Well, there are many factors to keep in mind when diving into the social media pool. Not only do you have to worry about the fact that all of your customers have a potential to immediately commentate on your every post, you have to be conscientious of your conduct. Certain behaviors seem like obvious marketing tactics, but they are not acceptable in many communities.
The FTC has been called in to investigate several online communities due to privacy complaints from four public interest groups. A few large drug companies are at the heart of the issue. The companies took advantage of web forums developed as support for those suffering from various diseases. The drug companies then set up dummy accounts, websites, and web forums to promote the sale of their products. Company marketers used fake names and unbranded websites to passively promote their products under the guise of other customers or sufferers.
All ethics aside, a larger legal problem exists. “Web sites offering a sense of community to people with diseases or ailments often are created by marketers who fail to disclose that they are sharing data about the users, a complaint filed with U.S. regulators charged on Tuesday,” says ChicagoBreakingBusiness.com. This means that marketers have been essentially tricking users into providing personal information by acting as other users, and they are using that information for their own purposes. “I thought the unbranded Web sites were really disturbing,” said Jeffrey Chester, chief researcher and head of the Center for Digital Democracy. “You think you’re on an impartial site but you’re not.”
Dummy accounts are not the only common sales tactic that should be avoided. It is also tempting to send out mass-invites, SPAM email, and automatic direct messages. While it is true that all of the above will put your brand name in the inboxes of thousands of other users, it will send the wrong message. This indirect approach will only create a negative image of your company, and your brand will become an annoyance.
Success in social media is dependent on a direct, hands-on approach. You need to create a dialogue with users, provide a forum for consumers to voice their concerns, and you need to respond to those concerns. When done well, social media allows consumers to feel that they have a voice with your brand, and that is a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal.
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