There’s no doubt that social media has become a wildly popular marketing tool for businesses in nearly all industries. It offers the opportunity to reach millions of consumers, so it’s one of the go-to marketing channels for many firms today.
While the majority of brands keep their SMM campaigns on the up and up, there are always a few bad apples that turn to ethically questionable techniques.
Besides their negative effects on consumers and other businesses, unethical social media tactics can be a detriment to the brand itself. This is because they can cause a rift between your company and your demographic, hurt potential B2B networking opportunities, and damage your overall reputation.
Here are four of the top social media practices you’ll want to avoid if you want to keep your reputation intact.
1. Counter-selling on competitors’ profiles
When you’re running a business, it’s your prerogative to alert consumers when you’re offering better deals at lower prices than the competition. While it’s fine to explain the benefits of a product or service on a landing page or through skilled copywriting, it’s important to practice proper etiquette and not counter-sell in the wrong places.
An example would be placing a link to one of your products at the end of a competitor’s Facebook post about a similar item and mentioning how yours is superior or cheaper. This is a classic example of bad marketing manners and it isn’t going to win you any friends in your industry.
A stunt like this can even create sufficient resentment that a competitor will be tempted to strike back and do something to weaken your reputation even further.
2. Fake plugs
Another tempting tactic is to have an employee pose as an enthusiastic consumer who loves your product or service. The person may leave bogus comments on social media profiles that rave about how great his experience was and recommend that others make a purchase.
Since a large number of consumers consult online reviews and weigh the opinions of others when making a buying decision, it’s highly unethical to circulate false testimonials. If the truth is discovered, it can be a serious blow to your credibility and damage the trust of potential customers.
3. Posting unjust negative reviews
Another unethical technique involves using fake profiles to smear the reputation of your competitors. Some businesses have been known to leave comments that are intentionally designed to give another firm a bad name.
This might include saying that a product or service is of low quality even when one has no direct experience with it. Another is to make false claims in an effort to turn potential customers off. An example would be a car insurance provider who posts malicious comments on a rival’s social media account in the hope of stealing would-be customers.
This may be the most unethical practice of all because you’re basically going out of your way to hurt another company’s business. It’s bad karma as well as dishonest, and should always be avoided.
4. Promoting fake facts and research statistics
Providing bogus industry information with the aim of boosting your sales or gaining followers is another thing you should never do. For instance, a company selling home security systems might use false statistics about break-ins and home invasions to frighten consumers into buying their product.
Even arranging accurate information in such a way that it’s deceptive or misleading would be considered unethical. Any time you use studies or facts, they should only be from reputable sources that have engaged in rigorous research to accumulate the data. You should always be clear not to overstate the findings.
Falsifying information or presenting it in a misleading fashion can only make your brand look bad and ultimately lead to a host of other unpleasantness. When promoting your services on social media, the goal is to help prospective clients compare the market, and may the best provider win.