This is a Little Guide To Ethics In Digital Marketing in two parts. In the first part of our guide to ethics in digital marketing, we looked at why there is an increasing need for such a guide. We look at the core steps to implement proper digital marketing ethics and also examined the challenges that new technologies bring in terms of ethics for digital marketers. In part two we will look at some guidelines for ethics in digital marketing in all its different branches.
The Internet and social media, has brought us wonderful things. For the first time in history, we have a medium that enables us not only to access information but to share it instantly. On the other hand, with social media, due to its immediacy, the opportunities to reach out to others in whatever part of the world, have expanded tremendously. Businesses, entrepreneurs and solopreneurs have been adopting these wonderful tools to expand their businesses. They have developed over the past decade finely tuned digital marketing practices, particularly using social media. Unfortunately, social media also expand the potential to act in incorrect ways, when the desire for greed/manipulation takes over.
How to act ethically in all the different branches of your digital marketing strategy?
Ethics and Social Media Marketing
On social media marketing, digital marketers need to make sure they are taking extra special care with their posts. It is all too easy to post first and think later, which can lead to problematic and unethical posts being made. Critically, consumers are likely to see
posts that show biases to be unethical. For example, biases for or against different
ethnicities, religions, political views or cultures all lead to the digital marketer being
on the dodgy ground. If a particular idea is being endorsed, the digital marketer should
be clear about why that is happening and any relationship should be clarified so the
audience understands and can make appropriate judgments.
Knowing your audience can help to prevent making posts that have biases. This can also help in avoiding spamming your target audience – since you’ll be more likely to be seen to
be providing information that is of interest. Spamming might also be seen as unethical too.
Email Digital Marketing
Email is one form of digital marketing that is used by a large number of digital
marketers. Some companies have been known to exploit this by purchasing mailing
lists. When sources of these lists are unknown, this is unethical, as customers may
not even know they are on these lists. Not only is it unethical, but it is also rather
frustrating for the customer to receive unsolicited email. GDPR requires that
customers have to opt-in, rather than just being able to opt out. Digital marketers
that want to act ethically should abide by this.
Ethics and Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimisation is also used by digital marketers to spread the word and
bring brand awareness about their products. Unfortunately, this can also be used by
digital marketers in an unethical manner. In a quest to have their products and
company name featured at number one in the search results, digital marketers do
not follow the rules. Alternatively they find ways to fake it and manipulate their ranking by buying links in an unethical way, without disclosing, making it look like they
are following the rules when they are not. A word of warning here – companies that
engage in this type of unethical activity do get blacklisted from time to time.
Ethics and Online Reviews
Online reviews are an important means by which consumers can decide between
different products and services. However, it is by no means unheard of for
businesses to influence these reviews in a variety of ways. For example, some
companies provide free items or a discount in exchange for a great review. Some
reviews are even completely fake and paid for. When these types of digital
marketing occur, they are clearly unethical and this practice should not occur.
Ethics and Data Privacy and Security
Finally, it is of vital importance that digital marketers pay close attention to data
privacy and security. Companies not only need policies in place for data privacy and
security but these need to be followed and they need to be effective. Databases
must be secure so that there can be no way for customer data to escape, and
employees must be trained to follow rules in this area so that there are no risks to
customer data privacy and security.
A lot of what is contained in our little guide to ethics in digital marketing might be
considered by some to be “common sense”. However, unfortunately, while this may
be seen by some to be the case, some companies do use unethical digital marketing
tactics such as those described above. The good news is that following the practical advice
above can help you becoming unwittingly involved in unethical digital marketing activities.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.