The State of Social Media Ethics
There’s a lot of talk going on lately about organic and honest social media interactions. It makes some of us “oldies” chuckle a little. As people learn to navigate new promotional systems on the internet, there’s always a period of too much, too little and confusion in between until everything eventually becomes stable.
The SEO Struggle for Ethics
The giggle-worthy part of all of this is if you’ve been doing digital marketing for more than a few years, you likely lived through the “White Hat vs Black Hat” SEO era.
Back in the day when people first started realizing they could optimize pages to be found in search engines, some of the providers resorted to less than above-board tactics to get their websites listed. In their defense, there were no rules. Suddenly every provider was scrambling to get quick and dirty listings and the internet teetered on the verge of a spammy and downright awful mess of ads and irrelevant content.
Search engines tightened the reins, introducing algorithms designed to filter spam and penalize sites using unethical approaches to being listed. Soon after, the terms “White Hat” and “Black Hat” SEO were born.
All of a sudden, companies were offering ethical SEO (White Hat), and eventually, the search engines themselves made the filtering so advanced that the spammy techniques just stopped being effective as a whole.
We now live in a search engine world where spam is manageable, and listings are more relevant to what we’re actually interested in. SEO providers all play by the same rules and the question is no longer about how to game the system, but more so how to be clever with your marketing as a whole.
You might be wondering why I just told you a long story about the evolution of ethical SEO on the internet, but it relates so well because it’s what’s happening in social media right now.
Social Media Evolution
For a while now, we’ve gotten away with a lot on social media. Bots for liking and unliking, following and unfollowing, even bots that leave ridiculous and irrelevant comments on people’s photos. “Nice Hat!” was one I saw this morning, on a picture of a hot dog.
The point is, if you look at the evolution that happened before, you’ll understand what’s happening in the world of social media right now, especially on Instagram.
We hear a lot of people complaining about shadow bans, warnings and various other slaps on the wrist from Instagram. Some are even being banned completely and permanently.
The reason being is simple: Instagram is NOT being mean, Instagram is asking you to play by the rules and show ethics in your digital marketing effort, just like the search engines did as SEO began to evolve.
Social networks want you to use them as tools to grow your business, they want you to share and engage and all those wonderful things, but what they don’t want is for their other users to be spammed, tricked, or misled in the spirit of growing a profile’s audience.
Some may argue that the channels are trying to force you into paying for engagement, and to a point, that’s true. The platforms have to make money in order to keep the lights on, so we can all keep looking at pictures of baby pandas and kittens. It’s also not such an unreasonable ask when you think about it. We pay for premium every day, no questions asked.
Skip the ads on Spotify? Go Premium. Don’t wait for your energy to regenerate in your game, upgrade it. Don’t lose that level of Candy Crush again, grab a booster.
We pay for premium every day, so why not pay to grow your audience? If you want to skip to the front of the line and avoid a ban, the simplest and safest route is simply to run an optimized ad, which shows your account to the people most likely to interact.
The ask with all of the platforms is simply, “grow ethically”.
They want you to post photos and images because they’re beautiful, they want you to like and comment on photos because they’re interesting to you. They want people to follow each other because they find the content interesting, but they don’t want their platform to be a place filled with spam and surface interactions that gets no one anywhere.
Don’t you want to connect with your customers in an environment like that?
Yes, it takes a little more time, and yes, you’ll need to define your market narrowly to connect with the people who will find you fascinating, but in the end, the leads you find will mean for your bottom line than any robot could possibly suss out.
As social platforms evolve, much like SEO they will find new and interesting ways to ban or prevent users from abusing their platforms. It’s in the best interests of all of us, really. How much easier would it be to connect if your new followers weren’t a bunch of other people just trying to improve their own numbers?