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The ethics of social marketing

Ethics

The potential value of data inspired British mathematician and entrepreneur in the field of data science and customer-centric business strategies. Clive Humby to claim “Data is the new oil.” And in the right hands it is.

Here’s why.

Because by using data, people can be manipulated. And that constitutes power.
The recent scandal involving arguably the most powerful head of state and the largest social media platform is a perfect example of this.

In what is considered one of the biggest data breaches the world has ever seen, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had for many years allowed 3rd party apps to harvest its users’ data without their knowledge or consent.

In 2014, researcher Aleksandr Kogan developed a personality quiz app based on something similar created by the psychometrics Centre, a Cambridge University Lab where Kogan had previously worked.

The app, which Kogan had developed for Facebook, quickly went viral with around 270 thousand Facebook users installing it to their profiles.

This is where it gets interesting.

Kogan’s app not only gave him access to its user’s profiles but also the data of each user’s Facebook friend, allowing him access to around 50 million profiles.

Instead of deleting this information as per protocol, Kogan stored it in a private database and later sold it to Cambridge Analytica (CA), a British political firm working alongside Donald Trump’s election team.

From there, Cambridge Analytica used the data of these unsuspecting Facebook users to create 30 million “psychographic” voter profiles.

Trump’s election team allegedly used this information, along with a carefully constructed social marketing strategy, to create personalised political ads targeting specific American voters; essentially manipulating them into voting for Donald Trump.

How do we know all this?

In 2018, whistle-blower, Christopher Wylie, came forward with these allegations and exposed the alleged scandal to the world. Both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica denied any wrongdoing, but Facebook still lost an estimated 50 billion dollars in market value due to Zuckerberg’s involvement.

In March 2018, UK Committee approached Zuckerberg and asked him to testify. He did and in 2019, filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer produced and directed “The Great Hack”, a documentary focusing on the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

Watch “The Great Hack” on Netflix here https://www.netflix.com/za/title/80117542

Trump is a wildly successful businessman, so it’s not surprising that he went the marketing route to win the elections.

Here’s how he did it –

Trump created not one, but two brands. One for himself and one for the competition. He then used social marketing tactics to portray his ‘brand’ as being superior to the competition. He painted each of his opponents in a negative light by giving each a condescending nickname such as “Crooked Hillary” (Hillary Clinton), “Little Marco” (Marco Rubio), and “Crazy Bernie” (Bernie Sanders). The goal was allegedly to negatively influence the voter’s opinion of his opponents

Digital Marketers use similar techniques to influence consumer buying behaviour.

This might make you wonder what marketing has to do with politics. Marketers also use cookies and various analytical tools to track and gather data on consumer behaviour and preferences. This data is then used to create personas of their ideal customer and to create personalised messages to these prospects. Sound familiar?

This data is also used more subliminally to influence consumer opinion using a strategy known as social marketing. Social marketing (also known as behaviour change marketing) is a marketing tactic designed to prompt social change, rather than benefit a business directly. It’s most commonly used in the health, safety and environmental sectors to encourage people to change their (usually malicious) behaviour.

In short, instead of promoting a product, social marketing “sells” a behaviour in order to get the desired results. Instead of showing why a product is better than the competitor’s, social marketing takes a psychological approach by competing against undesirable thoughts, behaviours and actions or associating the product with positive, desirable behaviours or lifestyles

The Bottom Line – is it ethical?

In the Facebook Cambridge Analytical Scandal, personal data was allegedly used to create voter personas and influence voter behaviour. Marketers use data to create buyer personas and use this to influence consumer behaviour. So is there a difference, and is it ethical? To try and answer this we need to look at two factors – intent and transparency.

In the case of the voting scandal the data there are major questions around how the data was gathered, firstly many people were not aware their data was being recorded and almost certainly none of them knew their data was sold to Cambridge Analytical to be used for political campaigning. Add to that the argument that by creating over 30 million psychographic voter profiles they were able to manipulate voters by building a campaign on perception rather than facts. And finally there is a big difference between influencing a person on which washing powder to buy and who will be your next president. All of these factors bring intent and transparency of the Trump social media presidential campaign into question.

While there are obvious benefits for marketers using data to create consumer personas and developing personalised marketing communications, in order to remain ethical the intent should be to create a better experience for the consumer rather than to manipulate them into making a purchase they normally would not. Also the data should be gathered in a transparent way and be given voluntarily. It should be noted that by far the majority of marketers support the ethical use of data and understand that the downside of being accused of unethical marketing far outweighs any advantages they could bring.

At the IMM graduate school we believe that ethical marketing is beneficial to both the consumer and the marketer and aids in building strong customer relationships based on trust and as such we instil ethics as a theme in all our programs and courses. To find the right learning option for you browse our many options on our website.

The scope of a Digital Marketing Career

Marketing is an integral part of any business, so it makes sense that only the best of the best would be tasked with the responsibility of creating awareness and promoting a brand. It’s a highly lucrative career, but only if you have the right skills and training. Of course, there’s no shortage of guides and how-to’s online that promise to make you an expert in the marketing world – but these only scratch the surface. Industry experts like Neil Patel, Rand Fishkin and Jeff Bullas have all dished out a lot of articles explaining key marketing techniques and trends, but we wanted to find out why digital marketing specifically is a good career path. Sruthi Veeraraghavan addresses the question

“Why Choose a Career in Digital Marketing?” – we have summarised it here for you: 

The digital marketing industry is always advancing

The marketing industry frequently adapts to new strategies and best practices which means that marketers need to stay up to date with the latest trends. Because digital marketing has so many moving parts that are always changing along with technological developments and changes in consumer needs and demands, it’s hard to list every aspect of the industry. Some of the key components of digital marketing include:

  • Email marketing
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Social media marketing
  • Copywriting
  • Design
  • Apps
  • Mobile marketing, including SMS
  • Content marketing
  • Web analytics
  • Growth hacking

Each of these can become a specialist area for a digital marketer to branch off into. However, a common trait of good digital marketers is the ability to communicate with people and get their online audiences to listen.

