Online Marketing Etiquette… Is there such a thing?
The internet is a lot like a frontier town, where the residents are all hardened survivors; making it easy to spot a noob (newcomer) by the way they walk, talk and dress. These noobs almost instantly attract the attention of snake oil salesmen and shonky traders and after being conned more than once, it’s not long before the noob hardens into a veteran and so the cycle continues.
However we choose to interact with it, there is no denying that the internet has become a new space for the evolution of society (If I ever see the terms society2.0 or i-ciety seriously used to describe it though, I will possibly poke my eyes out). Because the online space is constantly evolving, teething problems naturally occur and as with any society the rules become determined by leaders and adopted by followers. The internet is still a little like “Lord of the Flies” with children (literally) shaping the space, tone and language of new social interactions. This in turn raises some inherent concerns.
Because the internet is “outside” the physical world, a new hierarchy of ethics and etiquette has evolved that borrows from the physical world in some instances and completely ignores it in others. I believe this comes in part from the dual nature of online experience.
On one hand we have push (acceptive) messages like email and instant messenger and on the other permission (invitational) messages in the form of websites we choose to visit. Then of course there is the amalgam in terms of the social media phenomena such as Facebook and Twitter, where permission is a prerequisite of participation and that in turn offers both pushed and permitted communication.
This opens a world of opportunities for marketers; however it also invites serious questions in terms of ethics and etiquette. Things like Spam, pop ups, spyware, malware, deceptive links, cookies, trackers and more have become a part of daily life for online veterans and in most cases are ignored or dealt with as no more than a minor annoyance. These are your snake oil salesmen and legitimate marketers wanting to take advantage of the growing online space should not be forgiven for utilising such underhanded techniques.
Members have replaced information as the new online currency and the ability to influence members of a website, community or blog is being traded online every day. The only problem is there are no hard and fast rules for Marketers in terms of how they use this influence to communicate with these members. Every group is different and every group will have an acceptable process for communication that has evolved from years of trial and mostly error. Some will accept certain behaviours such as placing links on blog posts and blatant business promotion via social media, while others will not.
It is my belief that ethical online Marketers interested in longevity (remember people, the internet NEVER forgets) should therefore begin to apply a series of self-regulated etiquette checks in order to put a little faith back into a slightly tarnished marketplace.
Finally, online marketing etiquette should basically follow the same rules of etiquette as offline marketing. When marketing your business online, it is important to remember to think before you act because once you act, your words can’t be retracted and you may risk seriously damaging your reputation.