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Social Media & the CPA

Social media usage in South Africa grew by 17% in 2010, and businesses continue to discover the benefits of this exciting new marketing medium every day.

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It is expected that the much anticipated Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (CPA) will have a significant effect on business for consumers and corporations alike. There are a number of practical steps that should be taken to protect both consumers and businesses, specifically regarding social media platforms.

Applicable Laws

There are three important laws and codes that marketers should familiarise themselves with when dealing with consumers on the Internet:

  1. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Code of Advertising Practice
  2. The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002 (ECTA)
  3. The CPA

All online advertising will now be subject to the ASA code, as well as the two acts. Both acts also apply to any website, whether hosted overseas or owned by a non-South African resident, which performs a transaction with South African consumers. A transaction includes the supply, or potential supply of goods and services as well as the giving of information or advice for some form of consideration. Even if the transaction is free the CPA may still apply, depending on the nature of the services, advertisements or advice dispensed. The Act therefore applies to a wide range of products and providers, whether they operate from South Africa or not.

For example, if an advertisement or Facebook page recommended a specific product to a consumer, the CPA applies. While this is a debatable topic, every piece of advice given on the web needs to be treated as though the CPA applies to it. Marketers using social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter must err on the side of caution and take all steps to ensure they are compliant with the CPA.

Understanding the risks

The Act presents real risks to any business marketing their products through the Internet, with lawsuits, class actions and even criminal prosecution a potential and costly reality for a company.

Section 61 of the CPA imposes product liability on suppliers. In other words, if a consumer uses a product or service which would include advice dispensed, and by using the product or service correctly dies, becomes ill or has property damaged, then the supplier of those goods is liable for all the damages suffered by the consumer.

This means that if a customer follows the advice posted on a website or social networking site, and consequently suffers damages, whether by economic loss or illness etc, they can sue the website or social network or the member of the social networking site to compensate them. This also includes, among others, any medical costs.

This form of liability cannot be limited by the supplier in terms of section 61 and the website. Social networks and members of the social networking site must be extremely careful about what information they make available online and how the consumer must follow it. The same applies to online advertisements.

Privacy

Confidentiality has become critical and is taken seriously by the CPA. If you give away confidential information about your communities you could be at risk of up to ten years in jail. If you find yourself in contravention of any other section of the Act you may be fined up to 10% of your annual turnover for the preceding year, or R1 million.

Accountability

The CPA does not prohibit advertisements and dispensing of advice over the Internet; however, all website owners and social networking forums must be aware of the rights the consumers will have when dealing with them, as well as the obligations they will have to fulfill under the CPA regarding the quality and source of the information they provide.

If these standards are not met it will not make the activity illegal, but it will open the website to lawsuits, including class actions.

Consumer Rights

The following are selected fundamental rights available to consumers in terms of Chapter 2 of the CPA and broadly speaking are most likely to affect websites and social networks:

  1. The right to fair and responsible marketing
  2. The right to fair and honest dealing
  3. The right to fair value, good quality and safety

Again, it is important for website owners, social networks and members of social networks to familiarise themselves with the requirements for marketing and advertising as contained in the CPA.

Defining Direct Marketing

Direct marketing, according to the CPA, entails approaching someone, in person or electronically (for example, email marketing or approaching a LinkedIn business connection), for the direct or indirect purpose of promoting or selling goods or services, or even requesting a donation.

The use of the verbal approach in the definition is crucial. A related form of marketing is catalogue marketing (governed by section 33 of the CPA). Unlike direct marketing, this is a form of interaction between business and the consumer where a product or service is sold, but not in person, for example online shopping or retailing.

It includes an agreement concluded telephonically (if the customer initiates the contact), by postal order or fax, in fact, any instance where the consumer is not able to inspect the goods before making payment.

The supplier of the goods or services is required to disclose specific information such as license or registration number (if any), physical address and contact details, sales record information required by section 26 of ECTA, currency in which the goods are payable, delivery arrangement and their cancellation, return, exchange and refund policies.

