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Ethics and Social Network Marketing

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Marketing and ethics has been a topic for debate since a century ago. As technology advances, so does marketing, and this creates many effects – both favorable and unfavorable – that changes people’s life. On one side, marketing has helped many businesses prosper, and therefore creating better products and needing more jobs. On other side, marketing has been accused to lead the rise in consumerism and has caused people to think they need more things than they actually do.

As social media rise to popularity, marketers start to develop the best marketing strategy for social network marketing. Of course, the best strategy always incorporates ethic within the strategy. Failure to meet the ethical standard can lead to public outcry and impact your brand’s reputation negatively. In social media, where a random 140 characters of Twitter can become a brand’s official statement with a single click, one must really take ethics into consideration before making any action in social media.

There had been many cases in which a company (or its marketing manager) made ethical mistakes with social media. They paid their mistake with costly mitigation effort and shameful history, but at least, we can learn from them. Here is five fundamentals ethic for any internet marketing manager who is active in handling a brand’s social media channel.

Always know what’s the hype about
Going viral in the internet is almost the same as winning lottery for an internet marketing managers. Unfortunately (or fortunately), everything’s seem to go viral nowadays. Things that go viral in social media yesterday are already buried under new viral thing today, and it’s understandable if an internet marketing manager can’t follow up with every single one. It’s an impossible feat, after all.

If you want to participate in one, though, you have to understand what the hype is about. Don’t just grab any trending hashtag in Twitter and use it to promote your business just because it seems fit. A pizza chain Twitter account once promoted its business with hashtag #whyILeft and #whyIStay, which in fact, is hashtag for survivors of domestic violence to share their experience and support each other. Promotional tweet sure doesn’t belong there, and soon it received backlash from people who feel offended, thinking the tweet demeaned the suffering and the bravery of the survivors.

Disclose endorsement and any other forms of sponsors

Marketing managers want to boost the trust factor by hiding the fact that they’ve sponsored celebrities or influencers. They want people to see their favorite singer and model and actor love the product so much they promote it in their social media without any compensation. However, it is a rule from FTC, that every form of sponsorship, including in-kind sponsorship, to any social media platform, to disclose the fact to public. Failure to comply will lead to, obviously, legal problem, as well as backlash and mockery from public. The worst effect is, however, the loss of trust from your existing customers to your brand.

Consumer privacy is sacred
I understand why an internet marketing manager would want to have a list of personal information from other big websites. That way, they can have ideas about the consumer’s gender, age, address, and other information that can help them tailor the perfect distribution of advertisement to these people. However, privacy is big issue. Having clear privacy policy your visitors have previously agreed before using your service is a must. If your company ever gets caught selling personal information, not only public’s perception to your company will turn negative immediately, but you will face legal consequences as well.

Don’t make biased opinion
As a person, you are allowed to have opinion. It’s your freedom of speech. But, your opinion is your own, don’t involve your brand in it. Your customers are not only those who have the same view with you – whether it’s in the politics, religion, gender, race, and culture. There are also the neutrals and the opposites. While you as an individual can believe strongly that you are right, other people with conflicting point of view can see themselves as the one who is right, except for very black-and-white issue like child labor, domestic violence, or environmental damage. There is no telling that someone’s opinion is the right one, so the best way a brand can do is to stay neutral. Choosing a biased side means alienating the other sides.

Maybe, once in a while you’re tempted to send a carefully worded opinion disguised as harmless marketing promotion, but please don’t do that. Not only the company’s reputation that you put in line, but your employment as well.

Tell the truth
The point of advertising is to make people interested with your product and service, and as the result, it’s prone to exaggeration. While for some case exaggeration is used to make the advertisement interesting, funny, and clever, too much of exaggeration means deception and if customers file a complaint, you have to be ready to answer with truth. Make a habit to tell the truth to your customers from the start. Instead of lying to your customers, find a good marketer to pinpoint what’s the strongest point of your product and service, and market it.

Ethics and social network marketing must keep going hand in hand for social network marketing to be as effective as it is today. If companies do not draw line at which point they think their marketing has done it too far, they may fall to the social network marketing trap which will get them into more than PR problem. Ethics acts as a barrier between the safe zone and the danger zone. As long as you commit to uphold ethical standard in the conduct of your business, including marketing, you will gain trust and respect from your customers, maybe even their loyalties.

Getting noticed, earning traffic, building trust, and finally getting sales is a long process. It’s not easy, it takes time, and it’s costly. You don’t want to lose these customers you’ve been working hard to get over a simple Facebook status or caption in Instagram.

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