Social media, which begun for the sake of convenient interaction on the Internet, has far evolved to what it has become today: a marketing tool.
(Picture Source: Marketoonist.com)
There are many benefits that social media marketing can bring to businesses, such as improved brand loyalty and increased inbound traffic to websites. Corporate use of social media to market products is seen as a business opportunity to increase sales. (DeMers, 2014) However, with social media advertising, it appears that there is a problem:
Misleading Interactive Advertising
Businesses today are becoming highly saturated with online content. To stay ahead, they engage social media personalities with great influence on their target market, usually justified by the number of followers and the averaged likes count, to post about its brand in an ideal manner. These businesses will reward them with cash incentives or store credits. (Politt, 2014)
How is this unethical?
The social media users who are paid to write these advertorials accept the offers as a business deal, lacking consideration for followers reading these paid content.
Example: The Singtel-Gushcloud Controversial Campaign
Singtel, a telecommunications company in Singapore, tarnished its reputation when Xiaxue, a Singaporean blogger, exposed its ‘Blogger Engagement Brief’ for Gushcloud. (Cheng, 2015)
(Picture Source: Xiaxue.blogspot.com.sg)
As shown in the picture, the circled point shows how Singtel has unethically instructed the bloggers of Gushcloud to downplay and defame their competitors. Followers of the Gushcloud bloggers would have been influenced to think likewise, affecting the competitors’ businesses. This could have breached the Telecomm Competition Code imposed on all telecommunication licenses in Singapore. (Tham, 2015)
Singtel has given a public apology and terminated its contract with Gushcloud, teaching Singaporeans a lesson on tainted social media campaigns and deceitful marketing tactics.
The marketing industry may resort to forced and false content marketing in a hurry to see the Return of Investment (ROI) from its social media campaign. This is unethical and marketers should see social media marketing as a long-term strategy instead. (Manjur, 2015) Building brand loyalty and trust is a crucial part of the business. This does not mean that interactive advertising should be forgone.
How then, can social marketing advertising be ethical?
(Picture Source: Keep Social Honest)
The Chartered Institute of Marketing developed the ‘Keep Social Honest’ campaign to encourage ethical behaviours by marketers using social media. The 10 Commandments of Social Media is a guideline to be adhered to, for maintaining the integrity of social media.
Before marketers violate consumer trust, interactive advertising through social media should be properly supervised. (Brown, 2014) Companies should reinforce the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice in their contracts and be morally ethical in their campaigns.
Brown, Thomas. (11 August 2014). The Befitting Brand: Ethical Use of Social Media in Business. Digital Marketing Magazine. Retrieved on 9 November 2015, from http://digitalmarketingmagazine.co.uk/social-media-marketing/the-befitting-brand-ethical-use-of-social-media-in-business
Cheng, Wendy (Xiaxue). (14 March 2015). The Big Gushcloud Expose 2. Xiaxue.blogspot.sg. Retrieved on 9 November 2015, from http://xiaxue.blogspot.sg/2015/03/the-big-gushcloud-expose-2_14.html
DeMers, Jayson. (11 August 2014). The Top 10 Benefits of Social Media Marketing. Forbes. Retrieved on 9 November 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2014/08/11/the-top-10-benefits-of-social-media-marketing/
Hendricks, Drew. (8 May 2013). Complete History of Social Media: Then and Now. Small Business Trends. Retrieved on 9 November 2015, from http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/05/the-complete-history-of-social-media-infographic.html
Keep Social Honest. (2014). Ten Commandments. Keep Social Honest, The Chartered Institute of Marketing. Retrieved on 9 November 2015, from http://www.keepsocialhonest.com/?page_id=306
Manjur, Rezwana. (9 April 2015). Content marketing lessons from the Singtel-Gushcloud saga. Marketing Interactive. Retrieved on 9 November 2015, from http://www.marketing-interactive.com/authenticity-panel/
Politt, Chad. (11 November 2014). Advertorials in the Age of Content Marketing and Promotion. Social Media Today. Retrieved on 9 November 2015, from http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/advertorials-age-content-marketing-and-promotion
Tham, Irene. (21 March 2015). Singtel’s controlversial campaign: Good wake-up call for social media marketing, say experts. The Straits Times, Singapore. Retrieved on 9 November 2015, from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singtels-controversial-campaign-good-wake-up-call-for-social-media-marketing-say-experts