What Is Ethical Social Media Marketing?

Oct 7, 2008 - 2:32 pm 1 by
Filed Under SMX East 2008

Should social media marketers disclose if they’re working on behalf of a client? Should relationships with power submitters be divulged? Social media marketing is still evolving, and this session looks at some of the ethical questions the area is struggling with.

Moderator: Jeffrey K. Rohrs, Vice President, Marketing, ExactTarget


Liana Evans, Director of Internet Marketing, Key Relevance Steve Rubel, Senior Vice President, Director of Insights, Edelman Digital Marty Weintraub, President, aimClear

Li speaks first about the ethics of social media ethics. She asks, "what is ethical social media marketing? Can we take the same ethics into social media?" Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Back in 1995, you were able to link everywhere and there were no questions about ethics because things were a lot slower. But now it's 2008 and we have Google and high speed TV. If you do something bad nowadays, this will bite you in the butt before you know it. When you think about pushing the envelope, be careful. When you are dealing with big brands and a major time investment, you have to be a lot more careful than for those throwaway domains/companies.

Too many people say "oh, this is a great opportunity to get a lot of links." When you're doing social media for links, you shouldn't be. Links are simply a byproduct. SEOs have been accused of being snake oil salesmen -- even from social media enthusiasts.

Ethics, by definition, is the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of users. Who decides the ethics? Nobody actually decides -- they can just give you a guide. Your audience "decides." They will tell you whether or not what you're doing is right or wrong. They will speak with their pockets/purses or via word of mouth marketing.

WOMMA provides 5 fundamentals for marketing. * If your customers are happy, they will say good things about you. * If you're honest or genuine, it will be a good thing. * They also support sharing of stories. * Word of mouth cannot be faked. * Word of mouth marketing empowers the consumer.

Her example relates to General Hospital and a blog for Dr. Robin Scorpio about naming her nonexistent baby. You can do this if the community wants it!

Are avatars ethical? If you use the Eagles as your avatar, is that ethical? It depends on the community you're in and who you're talking to. The community will tell you what's ethical.

What's your intent? Are you trying to get fast traction in the SERPs only? If so, you may get caught.

You should also check your gut. Would you do this to your mom or grandmother? If you think you have had it tough, Li has had it worse. Her mom is a priest. (So the answer is "probably not.")

The next person who speaks about this is Marty Weintraub. Avatar theory is his topic. An avatar is how people represent themselves online. There's a remarkable lack of consensus regarding appropriate usage, corporate brand ambassadors, personal political agendas, etc. Should we market with it?

A continuum of black and white: you need to do a gut check and be honest. It's easy to con yourself. Marketing in public spaces is perfectly legal especially with disclosure. There are laws in the UK that prohibit non-transparency.

He then quoted me and some other people. I'm a bit red right now.

There are a lot of people who are using sites and they're normal - not marketers. How do we integrate without peeing in the pool?

Is social media about links? Ummmm... It's the killer interrupt channel for paid search? YES!. Is driving promotion and traffic worth anything?

A commercial avatar definition - social media participation for corporate gain. Should you reveal your corporate affiliation? Is your intent selling? Are you going to monitor report and advise? Are you a girl/boy/straight/gay? It's various shades of who you are. Are you hostile? Are you naughty or nice? Some people can't control themselves. Who owns the avatar? Is it a blogger or the agency? Is it the agency or the client?

There are 10 common avatar models but the ideas are here: - Season to taste, many permutations and unique approaches - Don't kill the messenger. - Judge not, even Google is not God

The interersted friend - extremely well developed persona that are evaluated by psychologists. They target lists of authority users by topic. They only manipulate to serve. Let them think they thought of it. Personal derivative of blogger team or mostly fictional. Makes real friends. Blogger feels emotions and shares. It does not defend the brand. IT builds links by bookmarking content. It sells by sophisticated and subtle manipulation. The ownership is negotiable.

What about the dofollow linkbulder? It is done in massive amounts. There are no personas.

The troll is the semi anonymous idiot who can do nasty things to your company.

The diital assets sharing profile- they are profiles created on sharing sites for real like Flickr and YouTube. They're owned by the company and the gift that keeps on giving. Link build to profiles, for example.

When a troll really doesn't like you, they can get a twitter account on another company's name.

Steve Rubel blogged this before I liveblogged it on his much-better post on Ethical Social Media Marketing. But in case you don't read his post, you can read mine. He talks about how the social media space is going to change. He's going to cover three things: the collaboration imperative - if you follow things you believe in, ethics will follow. There's an amazing intersection between search, social, and public relations. Ethics need to be considered there as well. Finally, the global economic climate needs to be considered because there will be changes soon.

The collaboration imperative: The term social media marketing is one that Steve hates. He recognizes that it's something that sticks. Why does it suck? All things social online is media. Also, all media is increasingly social. What is social media nowadays? We're not really sure. More importantly, social media marketing as a term or practice implies that channels are advertising venues to market your products, and they're not. They're still public spaces. You need to think of them as the internet's versions of the national parks. Respect their beauty. If we don't, we'll pollute the environment and make them less enjoyable for everybody. This is especially true for people who live there everyday.

He has a problem with how people use social media sites. They think it's a venue for advertising but it's not. He says that 50% of social media programs fail. Why? People wo participate in Facebook, Twitter, or blogs are doing it for a reason. They're not there for marketing! They're there to share ideas and unite based on a passion for something.

To succeed in this new world, brands need to move from taking tried and true marketing tactics and retro-fitting them for the new environment. We need to stop thinking about talk and buzz. Instead, there is an imperative that marketers engage publicly by collaborating with their audience towards a shared desired outcome. Follow that path. Be action-oriented toward a win-win outcome and transparent in the process and ethics won't be an issue. Stop retrofitting old topics into a new environment.

The other idea is the intersection of Search, Social, and PR (public relations, not PageRank). Google has become so powerful. Even if people don't know what Twitter is, they all gush for Google and can't live without it. If we're living in a globe of diehard Googlers, we're seeing that those of you who work in the SEO profession, Google and search engines increasingly reward high quality content that is socially connected. There are 3 buckets of high quality content: When you think of high quality content, it's either produced by brands, media companies, or by ordinary citizens. You can link this all back to PR professionals. The PR professionals generated that extreme.

The ethical implications are huge. The ones who do the best are the ones who go in the sphere and create the content. You need to be transparent. He says that he has a blog with 50k subscribers, 5k pages, and a PageRank of 7. That's scary and is a big responsibility. He mentions that he has HP as a sponsor to his site. What if he has a bad experience with a Dell laptop and says something about it? He could influence search results. However, that could be the most unethical things that he could do (especially with HP being a competitor to Dell). This, however, is becoming the norm. If we don't play our A-game, we're in trouble.

He's optimistic that he's part of the PR profession - it's a safe haven in this environment. Ethics are key! Ethics create trust and trust is king. Edelman has a study called the Trust Barometer and looks at what sources people trust. Over time, people trust each other more than any other source.

We're in an era of transparency because there are blogs and videos everywhere. Things can show up in the SERPs. The network fuels all of this that includes traditional and social media. Transparency and trust are evergreen. PR can help people navigate this environment and it won't go away in any economic downturn.

We still have a long way to go in terms of addressing measurable ROI. Relations and trust can be assessed over time, though.

He ends with the following: if we continue to set ethics and measurement guidelines when it comes to social media, search, and PR, we'll all win.


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