Ethical Issues in Internet & Social Media Marketing

Instructor: April Ray

April has taught college communication courses for over eight years and has a master's degree in Media Communication.

This lesson will explore ethical considerations in social media and internet marketing communication. We will examine three ethical situations and identify how to properly maintain ethical standards within these scenarios.

Ethical Situation

Your friend owns a fledgling online business selling homemade candles and scent items. She's been using internet social media marketing by selling and promoting her products using social media posts on Facebook and Twitter. In the last month, she has received several negative responses to her social media posts complaining about different issues. She contacts you to ask for your help since she does not wish for her brand and products to be negatively affected by these startling issues. You agree to help her review these issues immediately.

Social Media Marketing Options

Identifying Ethical Considerations

As you review these complaints with her, you notice some unethical trends regarding her internet and social media promotional campaigns. Ethics in internet social media marketing is the moral compass by which she should guide all marketing communication. For internet social media marketing, it is her ethical responsibility to be honest and truthful regarding sales items, which means only posting true product information and pricing. It is equally important to be considerate of client privacy issues; personal information and purchasing details must never be posted in a public social media area. It is also necessary that she be socially sensitive to her audience. Being considerate regarding cultural differences and other sensitive social issues will help her business prosper. Without these ethical standards, she will lose clients and business by offending them and losing their trust. You decide to outline several examples of these ethical issues by using the negative social media posts she has received.

Social Media Marketing Guidelines

Honest and Truthful Sales

The first complaint clearly reveals dishonesty in her social media sales promotion posts. The complaint states, 'Excuse me, but you posted on your Facebook page that the sale on the cherry scented votive candles would be open until May 15th. I placed my order on May 15th, and it charged me full price and stated the sale had closed. I am upset and am not sure I trust your business anymore.' You ask her how she responded. She angrily defends herself, 'it is my business, and I can start and stop sales when I want to!' You redirect her to the point that she may lose this person as a client, and you ask her if she thinks that this client will now spread the word that her company is not to be trusted. 'How do you think that will affect your brand image and your business overall?,' you ask. She begins to concede and see the importance of ethical honesty and integrity in her internet social media marketing posts. You decide to move forward and review a different complaint with her.

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