Cooling-off period

A consumer may, within five business days after any goods were delivered as a result of direct marketing, send the product back to the supplier without reason or penalty, as long as the supplier is notified in writing or some other recorded manner. The supplier has to return any payment received from the consumer within 15 days of receiving the notification. Moreover, the consumer must be informed of this cooling-off period.

Restrictions on Direct Marketing

According to section 11(1) of the CPA, every person as part of their right to privacy has the right to:

  1. Refuse to accept
  2. Require another person to discontinue
  3. Or (in the case of an approach other than in person) pre-emptively block any approach or communication from those who are engaging in direct marketing.

Using direct marketing

In light of the above, there are several conclusions that can be drawn in response to websites and social networks.

  • If a business actively approaches a consumer, even using an email address provided to it by the consumer, this is likely to constitute direct marketing and selling. This is something to keep in mind for any email or SMS marketing.
  • However, this will nonetheless always remain a question of fact. If the consumer approached the business and left his email address with the business, actively requesting it to contact him, it is unlikely to qualify as direct marketing and selling.
  • Therefore, any marketing which includes approaching a consumer should in all probability fall within the ambit of direct marketing or selling.
  • Websites, online advertisers, social networks and members of social networks should therefore be cautious about their marketing strategies involving emails and SMSes sent to consumers.
  • All websites (including blogs), online advertisers, social networks and members of social networks would be well-advised to set in place a procedure to facilitate any consumer requests to opt out of receiving any company communication, whether via email, a blog subscription, a Facebook page wall or Tweet stream.

Registration as a Direct Marketer

While this provision is not yet enforced, in the near future every direct marketer must register with the administrator of the registry, supplying all business contact details and the name and contact details of a person responsible for any applications lodged under this regulation. These details will need to be confirmed or updated in writing annually. Consumers who do not wish to receive any form of direct marketing will also be able to register with the body.

Three Steps to Limit Liability

Given the fact that under the CPA you must provide information of a certain standard, it is strongly advised that all websites and social networking sites and members comply with the CPA. There are three general steps that can be applied to each online platform to help limit company liability:

  1. It is important that all websites and social network members providing information clearly state and display who is dispensing the information and their qualifications, or authority to provide the content. This makes it a lot harder to hide behind a company brand or logo, particularly on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Any email newsletters or marketing should also include such detail.
  2. Include terms and conditions on your website or social networking page.
  3. Develop internal policy and processes within your company to help employees involved with company websites or social networks to advise consumers on how to opt out of communications, with simple step-by-step instructions that they can easily follow.

Today marks an interesting turnaround for online marketing agencies, companies and even individuals marketing products and services.

Online marketers have often thought of social media marketing as ‘permission-based’ marketing. According to the CPA, nothing is permission-based unless explicitly received in writing. Ensure that your online marketing efforts comply with the CPA by applying the above tips in conjunction with the details specified by the Act and regulations, as there are many other parts of the Act that may be relevant to your business. Download a copy of the CPA at www.polity.org.za and scroll down to legislation downloads. Use the report as a starting point to protect your customers and business.

Applying the CPA on Social Networks

Facebook marketing

  1. State clearly on the page ‘who’ is speaking. Facebook has now made this possible as an option to page administrators. Make use of this new functionality to show whom the administrators are behind the brand or page name. Click on ‘Edit Page’ in top right hand corner, click on the ‘Featured’ tab on the left hand side and finally click on the button ‘Add Featured Page Owners’. The Page Owners will be featured on the left hand side of the page under the number of people who ‘Like’ the page.
  2. In the page information (Info) make clear the qualifications or authority of those people posting on the page.
  3. Private messages in Facebook may constitute direct marketing, depending on the content of the message, if they were not prompted first by the member. Do not send private messages for marketing or direct marketing, unless prompted, or unless you follow steps 4 and 5.
  4. Set up Terms & Conditions in accordance with the Act on your page. A good place to put this would be a link under ‘Info’ or all the information under ‘Notes’. It is specified in the Act that these need to be in simple and very clear language, for the ordinary consumer to understand. In the Terms ensure that it is explained that joining the page amounts to explicit permission to receive posts on their personal wall and other forms of communication, for example an event invitation.
  5. Set up internal systems and processes to allow consumers to ‘opt out’ of your communications if and when they want to. Describe these in your Terms & Conditions.
  6. Make sure that your page advertising follows the requirements of the Advertising Standards Authority Code of Advertising Practice, the CPA and the ECTA.

