There can be no question that 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 has brought with it opportunities to directly interact with consumers and to build relationships that would make small village shop owners jealous, however there remains much complexity surrounding what can be classed as ethical when it comes to world of social media.
Even the very discussion of ethics can be a complex one, this is often down to how there very ins and outs remain unclear. Even well respected companies such as NBC have shown how easy it is to overstep the line without realising, with their ego boosting Facebook images of the young Boston bombing victim recovering in hospital. Some of these issues are 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 at fault, to how businesses represent themselves along with the information uploaded to the sites.
Privacy, the information that youâ??ve uploaded to social media and how it can be used by third parties are concerns that have been under constant debate. Such privacy issues have been under scrutiny since the earliest days of social media. The basic practice of ethical privacy policies when it come to uploading personal information online are described as: â??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 confidentialâ?. However research conducted by Lancaster based â??Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Securityâ? highlighted that none of the major social media sites allow options regarding how information can be gathered and then utilised. They didnâ??t allow user to opt out of sharing information in these areas:
- the social networking provider could gather information about them;
- to prevent information being shared with third parties;
- Providing traceable details on which items of data were shared and with which third parties.
This research gives a clear indication of how even the major social sites still need to sort out their own ethical issues. Should your business be worried by how information can be utilised by third parties, even if itâ??s something innocent like local papers publishing your pictures without consent?
Another area that can have ethical implications is how businesses and their employees can and should interact with people through social media. These days most companies have formal guidelines on how their business should be represented on social media. Examples of this could be: not publishing opinions that would lead to conflicts or cause offence such as religious views. However, many of us have seen instances when companies release a confrontational tweet or reply to negative feedback 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 will probably reach a far wider audience than any standard message ever could. It begs the question of how businesses should be representing themselves on social media; does stepping away from the mundane sometimes lead to greater exposure and possibly more sales?
LinkedIn struggle with ethics
Finally, a recent issue shows that itâ??s not just other business that has to worry about ethical issues with their online marketing strategy. Recently the social media site LinkedIn has itself received some criticism regarding their ethical policy. The issues arose recently with their profile icon for their â??Job Seeker Premiumâ? membership, highlighting if employees were paying for the premium membership of LinkedIn in order to find employment. There are many ethical issues with this small icon. Firstly the practice discriminates against people who canâ??t afford to pay for placement. Secondly, it preys on job seekersâ?? hopes by promising a potential benefit when in reality there is no real benefit at all. Thirdly and finally, how impressed is an employer likely to be when it knows youâ??ve paid to have your CV listed above others. LinkedIn’s agreement that this service increases the likelihood of the profile being read, suggests that it also increases their chances of being contacted by employers. Nonetheless this potentially unethical approach to making money has got LinkedIn in some hot water.
It seems in todayâ??s world every business under the sun has a Twitter and a Facebook account and how they choose to utilise these platforms will be down to each business owner. Thereâ??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 a bit of an ethical tight rope when marketing on social media that we that we must tread.
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- The ethical minefield regarding social media marketing - June 6, 2016