The dominance of Internet marketing has become a commonplace phenomenon. The balance has shifted from tri-media to New Media as customers – and, therefore, marketers – have flocked to the Web in the hopes of tapping the wide and markets that online communication can provide.
However, with the surge of online marketing comes the rise of the same ethical issues that earlier generations of marketers have struggled to overcome. Although the medium has changed – from letters to emails, from storefront signs to website banners – the same temptation remains throughout the marketing industry: the question and possibility of resorting to any technique to get ahead.
Today, internet marketing ethics issues are a critical problem not just for customers at risk of losing their hard-earned cash and their well-valued personal information, but also for marketers who strive to be decent and yet are lumped with their less ethically-upright counterparts. Below are some of the core internet marketing ethics issues that onlinemarketers should consider:
The impulse to slightly boost a product or service’s merits through advertising copy is very strong. But bear in mind that by exaggerating your product, you increase the chance of customer dissatisfaction, which in turn will discourage them from return purchases out of fear of being let down again. Be honest with your customers: let what you sell attract them through its own merits.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, there is the temptation to bury the competition with several choice comments and a handful of terrible reviews. Today’s online businesses allow for free and uncontrolled expression of opinions from unsatisfied customers – or, sometimes, competitors posing as unsatisfied customers. Avoid this example, and spend time on improving your product instead of trying to defame those of others.
Security and Privacy
Personal information is a valuable asset that several marketers have tried claim using methods both honest and underhanded. This entails everything from requiring customers to sign up to a website or tricking them into giving up personal data by way of false account confirmation warnings. Although customers’ personal and financial information are important to create sound marketing decisions, it should not come at the cost of a marketer’s ethical purity or the violation of customers’ privacy.
Forced Additional Payments
Say you’ve earned a customer, and they’ve bought a product or service for you. What if they suddenly discover that they’ve been buying additional products or making additional payments? This surprise subscription model disguises long-term payment plans as one-time payment offers, in the assumption that customers neglect to read the terms properly. Although subscription and service-oriented models do exist in the business, it’s important for sellers to make the terms of payment clear to customers, without burying it under flashy ads or fine print.
Social media spamming
Websites such as Facebook and Twitter are excellent ways to promote a product or service online. However, some marketers take advantage of this in ways not approved by most social media networks, such as auto-follow software that targets a specific customer before spamming them with offers. This may turn off said customer from becoming interested in your product/service.
It is true that the above internet marketing issues stem from the need to earn no matter what the cost, something that sellers always have to struggle against. But just as these same marketing dilemmas stem from the old itch to make a quick buck, the same time-honored values of marketing integrity, passion for value production and good customer relations will render better and well-earned results, no matter what the platform.