How to Practice Socially Responsible Marketing on Social Media
In addition to thinking about your commitment to different stakeholders beyond your customers, consider what it means to be a socially responsible marketer. Fundamentally, socially responsible marketing is defined as taking moral actions that encourage a positive impact on all the company’s stakeholders from the customers and the employees to the suppliers, shareholders, and communities in which your company operates.
The American Marketing Association (AMA) has designed a statement of ethics that govern marketers’ actions. The statement includes six ethical values that marketers are expected to uphold:
- Honesty: Be forthright in dealings and offer value and integrity.
- Responsibility: Accept consequences of marketing practices and serve the needs of customers of all types, while being good stewards of the environment.
- Fairness: Balance buyer needs and seller interest fairly, and avoid manipulation in all forms while protecting the information of the consumers.
- Respect: Acknowledge basic human dignity of all the people involved through efforts to communicate and understand and meet the needs and appreciate contributions of others.
- Transparency: Create a spirit of openness in the practice of marketing through communication, constructive criticism, action, and disclosure.
- Citizenship: Fulfill all legal, economic, philanthropic, and societal responsibilities to all stakeholders as well as giveback to the community and protect the ecological environment.
For more details on the statement of ethics, visit the American Marketing Association Statement of Ethics.
Making a commitment to the truth in your social media marketing campaigns
If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that the truth can be highly controversial. Whether it’s politics, business or even within local communities, sometimes separating fact from fiction, truth from lies, and information from falsehood has gotten incredibly difficult. Finding the truth feels like searching for a needle in a haystack.
Sadly, those challenges exist across the business world. Put simply, companies aren’t always truthful with their customers. It can be a CEO speaking about the company’s future, a marketer talking about a product’s benefits, or an engineer responding with data to a government ask.
Companies, too, suffer from stretching the facts when it suits their interest. This is a problem and in a social media driven world where lies can spread like wildfire across the Internet, being true to the facts and honest at all times takes on even greater significance.
This puts a special responsibility on the marketers in a company or anyone practicing social media marketing. Marketers are in the persuasion business using stories to convince others to change their opinions and purchase specific products. Furthermore, through advertising budgets, the marketers also fuel other industries that depend on advertising revenue streams.
Misinformation is rampant in our world and by virtue of providing the revenue stream for social media platforms that may inadvertently allow for the spreading of the lies, marketers carry unique responsibilities too.
As a marketer, you can easily fall prey to furthering falsehoods and misinformation when it supports a business’s objectives or directly influences online sales. This is especially the case in social media where the way a product is positioned and marketed may not be visible to regulators or informed third parties who can call out misleading advertising.
You may find yourself unintentionally marketing your own products in a way that may not be completely ethical and without the checks and balances that come with mass advertising, it may go unnoticed for a while.
5 ways to encourage truthfulness in your social media marketing campaigns
Few marketers intentionally try to mislead or cheat their customers. And social media marketers are typically even more careful because they want to please their customers, being fully aware of the real-time feedback loops of social media.
Those feedback loops serve as a natural checks and balances. However, something can always go wrong when you’re publishing a lot of content quickly. Here are five ways to encourage truthfulness from your team and yourself too.
- Ask for facts. When you have a team member reviewing their social media marketing plan with you, ask that person whether he or she has all the facts verified. Look for the facts and encourage the team member to keep opinions to a minimum.
- Use reflection to override bias. You rarely mean to intentionally perpetuate lies. However you’re human and you may accept certain opinions as facts. One way to address this problem is by consciously choosing to delay arriving at your judgment. Let all the available information sink in and deliberately reflect on it before approving the direction.
- Engage openly with dissent. When the facts are contested, one way to find what is the truth is to engage with those that disagree with you. Actively engage with all parties involved in a particular disagreement. Try to get as much of a 360-degree view of the issue as you can, before you form any judgments.
- Appoint people to play the “devil’s advocate.” When tasked with making a major decision, set up an alternative team whose responsibility is to justify the opposite conclusion. It leads you to better solutions.
- Be open to criticism. Find trusted people who can provide you with feedback in a way where the message is heard without it feeling like an attack. It’s important to have people surrounding you who don’t agree with everything you say all the time.
Marketers have unique and important responsibilities in any company. Knowing how to separate fact from fiction and truth from lies is supposed to be common sense — something that you learn as a child. However, in the social media world, it’s hard to separate the two. Bad actors twist the truth, play at your weaknesses, and use psychology tricks to confuse you. As a marketer, you have to be extra careful both as a potential victim yourself and as an unintentional endorser of those lies.
It may be retweeting a news headline that validates a product, and not realizing that the headline isn’t true, or it could be taking a fake endorsement of a product and putting it in a piece of advertisement, and anything in between. The point is that in a social media driven world where information spreads like across the Internet, it’s extremely important to only be a purveyor of truth and not to be lazy in what you communicate and how.
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