Digital Marketing Is the Future…

Digital marketing is here to stay, it’s the way things will be done from now on. One of the reasons for this is that digital marketing is more affordable than traditional marketing techniques. Another is that, instead of doing customer surveys and or research, marketers can track user response rates and measure campaign success in real time. This will ensure that your next campaign is planned effectively. Businesses that cannot adapt to the new marketing climate won’t make the cut. This highlights a need for digital marketers that have a feel for numbers and statistics. An essential requirement in any digital marketing role.

 Digital marketers are in high demand

With both large and small industries moving away from traditional marketing methods alone, digital marketers are becoming highly sought after. Digital marketers should find it easy to get employment and/or freelancing positions in their area of specialisation.

According to a report by Burning Glass Technologies (2017), four out of 10 jobs listed in marketing now call for digital marketing skills. In addition, the report states:

  • The demand for digital marketing skills almost doubled between 2011 and 2016.
  • Demand for content marketers rose 450 per cent during that time, while demand for digital analytics skills increased by 152 per cent.
  • Forrester Research predicts digital marketing will account for 35 per cent of all marketing spending by the end of 2019.
  • Digital marketing positions take 16 per cent longer to fill.

Digital marketing branches out into various categories, so take your pick – there is something for everyone.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a push messaging and outbound marketing tactic that consists of sending emails to customers as well as prospective customers (leads). The goal of these emails is to interact with the recipient of the email and advertise a product or service. Campaigns constantly need to be planned, conceptualised, developed, implemented and measured.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is the practice of optimizing web pages to rank well on search engines. SEO professionals analyse, review, and implement changes to a website and its content so they are optimised for search engines. SEO specialists are tasked with generating traffic and increasing the number of organic visitors to a website.

Copywriting

A Copywriter writes promotional text with the purpose of advertising a product or service as well as other forms of marketing. Their responsibilities include writing advertising and marketing copy, public relations copy as well occasionally editing and ghost writing. Sometimes they also write taglines, direct mail pieces, web content, online ads and email and consider the use of keywords and keyphrases so as to improve SEO.

Content writing

Copywriting and content writing are two different things. Content writers are tasked with producing interesting, engaging content with the purpose of drawing readers to a website, turning them into loyal followers and keeping it that way. Professional content writers have extensive knowledge of the internet as well as different writing techniques and are well versed in writing various forms of web content.

These are just a few of the fields you can pursue with a marketing qualification from the IMM Graduate School or by upskilling yourself with an online short course. At the moment the IMM Graduate School offers five Digital Marketing specialisation courses online. In just 12 weeks you could be steering your marketing career in a whole new direction. Find out more information here: https://www.immsc.co.za/online_courses/marketing-advertising-short-courses/

Finding a balance between volume, cost and quality

Finding a balance between volume, cost and quality 

How often have you heard the Sales Manager screaming for more high quality leads, while in the background the Financial Manager is demanding cheaper leads and higher conversions? For Digital Marketers that have bravely ventured into the world of Search Engine Marketing (SEM), it would appear that the greatest challenge of all is finding a balance between volume, cost and quality. Here’s why…

The market size is only as big as it is

Most, if not all of big businesses in SA now have an online presence with multiple search engine strategies at play. This has led to a highly competitive online environment where each has to outbid or outsmart the other in order to be the first to respond to the customer’s needs. Segmentation and targeting the right audience is key to success and each of these businesses understands exactly who their perfect customer is and where to find them. Unfortunately, the market size of these perfect customers is limited and over time online competition for this perfect customer segment becomes fiercer and more expensive. In order to maintain any forecast growth these companies are forced to find business in other online market segments outside of this highly competitive ‘perfect fit’ customer segment.

Volume comes with hidden costs

As Marketers begin to open up their narrow segmentation strategies to a wider online audience their ability to effectively manage lead quality is compromised. New segments require much more focus and attention than the ‘perfect fit’ segment. The wider Marketers cast their online net, the higher the lead volume and the lower the cost per lead. At face value this appears to be great until the real cost to the business is reviewed; additional resources to manage the higher lead volumes and lower sales conversion rates. It may just be that the expensive ‘perfect fit’ leads were actually more profitable to begin with.

It’s time to tell your bosses they can’t have it all

The reality is that it’s impossible to achieve high volume, low cost and great quality all at the same time. There will always be a trade-off.

Monkley’s Model of Opposing SEM forces illustrates the trade-off between Cost, Quality and Volume objectives for Search Engine Marketing. This model suggests that insisting on high quality and high volume at a low cost is unrealistic and that Marketing Managers have to choose one of these three objectives while carefully balancing the other two. The online market of ‘perfect fit’ customers in any industry is not limitless. The role of Marketing is to know which of these three objectives to prioritize and how much weighting to apply to each objective in order to sustain ROI objectives.

Interested in learning more about Search Engine and Content Marketing? Check out our 12 week short course here