The online landscape has transformed marketing. What used to be a relatively straightforward practice now includes endless digital tricks that can significantly improve company visibility and attract new customers. However, these somewhat underhanded tactics have raised questions of credibility previously unknown in advertising and marketing. While once unethical marketing simply referred to false advertising, today we also have to look at the moral implications of how we are marketing. SEO, automated bots, ghostwriters and fake reviews may have all become industry standard, but if your audience recognizes you are relying on these tricks, your reputation can take a serious hit from which it might be difficult to return.
Creating an ethical promotional campaign is not only morally essential, but it will also help your company to succeed. Apply this guide to your marketing schemes to ensure customer trust and brand morality.
Establishing Your Line
The ethics line has never been more blurred than in digital marketing. Many sites focus so heavily on Google ranking they subsequently neglect their content. On the other hand, a great article, service or product is no longer enough to ensure visibility in the virtual age.
Establishing which tactics to employ is a personal decision, but these elements are crucial to consider:
Engaging content means that readers will come back again and again. This type of visitor is the most important for your campaign, as they are likeliest to engage in your conversion strategies. If your site loses personability, these readers will quickly disengage. Too many keywords, excessive ads, blatant product placement and fake reviews/comments are all red flags to your regular audience.
Word of Mouth Marketing
The move to digital marketing resulted in many CXOs disregarding conventional channels of advertising. This decision is a major mistake considering 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they already know. Pursuing word-of-mouth marketing is essential for success. Ensuring endorsements from your established audience reduces the effort involved in making new customers bite. Quality and originality are the key components for getting your readers talking, and formatting strictly for Google achieves neither.
Too much focus on SEO can damage your reputation with audiences, but it can also cause you to lose standing with Google, who will penalize you for being unauthentic. The ranking algorithm uses over 200 factors to determine your domain authority. However, the elements taken into consideration can change as regularly as twice a day. If you still want to pursue this option, then Moz offers a regularly updated catalog of the changes. However, one slip-up could be fatal for your marketing campaign. Customers come to your website because they want high-quality content. A truly ethical strategy should take this as the primary goal. However, the use of tricks for increased visibility is, unfortunately, unavoidable, but how much you use them will be up to you and your audience needs.
Your Obligation to Customers
Another key yet often overlooked element of ethics in online marketing is security. When customers enter your online domain, it means they trust your brand. Because of this, you have an obligation to ensure their data is protected and that they are not at risk of contracting malware. The following are all noteworthy elements of ethical online security:
Having a Secure Sockets Layer on your site is essential for any company taking payments. This advanced encryption technology ensures that no data can be intercepted between the browser and web server. Displaying the SSL certificate on your site will also authenticate your website and encourage trust in visitors.
Data can be intercepted at many other points than those already mentioned. Each vulnerability needs to be individually secured. Investing in high-quality security plugins for your site is essential, as is adequately protecting your work computer. A well-reviewed antivirus and firewall is a good first step, but it’s also wise to install a proxy service if you use public WiFi regularly, since these hotspots are notorious for data farming.
Personal practices are important, but good company security is another necessary focus. If you work with a team online or allow employees to work from home, then extra measures are required to keep your customers safe. Using cloud applications provides encryption, but they are still at risk from online attacks. Creating an internal network and using a virtual private network (VPN) to connect remote employees to the server is by far the best choice.
Even larger corporations struggle with data hacks. When Target was infiltrated, it cost the company a staggering $162 million. While they had the revenue and reach to pull back from the losses, not all of us can afford that kind of damage. For many, a loss of customer trust could mean the end of the road. Fortunately, with a proper focus on ethical privacy strategies, you can avoid disaster.
Establishing your own personal understanding of ethics in your marketing campaign is an essential first step. However, it’s even more important that everyone else involved shares the same vision. The following three factors all ensure company cohesion in brand morality and ethics.
Creating a protocol that is relevant to all employees may seem like an undertaking, but it is sure to be a worthwhile one. The best option is to build a mission statement codebook that establishes your ethical line and explains how to put that into action. Guidelines around content, claims and security are all suggested elements to include.
Written training materials are very often skimmed over and forgotten. Due to this, an interactive course is the best option if you want the information to stick. Good ethics training that is also engaging for employees could include brainstorming ideas, creating draft examples and getting feedback from individual members.
We live in a world where collaboration is essential for success. Any digital marketing campaign is at the mercy of its developers, designers, web host providers, marketing agencies, etc. – the list is endless. If your contractors don’t fit your ethical requirements, then it’s likely they’ll make mistakes that contradict your mission statement. Ensure all independent workers offer a similar form of brand morality.
Depending on the size of your company, it may seem like too great an endeavor to ensure company-wide ethics. However, the positive repercussions that an ethic-based marketing campaign have are too valuable to bypass. We have already seen an increase in the demand for authentic online sources, and this trend will only intensify as the digital world continues to saturate with countless brands and companies.
The internet has changed the face of marketing forever. Protecting the integrity of your marketing strategies is now a complex pursuit. However, by gaining an understanding of what your responsibilities are, you can create an ethical brand that is trusted and loved worldwide.
About the Author: Sandra has worked online for many years. She has worked as both a writer and content marketing manager and knows the power of the web. However, she believes we have a responsibility to treat this power ethically and to prioritize a digital morality that is safe and beneficial for all users.
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