Are large corporations stealing the voice of the people and manipulating it for their own ends?
Ethics are the moral principles that govern a company’s behaviour or their conducting of an activity (Oxford Dictionaries, 2016).
Pre-social media there was a clear divide between producer and consumer.
Then came social media and everything changed!
Suddenly we have prosumers (Newsroom, 2015). Individuals who both consume and produce web content, in the forms of blogs, reviews, comments and posts. Sharing their opinions across their network of friends and followers.
It is inherently human to want to know what others are doing in order to organise our own behaviour. In psychology it is known as social proof. It allows us to make efficient decisions.
Corporations are well aware of this propensity to want to follow the crowd. Thus, it is not surprising that after seeing the huge influence bloggers have, that they would want to utilize this impact. Electronic word of mouth has been found to convey the reputation of products, brands, and complementary goods (Amblee & Bui, 2011).
But how much can we trust these online opinions?
Wal-Mart endured backlash when it was revealed they endorsed the blog ‘Wal-Marting Across America’ without being transparent about their involvement. This “average couple” were actually paid to take an RV tour of the U.S. while staying in Wal-Mart parking lots and posting positive blogs (Gogoi, 2006).
So here lies the ethical issue, should compensated endorsements be made apparent to consumers?
Although the ASA and FTC confirm that, if a blogger is compensated to write a positive review they should clearly state that it is an advert rather than a normal article, this is extremely difficult to enforce.
This video is an example of a paid vlogger.
In this case they followed the rules, clearly demonstrating the endorsement.
However, in some cases celebrity Twitter endorsements can be deemed as misleading; if it’s not made clear that there has been a form of compensation from the brand.
The ASA introduced #ad to inform people when a tweet is a paid endorsement. However, this can sometimes result in negative feedback from followers, resulting in celebrities disregarding the rules.
Wayne Rooney was reprimanded for tweets about the sporting brand Nike last year, and was recently brought in front of the watchdog again due to the unclear nature of his marketing tweets.
Personally I use online reviews for many things, restaurants, holidays and any major purchase. Knowing that some of these may be biased or untrue isn’t a surprise; usually I feel I could tell the difference. However, research suggests that we are not that accurate in spotting fakes. Whilst software algorithms spot fakes 90% of the time (Mukherjee, Liu & Glance, 2012), regular people doing the same have 50% accuracy (Business Time, 2012). To boost your chances take a look at this guide 9 ways to spot a fake review.
Thanks for reading and leave a comment about your experiences with fake content!
Amblee & Bui, (2011) [Retrieved 20.04.16]http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2753/JEC1086-4415160205
Canham, E., Youtube, (2015), [Retrieved 20.04.16] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STFS6BO5dkk&ebc=ANyPxKopQqB6T1CziIgdieLKW0uq3VNh_yMAO6gIONST_n1xN2OuIzU-AhFIKDC19AUnKLEkHEQbMcWOVMLw3j1EiSHeBayufg
Changing Minds (2016), Social Proof, [Retrieved 20.04.16] http://changingminds.org/principles/social_proof.htm
FTC, (2016) [Retrieved 20.04.16] https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking
Gogoi, (2006) [Retrieved 20.04.16] https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking
Newsroom, (2015) [Retrieved 20.04.16] http://newsroom.niu.edu/2015/03/17/social-media-changing-the-rules-of-business-ethics/
CNN, (2007) [Retrieved 20.04.16]http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/biz2/0701/gallery.101dumbest_2007/54.html
Forbes, (2012) [Retrieved 20.04.16] http://blogs-images.forbes.com/steveolenski/files/2013/11/social-media-cube-1024×922.jpg