Interactive & Social Media Marketing: Legal & Ethical Issues

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Interactive and social media marketing presents some legal and ethical issues that marketers must take into consideration. In this lesson, you'll learn more about some of these concerns.

Here Comes the Judge

Tabitha has just entered the world of interactive and social media marketing, as an addition to her traditional marketing efforts. She is a little overwhelmed with the various legal and ethical issues she must consider when distributing her messages and interacting with customers and prospects online. Luckily, she had the foresight to hire an attorney to follow her around, watch over her shoulder and ensure that she's adhering to all the appropriate statutes and regulations.

Understanding the legal and ethical implications of interactive and social media marketing can save your business heartache and money.
Understanding the legal and ethical implications of interactive and social media marketing can save your business heartache and money.

Just kidding! Unfortunately, business owners don't always have the luxury of ongoing legal insight and support for things such as how to appropriately conduct themselves in the interactive and social media marketing arenas. Let's talk about some of the challenges presented in an interactive and social media marketing environment.

Interactive and Social Media Marketing - What is it?

You probably know what social media marketing is, involving the use of advertising or promoting your brand, products or services on a variety of social media channels. Interactive marketing involves a slew of online and digital marketing tactics including email, blogs, websites and search engine marketing ideas such as Pay-Per-Click ads.

Understanding Legal and Ethical Concerns

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a trademark is 'a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.' Trademark infringement occurs when one of those items is used in an unapproved or unauthorized manner that confuses or deceives consumers about the origin of the offending party's products or services. Trademark infringement presents both legal and ethical concerns that online marketers should watch out for.

A copyright is similar to a trademark in its coverage. It provides protection to the authors of original works. Infringement of a copyright occurs when the work is reproduced or distributed without the permission of the original owner. You would not want to reproduce copyrighted work and pass it off as your own.

Clear terms and conditions are necessary. This means fully disclosing any pertinent information relative to your advertisement or product, ranging from the length of a free trial period to your refund policies. Clear terms and conditions also refer to a reasonable length for those terms and conditions; creating overly long content with the intent to deceive or discourage consumers from reading through it is an ethical no-no.

Include and respect opt-ins and opt-outs. Do not send your marketing content to anyone who has not expressed an interest in receiving it by signing up and consenting to it being delivered. Likewise, respect a person's decision to opt-out and cease communications with them at their request.

Targeting children in online advertising is another ethical concern to consider. Interactive and social media marketing that is appropriate for adults only should not be made available to children. Similarly, if the product or service you're marketing is directed at an audience of 18-and-younger individuals, be certain that your marketing approach is responsible and respectful for the age range.

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