Social Media Marketing Is Ethical!

There seems to be a lot of misconception that social media marketing isn’t ethical. Almost daily, I come across bloggers who denounce SMM as spam or suggest that social media marketers are poisoning the community well. In reality, they either aren’t properly educated or perhaps only see the "bad apples" of social media marketing.

It is something that was recently brought to light again with the whole Jason Calacanis fiasco when he said:

This whole gaming of digg/Netscape/MySpace is being called SMO–social media optimization. That’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard of. Anyone who hires an SMO firm is an idiot. The whole point of social media is TO BE REAL NOT FAKE!!! Just be yourself and participate… that’s all it takes (and note, participation is not just putting in your own links, it’s voting/commenting on/submitting other people’s content too!).

In Danny Sullivan’s rebuttal to Jason, he touched on the ethics of social media marketing and why it’s not all bad like everyone seems to think:

DO NOT make the mistake you’ve already made with SEOs and start out wrong with the social media optimization crowd. That group can help encourage and support social media search engines in the same way that many SEOs already serve as an active, engaged, non-gaming support structure for the major search engines.

It seems that some people have blinders on and can’t see past the marketers who are spamming. They don’t realize that in addition to the spammers, there are an equal amount of those of us who are working with companies to create and promote valuable content to the community in an ethical way. We help create content that provides real worth, whether it’s a funny viral video submitted to YouTube for entertainment or a good article submitted to Digg.

Those shouting from their soapboxes that it’s just about "being real" and "creating good content" imply that if you promote content, even in an ethical way, it’s somehow wrong. But the social media sites themselves encourage people to submit and promote. Just look at how these links to buttons at Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Netscape and del.icio.us all encourage people to actively get their content found.

There is nothing wrong with promoting content, so long as you aren’t cheating the system. Actively promoting content is also important because unlike what those on soapboxes would have you believe, success doesn’t always just happen.

Creating good content alone is not enough; it would be like throwing a gold needle in a haystack and telling someone to go find it. There are things you can and should do to help them find that needle.

It’s just like SEO. If you don’t know how to make your site search engine friendly, then people might not ever find your valuable content, since it doesn’t get indexed. Content can also be made social media friendly. This can give content a chance for success when it may have had no chance at all – despite perhaps being great material.

SEO doesn’t guarantee top rankings. Similarly, social media optimization or social media marketing doesn’t guarantee a win. It remains up to the community to decide what becomes popular. If your content truly does not provide value to the community, it quickly gets demoted.

Here are a few things that you should NOT do when it comes to social media marketing:

  • Creating multiple accounts to promote your content
  • Joining groups where all the members help promote each other’s content regardless of quality
  • Contacting top members and offering to pay them to promote your content
  • Auto refreshing pages to increase view counts

Those are just a few things I would avoid if you’re trying to be an "ethical" or "white hat" social media marketer. The exact rules do vary from social media site to social media site, so it is important to become familiar with a particular site before trying to promote your content. The best way to do is this is to become an active member.

The proper way to promote your content is to submit your piece and let the community decide what direction it should go. If your content is good enough, it will spread and become popular. There are other things you can do such as adding links within your content to encourage readers to vote. Research the social media sites you plan on submitting to, that way you can get an understanding of what kind of content is popular on those sites.

If you are not sure what kind of content to create or how to promote it, then consider hiring experienced members of these social communities to guide you on optimizing your content and what the most efficient and ethical ways to promote them are. Most of the social media marketers that are "white hat" are actually active members in these communities themselves.

Cameron Olthuis is director of marketing and design for ACS and writes regularly on social media issues through the company’s blog, Pronet Advertising. The Let’s Get Social column appears Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Search & Social | Social Media Marketing

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About The Author: is the Director of Audience Development at Clicker, the complete programming guide for Internet television. He develops and leads the company's marketing initiatives, utilizing traffic acquisition strategies for maximizing traffic and search engine exposure. You can follow Cameron on Twitter @factive.

