtags.’

2.   Character limits are no excuse for non-compliance

The ASA acknowledges that ‘280 characters isn’t very many in the grand scheme of things’, but regardless, the Twitter character limit is ‘unlikely to be a good enough reason to leave out important information or significant conditions’.

Using an image, or sharing information in a clearly-linked thread, are two ways suggested for firms to get round the issue of a lack of characters.

The article points out that the ASA has upheld numerous complaints about tweets because significant conditions in a promotion weren’t included.

If you’re planning a financial promotion, you should think about the appropriateness of the platform you aim to use. The ASA points out that ‘If a promotion has too many significant conditions to clearly include in a tweet, it might be that Twitter isn’t the right place to tell people about it’.

3.   Consider your audience

Appropriate targeting is important, on social media as in other marketing activity.

This is particularly the case for certain types of content, and for certain products. The ASA expects all advertisers to take ‘all reasonable steps to avoid your ads being seen by someone who, for example due to their age, shouldn’t’.

An extra layer of requirements for FCA-regulated firms

Of course, if you work in a regulated sector, the ASA/CAP rules aren’t the only ones you need to worry about.

If you’re regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, it’s vital that you understand and comply with its financial promotions rules – which, like the ASA’s requirements, are applicable regardless of platform. They include requirements around compliant content, as well as rules on the review and approvals process needed.

Ensuring you keep pace with regulatory demands for advertising in your sector is essential. The regulator has the power to ban your promotions if they don’t meet its requirements, so the stakes are high.

To help you publish Twitter promotions that comply with FCA and wider regulations, we’ve produced a 10-point guide to Twitter for Financial Promotions. You can download a free copy of the guide from our resource library.

Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.