There’s a ton of social media snake oil out there. You’ve seen it. Crapware that promises you a million Twitter followers and Facebook fans. Social media marketing “gurus” with no experience ready to sell you their secret magic systems.
It makes me crazy. Much of it is apparent for what it is the minute you land on the ugly website with the direct mail design and the coiffed “expert” flashing their pearly whites at you.
These are easy ethical calls. It’s snake oil. Just say NO.
But there’s a wide, fuzzy grey area, too.
A Real Life example: there’s a smart, savvy social media marketing expert out there with a huge following. He gives great advice, and clearly knows what he’s talking about. He will also Tweet — as himself, using his hard-won social media reputation — on your behalf for a fee.
My first reaction to this is “Ugh! Not cool. Ethics FAIL.” But he does tell people that this is how he works. Not in every Tweet, of course, but it’s on his site. Not right up front, but it’s there. So is it ok? My gut says no. How am I to know when he’s Tweeting about something or someone he really believes in and when he’s doing it for cash?
I have a new, fun, very cool client. It’s a local small business. I’m working with them to get more business, and there’s a significant social media element to it. So is it cool for me to occasionally Tweet about them? They’re not paying me to Tweet, per se. And of course I know that I’d only do this for clients I really believe in. But that’s what everyone says, isn’t it?
I talked with Susan Price about this. As usual, she was able to point out how I was rationalizing.
“You should only tweet about them if you’d be tweeting about them even if they weren’t your client. That’s what I do. Else you’re diluting your own reputation on behalf of the client. You’re either selling tweets or you’re not.”
Ouch. She’s right.
On the other hand, when I owned Go Media — long before social media — I would often talk about/spread the word about my clients when I was out and about. How is Tweeting about them — with restraint — really any different?
And from my client’s point of view, part of the reason they hired me is for my knowledge of and access to their demographic.
So now I’m trying to find a happy medium that fits with my own ethics. Facebook and blogging are no problem — I can simply explain. Twitter is another issue.
We need a hashtag. Anything I Tweet on behalf of a client should be noted as such. That’s tough to do that in 140 characters. I used #pimpingmyclient on one Tweet, but that’s too long, and it’s not exactly professional. Would #client be enough?
Suggestions are most welcome.
What ethical quandaries have you bumped into?