18 Nov The Ethics of Social Media Marketing

The effectiveness of a brand’s social media campaign centers on credibility; something that is in seemingly shorter and shorter supply as brand social media marketing matures. And, your brand’s credibility in social media has an impact on your credibility in the “real world” as well.  Building credibility on social media means acting ethically.  Consider this, why do you post what you post? Are you offering valuable content (more on that here) or are you trying to get as many people to like you as possible? Your answer, or rather, your brand’s answer (or even perceived answer) to this question is at the center of a topic that has become the center of scrutiny in the past few years: Social Media Marketing Ethics.  But what makes a social media account ethical? Here are a few qualities to consider before you hit “post”.


Authenticity applies to every aspect of social media. From the motive behind the content you post to the way your posts are shared by your fans.  Authentic social media posts have something to contribute, even if it’s as simple as a quote from a satisfied customer; they don’t exist solely for the purpose of attracting or encouraging more likes, shares and posts. And asking your fans to promote your brand to their followers via contests or “questions” that require them to like a specific page, like a post, or share your content on their own pages to win is not considered an authentic endorsement.



Honesty has been a tenet of advertisers around the world for decades, but it becomes even more important in the digital sphere. Not only is it ethical to keep your posts open and honest, meaning a truthful representation of not only your brand, but of your competitors; It helps your brand to ward off the dreaded social media “melt down” or “tail spin”. If one of your followers finds out that your brand was dishonest in a post, they have the perfect platform to not only label your brand a liar to all of their friends, but also to all of your followers.  On a more extreme level, a false account, whether a page or “personal” account may seem like a clever marketing tactic. But, using fake aliases, or worse, posing as a competitor, is untruthful and will severely hurt your brand’s credibility across more than just your social media platforms.


If your company is not interested in being transparent, don’t invest in a social media campaign. Being up front about your intentions for posting, running contests, and asking questions of your followers will help to increase the credibility of your company.  Your fans are (hopefully) following you to get the full story about your company, not to be tricked into seeing your posts! If you run a social media contest that promotes your brand to your friends’ followers, or have social media influencers or bloggers review or promote your product, be sure that they give full disclosure by mentioning that the review is sponsored (See the FCC’s guidelines for sponsored posts http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm ).


Perhaps the most obvious of the qualities to consider when planning an ethical social media campaign is also the one that gets most overlooked in a tragedy. Sensitivity means taking a moment to do your research, consider your audience and their feelings, and truly evaluate whether your brand needs to post, or if it would more effective to stay silent. On twitter, specifically, take a moment to research trending hashtags that may relate to your brand (even just clicking through to see what people are saying) before composing your own tweet, even if you are unaware of an event.  Shortly after the Aurora, Colorado shooting, a UK retailer saw that “#aurora” was trending and used it to promote their “aurora” style dress, the backlash was considerable, and social media pros everywhere learned an important lesson. Other brands, from Kenneth Cole, to AT&T and Ford, have done similar yet intentional promotions based on national tragedies, and the public’s message is always clear; DO NOT use a national event or tragedy as a chance to promote your brand.


What defines an ethical Social Media campaign to you? Or an unethical one? Share below!

Sibet B Freides