Topic 4: Transparency in Social Media Advertisements

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Businesses and companies have found opportunities to leverage on the convenience of social media platforms to raise awareness through influencers. This is also known as Social media marketing. It basically takes advantage of social networking to help a company increase brand exposure and broaden customers reach.

When was the last time you searched for reviews online? Do you know that some of the pictures you see on Instagram and Twitter are actually paid reviews of a certain product?

Unethical Advertising – Transparency 

Ethics is a system of moral principles. They affect how people make decisions and lead their lives. Ethics is concerned with what is good for individuals and society and is also described as moral philosophy. (bbc.co.uk)

How open should an influencer be when accepting a paid job? Should they indicate an “Advertorial” or “Sponsored Post” which signifies that it is a paid advertisement? Definitely. However, some agencies or clients might want them to mask it, making a post seem more ‘authentic’. This practice is known as astroturfing. Screen Shot 2016-11-11 at 9.50.58 pm.png

Influencers have built their personal online brand for themselves and gained a certain credibility for their authenticity. This is also why more and more people are relying on reviews before heading to a shop or trying a product.

Should any other benefits given by a sponsor be declared as well? (Free products, travelling expenses, hotel stays) Generally speaking, any type of benefit should be declared in one’s post or video. The ethical way is for readers to be aware of any benefits that the influencer received so as to make their own assessment.

Well then is it ethical for a business to pay influencers for reviews?

it is only unethical when influencers (forced or not) do not state that they are being sponsored or that that particular article is a paid review.

Ethical advertising refrains from appealing to “base” human emotions such as fear, greed or lust. It remains positive and optimistic, and doesn’t exploit stereotypes based around race, gender, religion or age.

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(Evidence of sponsored posts. Source: Instagram)

If exposed of unethical acts, not only the reputation of the influencer and agency, but also the client’s company will be tarnished. This brings me to one of Singapore’s social media saga where Singtel group chief executive Chua Sock Koong made a public apology because of how an unethical marketing campaign was carried out.

(Source: Facebook)

Feel free to read more here.

These events truly tarnished and decreases the credibility of influencers. Truth be told, I would trust more in the reviews of common people than influencers. How about you? Let me know your views too!

(432 words)

 

Reference:

http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/social-media

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/introduction/intro_1.shtml

Influencer Marketing Ethics in Singapore

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/difference-between-unethical-ethical-advertising-19262.html

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/sb-marketing/three-reasons-why-social-media-takeovers-work/article11959515/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeremy-harris-lipschultz/the-ethics-of-social-media_b_7489280.html

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singtel-and-gushcloud-say-sorry-for-negative-marketing-campaign

 

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12 thoughts on “Topic 4: Transparency in Social Media Advertisements

  1. Hi Charissa, great read on the ethicality of astroturfing.

    I agree with you that businesses need to focus on the importance of transparency, especially when it relates to influencing their audiences. Has the amount of sponsored posts shaped our way to perceive such content? I for one am able to make out whether a post is sponsored regardless of declaration and will take it with a pinch of salt. Would you think that as time goes by, this method of advertising/marketing would still be effective?

    In regards to the Singtel-Gushcloud debacle, I share the same sentiments as you that I trust the word of the common people more than influencers. Do you think that, in the current digital age, incidents like this do not hold the interest of the public long enough to see an impact on the business at fault, therefore giving the illusion that it is okay to perform such acts again? Would like to hear your thoughts!

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    1. Hey Brenden, thanks for the comment!

      I agree with you that the amount of sponsored posts across the net has allowed us to distinguish them better. I think this method of advertisement would still be effective as it helps to increase brand presence and bring brands to a broader scope of people. I myself have too found out about a couple of products/brands just by scrolling through Instagram.

      In regards to incidents like the Singtel-Gushcloud saga, I feel that it really depends on the internet users. If there comes a time when majority of the netizens have been immune to these ‘tricks’ by companies and no one voice out anything knowing of such acts, then probably companies would do it again. Nonetheless, astroturfing is still an unethical act.

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  2. Hey Charissa. I think the research on the topic was summarized well and the post about social media marketing was definitely insightful!

    Personally, I feel that there’s no harm in taking some reviews from influencers with just a pinch of salt and some additional self-researching. Opinions and preferences might differ from one to another so it will be safer to research for more. I agree with you on the need to specify whether it is a sponsored post, as the truth and authenticity is of utmost importance to the readers and they should not be misled by the post.
    Influencers are actually being paid plenty for the sponsored posts. If you were in their shoes, would you accept writing a excellent review for a substandard product for double the price?

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    1. Hey Hazel, thanks for reading and commenting!

      Good question there. These days, there are many influencers who have said they would never do it just for money and would never promote (or say good things about something) if it really wasn’t as good as it is. I believe the good thing about the internet is that netizens can too share their views and opinions. Which means, if an influencer wrote an excellent review for a substandard product, he/she is probably going to get flamed by netizens and in turn, reputation will be tarnished. My answer is evident, I will not do it because it’s not worth it and will only cause more harm in the long run. 🙂

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  3. Hi Charissa!
    A very great explanation from you about how transparency on social media like today. I believe that the reason why marketers do not want influencers to disclose that it is an advertorial is simply because consumers look up to influencers for their genuine & authentic opinions. However, people are less likely to trust advertorials and sponsored posts as compared to influencers’ genuine recommendations. Since consumers only believe in non-advertised content, why do you think marketers would still want to promote their products/services ethically through this channel of marketing (via influencers)? Is it still effective? I honestly get put off when I see that it is a #sponsoredpost.

    On the other hand, if you were an influencer, will you take up such advertorials to promote to your followers or will you want to retain your “realness” on social media? Some influencers have received complaints that their social media is less “real” and has become an advertising platform over time, causing them to lose followers..

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    1. Hey Zoey! Thanks for the read and comment. 🙂

      I agree with your point of view. Of course advertisers want netizens to view and think that it is the influencer’s honest opinions, which is why, these influencers also has a part to play in creating an ethical online environment. It’s definitely not easy as some would do it for the sake of money. Similarly, I do get put off too when I see #sponsoredpost. However, I feel that it is still effective as it creates brand awareness and reached out to a wider scope of audiences. If I were an influencer, I would only take up products or brands that I stand for because I believe that is the whole point of being an influencer. Knowing that my followers will ‘follow’ or try what I endorse, I would want the best for them and would ensure integrity when engaging on social media platforms. 🙂

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