Realities of Social Media: Trusted VS Tainted

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.

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(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)

singtelgushcloudbriefone

(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?

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(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.

(430 words)

References:

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

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9 thoughts on “Realities of Social Media: Trusted VS Tainted

  1. Hi Crystal,

    Your blogpost definitely caught my attention, I personally think that organisations should not be bribing their bloggers to defame their competitors. Undoubtedly, it’s certainly unethical and repulsive. I feel really sorry for organisations who were victimised by SingTel. So here’s my question for you, do you think that the example you presented in regards to SingTel-Gushcloud Controversial Campaign is an act of social bashing or cyber mobbing? (If you’re interested to know more about social bashing, you may want to take a look at Tian Yi’s Blogpost).

    That brings me to my next point, it is becoming a norm for organisations to be involved in such unethical acts. So here comes my next question, if your prospective company will like you to write and publish an editorial to defame your competitors, will you do it? Don’t forget, your job is at stake. Hence, how will you tackle such a situation?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ryan, thanks for your comment!

      Yes, bribing blogger to defame competitors just goes to show how much faith companies have in themselves. (Very little?)
      Answering your question, I feel that this controversy may tend more to ‘cyber-mobbing’, considering that Gushcloud has a team of influencers tasked to attack competitors.

      If I feel the content is 100% true, I may accept the offer to write the said editorial. Should my prospective company force me to write false content, or exaggerated content, I would definitely decline to do so, even if my job is at stake. After all, credibility is at stake and I believe that the value in my career should be based on my ethics and my capabilities rather than the ‘unethical’ jobs I have.

      Thanks for the questions that dug a deeper depth out of the unethical business practices issue.

      Like

  2. Hi Crystal,

    This would be the first time I’m commenting yah?
    You managed to raise a few good points.
    The part on false content management got me thinking.
    Some points raised were on how social media marketing can be untrue and comes from a questionable source. And it could very well, be deemed unethical.
    Another point i like to bring up is on content deletion.
    If an organisation already attracts a lot of comments on their media pages,
    they don’t have to generate false content. What they could do is just delete all the negative posts
    and leave only the good stuff for the rest to read. Wouldn’t that serve the same purpose too?
    And if that were to happen, would it fall under your scope too?

    And coming back to marketing… if you were the marketing manager…
    Would you go down the path of false content generation?
    You know it could be unethical.
    But then there’s pressure coming from your superior.
    And you need to do it. So what’s your take on that?

    Edward

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Edward, yes this is your first comment here! Thanks for your kind words.

      I would think that content deletion is inevitably a part of advertising. As long as there were no fabrications, we can see this content distortion in many advertising examples today. We have to understand that there are many advantages and disadvantages customers see in a business. In order for them to be attracted, it is the marketing job to sell the good side. The line is drawn when content is false or distorted. Hiding content, sadly, is a common practice.

      For me, if I were the marketing manager, I wouldn’t go down the unethical path of false content generation.

      Simply for two reasons:

      1. My moral standing that content generation should not be fabricated

      2. Singapore’s strict laws on advertising content

      Therefore, I would definitely try to guard myself against these unethical pitfalls of marketing.

      Hope this helps you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Crystal!

    I enjoyed reading your post on the ethical & unethical practices of marketing advertising.

    It is true that social media marketing can improve brand loyalty and increase sales however, ethical & unethical practices should be observed too.

    I particularly enjoy the Singtel-Gushcloud malpractice example of downplaying and defaming their competitors and Jamie quoted this example too her post. Indeed this is not a good practice as besides breaching the Telecomm Competition Code, this will negatively influence followers of Gushcloud bloggers & affect the competitors’ businesses.

    I agree with the ‘keep social honest’ points you cited as I mention some of those proper business practices in my posts too as it will only do more good then harm to businesses.

    However, just a question, do you think its ethical of those media sites posting controversial stuff just to generate more viewers? Even if those content are true but they are taken out of context to create controversy which might affect businesses.

    Thanks!
    Justin

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Justin,

      Thank you for your comment and I hope the content gave you another scope of unethical social media used in businesses. If I were to manage social media accounts in the future, I will definitely adhere to the ’10 commandments’ of Keep Social Honest to ensure ethical practice.

      And no, I feel that it isn’t ethical for media sides to take content out of context just to downplay other businesses. It’s a display of the company’s inadequacy, feeling a need to pull others down as it lacks confidence to soar on its own. I feel that businesses should thrive on honouring its business strengths and pursuing opportunities, instead of creating controversy for the sake of competition.

      Thanks for the question and hope it helped you! 🙂

      Like

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