This essay will focus on the topic ‘Critically evaluating the ethical aspects of social media marketing in the United States’ and the principal question assessed throughout this writing will be ‘Have social media marketing acted ethical or not?’ According to Nielson Report (2013, p.3), ‘Social media marketing typically refers to two practices involving social media- the use free tools and paid media’. According to Gaski (1999 cited Smith 2000, p8), marketing ethics is defined as “standards of conduct and moral judgements applied to marketing”. In relation to social media, these ethics guide the operations of marketing on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Youtube (Eagle, 2009). With the rapid growth and adoption of social media, the ethical concerns on social media has also significantly increased. (Mutula, 2012). The author further examines the following categories:
Social Media Research
According to Smith, (2001), -“be truthful, protect privacy, don't model inappropriate behaviour, don't be offensive, be fair and balanced, avoid stereotyping and protect children’’ are the seven basic ethical standards for marketing, which are applicable to the present social media marketing. However, all businesses has a legal responsibility to comply with the legislation of their country. In the United States it is the Federal Trade Commission which regulates advertising and marketing laws in the country. (Smith, 2001: Federal Trade Commission, 2013) Social media research is the initial stage of marketing; a technique or an approach used by the marketers to conduct market research on social media platforms. The foremost issue that has commenced is the ethical aspect of using social media for market research purposes; the gathering of data and conducting research on consumers and competitors. (Patino et. al). In addition, it is the fundamental responsibility of marketers to protect consumer personal data by ensuring that the data is only used for research purposes and makes sure that they adhere to the social network guidelines and regulations of the company. (Mareck M, 2011) However, companies violate these rules and steal customer information without their consent for research and marketing activities, which is unethical and against the FTC Act. Evidently, it was reported by the FTC, in May 2011, 32 legal actions were taken against organisations that have failed to maintain protection for consumer sensitive data thus breached consumers’ privacy rights. For example, in February 2013, a social networking app generated by Path. Inc., acquired consumer personal information without their consent and settled FTC charges for infringing Consumer Privacy Act also in the meantime the same company was charged for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, from approximately 3000 children personal information was collected without getting parents’ consent which was claimed to be highly unethical. (Federal Trade Commission 2013). Moreover, social media has assisted companies to monitor their employees on social networks. Many reports and cases have been lodged against those companies for unethical practices, by involuntarily retrieving personal information of employees. Such cases involve companies use specialised softwares or access employees’ user name and password of Facebook and Twitter accounts, to trace tweets and posts of what employees post on social networks. As a result, in regard to the newly imposed social media privacy legislation, companies were seized to make settlements on the charges of violating Employee Privacy Protection Act. (Eaglesham, J. and Rothfeld, M., 2013) Furthermore, social media marketing has become a major threat to the competitors since the birth of social media, and with the aid of market research it has become a trend for brands to practice unethical and unlawful activities such as creating fake accounts, fake endorsements, fake blogs, fake community groups and tarnishing...
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