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April 13, 2009

SMX Sydney: What is Ethical Social Media Marketing?

Coverage of the What is Ethical Social Media Marketing session by Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz at SMX Sydney 2009.

Rand believes there are a few important ethical tenets that we should be thinking about when we’re marketing online:

1) Don’t break the law e.g. don’t link to

2) Don’t hurt people or organizations. This includes

– hacking

– malware

– misdirection

– financial fraud

– email spam

This doesn’t include:

– Anonymity (You are entitled to hide behind a sock puppet account. Rand’s view that this does not break the law).

– Omitting relationship details (It shouldn’t be an obligation to share all your relationship details, says Rand.

– Promoting content to benefit a person or organization

– Promoting content on contract e.g. paid reviews etc.

Rand says that an oft-overlooked tenet is to create value for the client and apply that to Social Media Marketing (SMM). Yes, we should promote good content. Yes, we should expose it to the Linkerati. Yes we should be participating in social networks.  Brands are scared about participating in the social media space but they shouldn’t be. Yes, we should recruit Social Media Marketing experts for help.

What do YOU think?

Should Marketers be upfront about Who/What/How/Why they market? Rand asked the audience – how ethical are you? Is there value in full disclosure? Should disclosure be obligational?  Most people in the audience answered no to that question. Rand showed an example of full disclosure on Digg and on Facebook e.g. “I’m just using this account to make friends so I can one day send marketing messages to you” and on Twitter: “I’m only posting interesting things to gain followers and build a personal brand because I’m an egomaniacal, cash-hungry asshole.”

What Professional Social Media Marketers Do:

– Stay under the radar

– Build diverse networks

– Adopt paranoia as a lifestyle (they’ve had one too many Digg accounts banned, says Rand)

– Rely on the strength of content

– Stay pragmatic

Rand then quoted George Carlin: “Some people see things that are and ask why? Some people see things that never were and ask why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that shit.”

Four Relevant Examples of Social Media Campaigns:

1) Sean Tevis who ran for local political office in Kansas built a comic where he related the corruption and dishonesty in local politics in the style of the XKCD comic. “Running for office: it’s like a flamewar with a forum troll, but with an eventual winner”.

2) Nike picked up on a local soccer game between professional soccer player Wayne Rooney and local players where he was “nutmegged” (the ball was kicked straight between his legs and into goal). Rooney said “don’t put it online” and of course they did. The result was fast-spreading viral content.

3) Russell Investments put together an online graph chart called  What’s the State of the Economy? which included key economic and market indicators to help businesses talk to their clients about the economic downturn. The result was great link bait.

4) The Baby Name Wizard is an application that allows you to see how popular a certain name has been over an historical time period. Another great piece of link bait that went viral in a short space of time.

Rand’s 10 Tips for Social Media Marketing Success

1) Build simple stuff. The simpler it is, the more successful it will be.

2) Make it look authentic.

3) Expect 3/4 of viral efforts to FAIL.

4) Don’t let too many cooks into the kitchen.

5) Funny sells.

6) Funny is hard. Interesting is easier.

7) Consider microsites.

8 ) Hire professional pushers.

9) Don’t try to help push.

10)  Use social media to accomplish business goals.

* Photo courtesy of Andrew Ballard of ReBusiness