A social media begins to play an ever increasing role in our day to day lives it has also become an important marketing tool. However, this has also highlighted certain ethical concerns. Just how far can businesses and brands go when it comes to using social networks to market their products and services? We are going to be taking a look at some of the key ethical dilemmas that can be associated with social marketing.
One of the biggest ethical concerns in relation to social marketing is consumer privacy. There are certain actions relating to social marketing which could be said to infringe on the privacy of social media users. If these actions could potentially harms an individual’s personal or professional credibility then they could be considered to be unethical. This is why businesses must be careful when it comes to accessing and/or disclosing personal information and profile information pertaining to social media fans and followers. This is particularly true where advertisers are tracking where consumers shop and/or browse in order to target them with other products.
Another major ethical issue linked to social marketing is spamming. If a business is over promoting or sending unsolicited messages via social media then this is seen as unethical practice. Sometimes, the businesses know that this is what they are doing and they deliberately set out to deceive consumers with Facebook and/ or Twitter links. At other times, the business may not believe that they are spamming consumers – after all, if someone follows you on social media they must be interested in your products and services. While this is true to some extent, it does not mean that they want to see sales posts on their feed every few minutes! It is important to strike the right balance so that consumers do not feel bombarded by you.
Another ethical issue that needs to be considered is how you talk about other people via social media. Making disparaging remarks about your competitors, or even your customers on your social media posts is highly unethical. Not only that, but it could also be considered grounds for legal action. Even if you don’t find yourself hit with a lawsuit, you could quickly find yourself in a viral situation for all the wrong reasons and this could result in damage to your reputation and/ or your credibility.
One very popular type of post that we see on social media these days is the contest! There are a growing number of businesses out there who are misusing contests in order to gain free expertise or market research. This is especially true of contests which request that people submit ideas or designs. Contestants are risking giving up their skills and/ or ideas with little to no reward. This is a highly unethical business practice.
In conclusion, although social media can be a very powerful marketing tool there are also some ethical concerns that businesses do need to think about if they are going to be engaging in social marketing.