Twitter marketing

  1. State clearly on the page ‘who’ is speaking. Ensure the person tweeting is listed underneath your company name or ‘handle’ to show who the administrator is behind the brand or ‘handle’.
  2. Make the qualifications or authority of the administrator clear on the page, either within the profile information visible on your Twitter page or embedded within the design elements of the page.
  3. Do not send direct messages for marketing purposes, unless prompted, or unless you follow steps 4 and 5.
  4. Set up Terms & Conditions in accordance with the Act on your Twitter page. Shorten the URL link to the Terms and include in your profile blurb.
  5. Set up internal systems and processes to allow consumers to ‘opt out’ of your communications if and when they want to. Describe these in your Terms & Conditions.

LinkedIn, YouTube & Forums

  1. Do not use the messaging feature within LinkedIn to send direct marketing messages promoting your goods or services.
  2. When offering business, product or service advice remember that if a contact follows the advice and consequently suffers damages, whether by economic loss or illness etc, they can sue LinkedIn, YouTube or the community forum and you as a member. This is applicable across all networks.

Gareth Cremen is an attorney at Goldman Judin Inc. Attorneys. He has extensive knowledge in litigation in the High Court and Magistrates Court, contracts, debtor recoveries, liquidations, sequestrations, advertising law, competition law and consumer protection law. Candice De Carvalho and Sarann Buckby are co-directors of Phatic Communications, a Johannesburg-based digital PR and social media agency that combines a strategic, creative and opportunistic approach with the setting of measurable objectives that assess, refine and improve on communication results that directly support business outcomes.

By Gareth Cremen, Candice de Carvalho & Sarann Buckby

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

Online Marketing

Everything You Need To Know About Instagram’s New Shopping Features

The app is giving influencers and brands new channels on which consumers can discover them.

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Influencers and brands have two new ways to sell products to users scrolling and tapping through their Instagram feeds. After a summer of testing shopping buttons that drive purchases via Stories, the Facebook-owned app has launched them for businesses in 46 countries.

It’s also begun rolling out a personalised shopping section in the Explore tab, which Instagram redesigned earlier this year to feature AI-powered channels categorising content based on topic (e.g. travel, art, decor).

The shopping tab will be a place for users who know they want to browse and potentially buy, with Instagram’s algorithm serving up brands the user already follows or would likely be into, based on past activity on the app. Meanwhile, the shopping bag stickers in Stories will give users a chance to not just admire their favourite influencers’ outfits, but actually click through and learn more about promoted items.

Since Instagram began testing the feature in June, more than 90 million users per month have tapped to reveal tags in shopping posts, according to a Sept. 17 Instagram blog post. The app already allows brands to purchase ads in the form of Stories.

More than 400 million accounts watch Stories daily, and one-third of the most-viewed Stories are from businesses, Instagram also reports.

Instagram has been testing shopping in feeds for nearly two years.

Related: Creating Power Digital Campaigns

Back in November 2016, the company explained on its Business blog that online shopping often involves research and deliberation, rather than impulse purchases, which is what led Instagram to build out shopping posts that would provide consumers with information about products without having to leave the app until they’d made a purchase decision.

Salesforce has forecasted that the referral traffic Instagram drives to retailer websites will increase by 51 percent between the 2017 and 2018 holiday seasons, according to Adweek.

