The ascendancy of social media hasn’t just transformed the way people spend their leisure time. Social media also changed the way businesses operate and present themselves. In the process, it has revolutionized the relationships between businesses and customers. Despite all the benefits of social media for marketing, brand development, and customer engagement, there can be a significant downside.

Social media marketing in its various forms may lead, both intentionally and unintentionally, to the dissemination of dangerous misinformation. It also provides an ideal platform for exploitation by scammers and other bad actors.

This is why, for the sake of your business, your brand reputation, and the well-being of your customers, partners, and investors, it’s key to maintain the highest ethical standards.

Why Integrity in Social Media Marketing Matters

Whether you use social media for personal or professional purposes, it can be easy to forget there are real, living human beings on the other side of the digital screen. The intoxicating power of physical distance and personal anonymity currently fuels the tsunami of internet trolls and keyboard assassins.

When you attempt to leverage the tremendous reach of social media to build brand awareness and drive sales, it can be tempting to capitalize on some of these baser impulses. After all, controversial viewpoints and outrageous and unorthodox claims breed clicks.

But audience interest isn’t the only thing provocative content generates. Spurious materials can and often do yield life-or-death consequences. This is particularly evident in the proliferation of medical misinformation on social media today.

Users, for example, increasingly turn to their preferred social media platforms to self-diagnose both their physical and mental health concerns. Not only can this be dangerous to one’s physical health, but it can also undermine an individual’s overall quality of life through a process of internalization.

When a viewer receives medical misinformation and uses that false information to wrongly diagnose themselves as suffering from some mental or physical disorder, they often identify themselves solely through that label. They may come to see themselves as powerless, and hopeless, rather than recognizing that what they may feel and experience is both normal and healthy.

It’s difficult to find the motivation to work hard and dream big if you incorporate false messaging from social media into your personal sense of identity and self-efficacy. And this potentially devastating cascade may be the result of an erroneous self-diagnosis based on an unreliable social media post. This is why it is essential to be deliberate, judicious, and trustworthy in every social media message you send out into the world. You never know what impact, for good or for ill, it may have.

Cultivating Integrity by Protecting Customers’ Privacy

Though falling into potentially unethical patterns in social media marketing isn’t difficult, it’s also not hard to break the dangerous cycle. However, maintaining integrity in social media, as in life, requires effort and commitment.

On the most fundamental level, this involves being deliberate, judicious, and responsible when engaged with customers and stakeholders. Social media platforms, for instance, can provide an enormous amount of customer data. Companies can leverage this data to enhance the customer experience.

However, there are circumstances in which data collection exceeds appropriate boundaries. There are times, for example, when efforts to personalize the customer experience morph into a violation of the customer’s right to privacy.

Transparency is an effective strategy to prevent violating users’ privacy. Share detailed information about exactly what data is collected and how it’ll be used. Audiences can then opt out if they choose. This process parallels the informed consent strategy commonly used in medical practices.

Cultivating Integrity Through Judicious Partnerships

In recent years, influencer marketing has become a cornerstone of social media marketing. Influencer marketing can, indeed, be a highly effective way to build brand awareness and generate clicks because you will be tapping into the influencer’s presumably substantial fan base.

However, to maintain the highest standards of integrity, be judicious in your choice of influencer partnerships. The size of an influencer’s following is by no means sufficient to qualify them for inclusion in your social media marketing platforms. You should also know who they are, what they stand for, and whether their ideas and opinions are trustworthy and worth endorsing.

The Takeaway

Integrity is more than a moral aspiration. When it comes to social media marketing, integrity is essential. Maintaining high ethical standards in your social media marketing serves not only your brand but also your customers, investors, partners, and the broader community. For instance, cultivating integrity through the production of reliable content prevents the spread of potentially dangerous misinformation.

Similarly, practicing integrity through transparency helps to protect customers’ best interests. This includes their right to control how their personal data is collected and used. Finally, integrity in social media marketing means practicing discretion in your partnerships. Influencer marketing comes into play here. Don’t select an influencer simply because they have a large following. Doing so can have profound ramifications for both your customers and your company.