It’s about Ethics in Digital Marketing
When it comes to digital marketing, we’re faced with surmounting obstacles in every direction, from algorithm changes, online trolls, increased ad prices and a growing list of rules and regulations to follow. In this blog post, we’re going to look at the importance of ethics in digital marketing.
Isn’t ethics in digital marketing just common sense?
Ethics is the study of moral rules that guide our lives. It’s a bit of a mix between common sense, common decency, and social norms. When it comes to ethics in digital marketing, we’re both helped and hindered by the laws and terms of services that affect what we can and cannot do online.
Forgiveness or permission?
The old expression ‘It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission’ doesn’t sit well with the powers that be when it comes to digital marketing. Permission always comes first. Privacy policies, cookies, and mailing lists thrive on permission. As well as giving our customers and readers a degree of control over the content they receive, permission to be on a mailing list, in particular, provides us with confirmation: people like our shit enough that they don’t want to go looking for it.
Isn’t GDPR just a pain in the ass?
It might seem that way at first, but the handy thing about something like GDPR – the General Data Protection Regulation – is that it affects everyone equally. Since its introduction, it’s easier to tackle spam, and the unsolicited sharing (and keeping) of personal data outside of the originally required usage is now punishable. GDPR is the law guided by ethics, and it confirms once again that the people who like what we do actually want to hear from us.
So really, ethics in digital marketing is about doing what’s right.
Doing right by your customers is about more than permission. It’s also about protection. One of the great ethical challenges in marketing is what to do with other people’s data. Over the course of a customer moving through a sales funnel, personal and sensitive information is sent in the form of addresses, email addresses, credit card information, and, in some cases, date of birth.
What can we do?
Ethics in digital marketing is about using more than your common sense – you also need to use the right tools for the job.
- Protect your databases. The last thing you want to do is accidentally expose your readers and customers to fraud. Remember, it’s not just your data at risk online.
- Understand email. If you need to send an email to multiple people, use the BCC feature. This will hide all recipients in that field from everyone else receiving the email. Better still, use a mailing list service.
- Protect your integrity and reputation when it comes to reviews. No one likes asking for a favour, especially not from a client or a customer, but asking for a review or a blurb for a website is more convincing than a fake review. Humility is a surprise challenge for digital marketing, but when you’ve done all the work already, there’s no place for it in your business.
- Check your sources. It’s easy to share bad information. It’s easy to mislead for the sake of a few clicks or a ‘like’ online. Easy doesn’t mean ethical. Double-check figures and statements that you’re quoting. Look for a license to use an image online before sharing it. When in doubt about a viral story whizzing about social media, check multiple sources. Snopes.com is your best friend for fact-checking.
- Use proper SEO. Paying for links to your site is a quick way to potentially drive traffic in the short term, at the cost of your reputation with search engines and your integrity with clients. Building your brand and audience may take time, but doing it right means you avoid blacklists.
What’s the point in overcoming ethical challenges in digital marketing?
It’s not always easy, but easy doesn’t build character or brand. Using the tools above, investing in the right plugins and software, and doing your best to never mislead your readers or customers guarantees you’re doing something right.
Search engines praise proper SEO. People praise authenticity and realism. Governments praise law-abiding marketers. In a world of fake news, photo filters, memes, and spam, the easiest way to stand out in the long term is to build a brand that does everything right. All the extra work in following through on guidelines as far as ethics in digital marketing is concerned goes a long way towards telling your customers that you care about what you’re selling, and who you’re selling to.
If you have any doubt about whether taking the ethical approach to digital marketing, just look at The Guardian’s top 100 TV shows of the 21st century. Sitting at #69 is The Good Place. Sometimes, ethics can be sexy.