The Impact of Popia on Social Media Marketing in South Africa

October 12, 2021

The Impact of Popia on Social Media Marketing in South Africa

We will never forget the date, dramatic pause, 1 July 2020. This was when the dreaded Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) was set into motion and approximately a one year grace period was given for all South African businesses to be PoPIA compliant. This ended on the 30 June 2021.

Parliament assented to PoPIA on the 19 November 2013. The main aim of the PoPI Act was to promote the protection of personal information processed by public and private bodies;

introduce certain conditions so as to establish minimum requirements for the processing of personal information;

Provide for the establishment of an Information Regulator to exercise certain powers and to perform certain duties and functions in terms of this Act;

Provide for the issuing of codes of conduct;

Provide for the rights of persons regarding unsolicited electronic communications and automated decision making;

Regulate the flow of personal information across the borders of the Republic; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

In simple terms the objective of the PoPI Act is to ensure that all South African institutions, conduct themselves in a responsible manner, when collecting, processing, storing and sharing another person’s personal information by holding them accountable should they abuse or compromise the relevance of the information in any way.

How times have changed in the world of marketing, everyone’s talking about PoPIA. Social media marketing has evolved from being a leisure activity on the side to an absolute must-have for all businesses that want to remain relevant. Social media isn’t just fun and games anymore, it gives you access to personal information like never before. Businesses are required by law to ensure their customer’s data is secure and must ensure that they are familiar and compliant with the PoPI Act as well as train their staff where necessary to ensure that all personal information is safe and secure.


According to a recent survey conducted by Worldwide Worx and commissioned by global technology company Zoho, only 22% of South African businesses are aware

of privacy laws governing their marketing activities, despite the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) being in effect. The Communications and Media industry is one of the industries that is affected most by the PoPI Act as we use client’s information to achieve our marketing and communication objectives.

In the era of digital marketing, the PoPI Act means that we should be more responsible In complying with this principle, marketers are required to: about the way we are gathering information to form our campaign decisions and strategies. The days of sending newsletters out to all in an effort to gain new customers are over. Marketing has shaped up and the old days of spamming people with unsolicited information are well and truly over, while this is a win for the consumer, it does make life harder for businesses looking to generate new leads.page2image5436736

Ensure that personal information is only processed for specific, explicitly defined and legitimate reasons that relate to the functions or activities of the business, event, giveaway, advertisement or campaign. Take steps to make the data subject aware of the purposes for which the personal information is being collected.page2image5427328

Ensure that personal information is only kept for as long as it is required in order to fulfil the purpose for which it was collected.page2image5438080

Ensure that personal information which you are no longer authorised to retain is deleted or de-identified.

The Impact of Popia on Social Media Marketing in South Africa
The Impact of Popia on Social Media Marketing in South Africa


E-mail Marketing – In this growing online world, marketers remain highly unaware of the data breeches that may occur with their use of digital marketing in an attempt to deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time. Affordable, effective and easy to manage, email marketing is the crowning glory of marketing communication. Under PoPIA, email marketing will remain an extremely important arrow in your marketing arsenal. One will need to be more responsible and accountable about how you build and maintain your mailing list. Subscribers must be able to opt in to the communication (usually via a website subscribe form), as well as they should have the option to opt out at any time via an unsubscribe link.

Social Media Influencers – Another big impact of the PoPI Act on social media deals with the development on influencer lists. An influencer list is a list of people who are influential on various levels on social media. If you have an influencer list then that set of private information will be governed by the PoPI Act. As a business you need to be aware that when you first collected an influencer’s information, it would have been for a specific purpose and that influencer’s information gets added to the list but that doesn’t mean that it can be shared with other clients for a different purpose.

Direct Marketing – If your business is planning on engaging in direct marketing, it is advisable that you get consent from your data subject. PoPIA is very strict, about requesting and getting consent from people outside your contact or customer list.


However, it is noteworthy to understand that any information that individuals share publicly will automatically fall outside of this Act’s protection. If you list your email address or telephone number on your Facebook page, and that information is publicly available, then it’s free for companies to collect and use. You can’t then claim protection under PoPIA if this information gets used. All social media users should be highly aware of what information they have offered up publicly.


Ultimately, the PoPI Act is designed to create a more responsible marketing practice. This marketing practice has a beneficial effect on the industry as a whole, from businesses right through to consumers. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the PoPI Act is actually a fantastic development for all South Africans. Not only does it greatly advance our legal recourse to personal privacy, but it also drastically reduces the amount of marketing spam we all receive. 

In a nutshell, we’re here for and fully support the PoPI Act 😉 


C-Suite is a 100% black woman-owned bespoke boutique legal firm specializing in the areas of social media and digital marketing.


C-Suite is a 100% black woman-owned bespoke boutique law firm specializing in the areas of social media and digital marketing.


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