Speaking of leaving the app, Instagram is rumored to be developing a standalone shopping app, according to The Verge, but the company declined to comment on these reports to both The Verge and Entrepreneur.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Social Media Marketing For Start-ups: Essential Tips

There are plenty of ways to get the leads your start-up needs, but only a few tactics you’ll need in your arsenal to get the job done at a limited cost to your burgeoning business.

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Social media marketing, when you’re short on funds, can seem like an intimidating prospect. If you and your team aren’t already knowledgeable about digital marketing strategy, you may think it’s impossible for you to manage marketing campaigns yourself. With a bit of determination and a great deal of studying, however, your startup will be able to successfully launch, direct, and refine your own digital marketing strategies.

What things can you do to help your start-up get more press, attract more customers, and get more brand awareness? There are plenty of ways to get the leads your start-up needs, but only a few tactics you’ll need in your arsenal to get the job done at a limited cost to your burgeoning business.

Get to know your niche

Many young companies adopt random acts of internet marketing. They’ll throw a few hundred dollars into promoting Facebook posts without necessarily understanding how to communicate to their audience.

Before you dive into advertising and promotion platforms, you should spend some time to define – and to get to know – your niche.

To help define your target market, use questions like:

  • Who are your existing customers?
    • How would you group them?
  • Who does your product or service help?
    • Does your product help business owners, stay-at-home parents, college students, or someone else?
  • Who are you looking to reach out to?
    • That is, are you looking to refine your target market or expand it?

Once you’ve answered a few questions like the ones listed above, you should be able to get a better idea of who you’re marketing to. With an understanding of who you’re communicating with, you should be able to craft a tailored message about your brand.

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

Choose social media platforms wisely

Many start-ups try to master as many social media platforms right at the start. Instead of dividing your attention between Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, you should identify one or two social media platforms that will help you market your product or service. This is why defining your target market at the beginning is so very important.

You must first decide who your message is intended for before writing, editing, and positioning that message. After you’ve got your target market down, you’ll be able to pinpoint which social media platforms can serve you best.

Here are a few examples to give you an idea of which social media platforms are best suited for your needs:

Twitter

  • Best for blog links
  • Frequent posts: 1-4 posts every few hours is the most effective
  • The community is open to businesses promotion

Facebook

  • Best for communicating to existing customers
  • Daily posts: 1 post every 2 days is the most effective
  • Users respond best to images, videos, and clips

Reddit

  • Strictly promotional posts are undesirable
  • Building readership and/or a following is slow
  • Better suited for long-term growth strategy

Do your social media research

Start conducting some preliminary research about social media platforms. Build a profile of each, listing their pros and cons. Try investigating other social media platforms such as GitHub, Stack Overflow, and Quora. While these aren’t platforms as large as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, they could have a far greater impact on your start-up.

Answering questions on Quora and interacting with other users on GitHub, for example, could help you build genuine business and customer relationships.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

Concentrate on mastering a few channels

Ultimately, it’s important to concentrate on one or two social media platforms based on your target market and your goals. Attempting to have a significant presence on all of them will prove expensive, time-consuming, and, at worst, counterproductive.

Focusing on one platform will allow you to track your marketing efforts with greater precision, revise your marketing strategy more easily, and help you speak more directly to your target audience.

Digital marketing, while best left to a team of experienced marketers, content creators, and creative designers can be done by your team.

Start-ups tight on cash don’t need to fret, they only need to do a bit of market research and direct their energy accordingly. After narrowing down your audience and performing some preliminary research on social media platforms, you can start working on your social media marketing strategy.

Master a few channels rather than trying to dominate all of the social media space. Keep conducting research as you start your marketing campaigns. Each community naturally changes so you’ll want to keep up-to-date. Leverage your research and dedication to get the most out of your startup marketing.

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How To Create The Best Small Business Website: 5 Easy And Effective Steps

Check the steps below and get ready to create a successful small business website.