Connect with the author via: Email



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  • http://www.ThatGirlFromMarketing.com Natasha Robinson

    All I ask is that Social Media Marketers do not start self segegrating along “ethical” or “white hat” lines. Let spammers simply be called that Spammers. And let the people who do work that hekps clients and helps to build these communities be called Social Media Marketers. In the same way that Email Marketers are called Email Marketers and Email Spammers are called Spammers (Good analogy in that previous post Danny)

    No spell check was used in the creation of the comment – ;).

  • http://www.acsseo.com Cameron Olthuis

    Natasha,

    I agree with what you’re saying. It is hard to do that though considering the spammers are already being labeled as social media marketers.

  • http://blog.seoptimise.com kevgibbo

    I would class spam as junk content promoted via forums, blog comments and email. If SMM is used to promote content on sites like Digg I don’t see this as a problem as it’s obviously got to be quality content to be successful.

  • http://www.acclivitymarketing.com/blog Solomon Rothman Web Design Search Engine Marketing

    I hope more and more social media users start realizing that most search engine marketers are not “spammers” and that we are regular users of social networks too. I’ve been seeing lots of “anti promotional” comments on digg lately. If you like the story vote for it, if you don’t vote it down, it’s that simple. If you actually spam digg, reddit or netscape your site / user will get banned.

  • http://www.ThatGirlFromMarketing.com Natasha Robinson

    Cameron,

    Re: There is no need to defend your business or yourself to people who don’t matter. Will these people be paying your bills? No. Will they be influencing your customers? Some say “yes”. I say no. I say those who are influenced by these so-called influencers were never going to be your customers anyway… or they’ll end up being your customers when “every one else is doing it.” The same could be said for SEO. The same people who used to say they would never hire an SEO agency are the same people who are bringing SEO in-house. The problem with defending your business to people is that the “unconvinced” will only dig through your argument and pick out the points that encourage their ignorance and then use your own words against your to fuel their prejudices (example: Danny vs. Digg thread at Digg). So why give them fuel to begin with? SMM doesn’t need defending (and neither does SEO); the results speak for themselves. Continue to do a good job at what you do and there will be no need to defend your business.

  • http://www.ThatGirlFromMarketing.com Natasha Robinson

    Cameron,

    Re: There is no need to defend your business or yourself to people who don’t matter. Will these people be paying your bills? No. Will they be influencing your customers? Some say “yes”. I say no. I say those who are influenced by these so-called influencers were never going to be your customers anyway… or they’ll end up being your customers when “every one else is doing it.” The same could be said for SEO. The same people who used to say they would never hire an SEO agency are the same people who are bringing SEO in-house. The problem with defending your business to people is that the “unconvinced” will only dig through your argument and pick out the points that encourage their ignorance and then use your own words against your to fuel their prejudices (example: Danny vs. Digg thread at Digg). So why give them fuel to begin with? SMM doesn’t need defending (and neither does SEO); the results speak for themselves. Continue to do a good job at what you do and there will be no need to defend your business.

  • http://www.seo-writer.com amabaie

    Hi Cameron. Following up on your comment that “There are other things you can do such as adding links within your content to encourage readers to vote.”, you might want to let readers know abou a free tool I developed to help them do that. It’s called TheBookmarketer.

    Here is the page with the code:
    http://www.seo-writer.com/tools/bookmarker.php

    Here is my explanation of TheBookmarketer:
    http://www.seo-writer.com/blog/2007/02/12/33/

    Here is my explanation of how websites can profit from social bookmarking:
    http://www.seo-writer.com/blog/2007/02/12/how-webmasters-harness-social-bookmarking-for-success-in-2007/

    I hope that’s helpful. David.

  • http://www.acsseo.com Cameron Olthuis

    Natasha, thanks! That was a great response and you have many valid points.

    Amabale, You are exactly right and thanks for the links.

 

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