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In the "good old days," marketers and public relations professionals could have "ethical lapses," and employee less than the most scrupulous methods in obtaining results for their companies, clients, and themselves, with little chance of getting caught. No longer...
The advent of the social Web has made dishonest marketing and PR practices difficult, if not impossible, to perpetrate--without eventual detection. For example, a 2006 Osterman Research report (commissioned by BoldMouth) found that it was commonplace for companies to “incentivize” bloggers and influential discussion forum users to post positive reviews about a product or service. These incentives often took the form of giving the blogger the product or service for free in exchange for a glowing assessment.
However, in today's online world, where Google records almost every scrape of information, including social news and gossip, such deceptions are usually uncovered, resulting in massive condemnation by online communities that not only cancel out any gains made by the unethical behavior, but likely cause irreparable harm to the reputation of the perpetrator. When an individual garners this level of mistrust and negative publicity, it is almost always guarantees a detrimental financial impact.
Moreover in October 2009, a WSJ article revealed that, "New guidelines released by the Federal Trade Commission say bloggers must disclose any money or freebies they receive in exchange for writing product reviews." The rules extend to Facebook, Twitter and other social media portals. Bloggers who choose to continue to take payola for favorable reviews risk not only being ostracized by the very communities they need to survive, but now face running a foul of FTC rules and the consequent legal repercussions.
So, it turns out that in social media marketing, mom was right, "Honesty is the best policy." By creating authentic and genuine content, disclosing who are in online conversations, and being transparent (revealing any interest you have in products or services), you will gain the respect of the community where you operate and eventually the members will trust your opinions, which vastly improves your odds of influencing people into making purchase, subscribing to a newsletter, and so on (i.e., conversions).The resources below provide further tips on how to be a successful social media marketer by following ethical behavioral guidelines: