There can be no questioning on how the influx of social media has changed the very foundations of online marketing and how business and employees can conduct their online presence.
Social media brought opportunities to directly interact with consumers and to build relationships that would make small village shops owners jealous. However, there remains much complexity surrounding what can be classed as ethical when it comes to world of social media.
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Even the very discussion of ethics can be a complex one, this is often this in down to how the ins and outs can remain be very unclear. With even well respected companies such as NBC can showing how easy it is to overstep the line within realising, with their ego boosting Facebook images of the young Boston bombing victim recovering in hospital. Some of these issues come along due to how the ethical guidelines are yet to be formed when it comes to social media. There are a lot of grey areas when it comes to what can be classed as ethical with the use of social media, from how the platforms themselves can be a fault, to how businesses represent themselves along with the information upload to the sites.
Privacy and how the information that you’ve uploaded to social media and how it can be used by third parties is something that has been under consent debate. Such privacy issues have been under question since the earliest days of social media. The basic practice to ethical privacy policies when it come to uploading personal information online are described as; “We will collect no personal information about you when you visit our website unless you choose to provide that information to us. If you choose to provide personal information, such as your name, postal and e-mail address or telephone number, we will consider and keep that information private and confidential”. However, after research conducted by Lancaster based “Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security” highlighted that none of the major social media sites allow options on how information can be gathered and then utilised. Both businesses were not given options to whether;
- the social networking provider could gather information about them;
- to prevent information being shared with third parties;
- Provided traceable details on which items of data were shared and with which third parties.
This research gives a clear representation on how even the major social sites are still to sort out the own ethical issues. Should your business be worried by how information can be utilised by third parties, even if it’s something innocent like local papers publishing your pictures without consent.
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Another area that can have great ethical implications that has been greatly written about is how business and their employees can and should interact with people through social media. Now most companies will be under formal guidelines of how their business should be representing themselves on social media. Example of this could be; not projecting opinions that would lead to conflicts such as religions or to cause offence. However, many of us would have seen when companies releases a confrontational tweet or replies to negative feed back in a humorous or controversial way which is then in turn shared throughout the social media community. Despite going against what could be seen as the norm for ethical marketing this message has reach a far wider audience than any standard message ever could. It argues the question of how should business be representing themselves on social medias, does stepping away from the mundane sometimes lead to greater exposure and possibly more sales?
Finally, this recent issue can show how it’s not just other business that has to worry about ethical issues with the online marketing strategy. Recently the social media site LinkedIn has come under some criticism over their ethical policy. The issues arose recently with their profile icon for there “Job Seeker Premium” membership, highlighting if employees where paying for the premium membership of LinkedIn in order to find employment. There are many ethical issues with this small icon; first the practice discriminates against people who can’t afford to pay for placement. Secondly, it preys on job seekers’ hopes by promising a potential benefit when in reality there is no real benefit at all. Third and finally, how impressed is an employer likely to be when it knows you’ve paid to have your CV listed above others. LinkedIn agreement that this service increases the likelihood of the profile being read, suggest that it doubles there chances of being contacted by employees. Nonetheless this deemed unethical approach to making money has got LinkedIn in some hot water.
It seems in today’s world every business under the sun has a Twitter and a Facebook and how you choose to utilise these platforms will be down to each business owner. There’s no doubt that in the present-day business environment social media can play a big role in establishing the reputation of a business and help to boost customer loyalty. There is just a tight rope you must tread when determining the all business, including the ones that run the social media sites all content, images and even offers just a pitch through social media.
What do you think about the ethics of social media marketing? Do share your views in the comment section, we’ll be glad to hear from you.