Ethan Dunwill

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It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is. If you don’t have online presence, it will become difficult to obtain the results you expect. Your target audience is using the internet nowadays for almost anything. So, if you want to attract more customers and build your brand reputation, you need to build a website. This is how you will be able to expand your business in an easy and not so expensive way.

On the other hand, you don’t have to be a savvy web developer to create a basic website and let the others know about you. Web development and design software have evolved a lot and now you can use several website builders to develop a functional site. You will have plenty of templates to choose from to increase your business’ visibility.

Check the steps below and get ready to create a successful small business website.

Easy and Effective Steps to Create a Website for Your Business

1. What is the purpose of your website?

It doesn’t matter if you develop a simple or a more complex website. Before you start working on anything related to your website, you should start with saying what your company does. Your customers need to understand from the first minute they access your homepage what is your mission and vision. They don’t have too much time to invest when they enter on a website. So, you can make their journey smoother by telling them from the beginning about you. In case you are not so talented at writing, you can use writing companies like RewardedEssays or SupremeDissertations to give you a hand.

Related: 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Building A Website For Your Business

2. Choose a domain name and a web host

Even though many think they shouldn’t focus too much on it, the domain name is an important feature of your website. You will use the URL to promote your business to existing and future clients. So, this means that your domain name should be explicit and talk about your business to anyone who wants to find more about you. A domain name should be short, clear, without acronyms or numbers. What is more, you shouldn’t forget to check if your domain name isn’t already taken by someone else.

Apart from a domain name, your website will also need a server where all your data is stored. When you own a small business, creating your own web host will represent a serious financial effort. So, it would be more cost-wise to choose an external host.

As your business grows, you can choose a different host, or you can ask several providers to work on a personalised solution.

3. Build your website’s pages

website-pages-build

You will need more than a homepage to create a good website. If you want your customers to understand that you are a professional in what you do, you will create several pages dedicated to different elements of your business. For example, you can include a catalog with your products or a blog.

Natalie Andersen, CEO of GetGoodGrade mentions that “It is obligatory that apart from the homepage, a website should have at least a page with the products’ catalog and a Contact Us page.”

Below you can find a list with the minimum number of pages a professional website should have:

  • Homepage – here you will include details about your business, making sure that you also talk about your mission and vision.
  • List of products and services – your customers need to know what are the products and services you offer. This will help them decide whether you can answer their questions and provide a solution to their problems.
  • About Us – “About Us page is the place where you talk about your story. Your target audience wants to know more about yourself. This is how you will create a connection with your customers and let them know more about you”, says James Daily, Head of content department at FlashEssay.
  • Contact Us – it should include your address, email, phone number and working hours. You can also include the links for your social media profiles.

Furthermore, if you want to achieve an international presence, you can also use the translation services offered by IsAccurate. Thus, you will be able to address your message to a wider group of people and expand your business on new markets.

Related: How To Secure Your SME Website

4. Test if your website works properly

Christopher K. Mercer, CEO of Citatior recommends that “before you launch a website, you should first test whether it works. You cannot tell your future customers about your website without knowing for sure that it will work without problems once you launch it”. Therefore, you should click on each page and check whether it has any errors. You still have time to fix something if necessary.

Once you have launched your website and something goes wrong, it will become more difficult to do any change. Plus, always remember that the first impression matters. So, you need to be perfect in the eyes of your customers.

5. Maintain your website

After you launched your website, this doesn’t mean that your work is done. You will need to keep your customers engaged and curious about your business. Therefore, updating the products’ catalog constantly or producing content for your blog will keep your audience informed about what you can offer and the latest trends in the industry. Plus, you should also check if your website is up to date with the latest add-ons. If you don’t know how to produce new content for your website or you feel that you are not talented enough, you can collaborate with HotEssayService or RatedByStudents for professional writing services.

It shouldn’t be complicated to create a website for your small business. As long as you keep a clear structure and create a story around your business, you don’t have anything to worry about. It is very important to understand that a website is very important for your business visibility. Thus, you should put all your efforts into it.

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