Top End Tuesday: Should we use disclaimers in social networks?

Social Disclaimers (Image: Facebook)It has long been expected that when you rave about a company’s products or services you should people know whether or not you have a connection with that company.

Some examples might be, they are clients, advertisers, it is run by family members or friends, or you are a long time customer who gets extra special treatment.

Back in radio days we did bend those rules a little but after the John Laws affair the days of free pizzas for the nightshirt guys have gone.

But if ever there was a place to be vigilant about this, it is Facebook.

And for today’s top end Tuesday profile, I want to highlight one example from a local directory listing for Darwin businesses on Facebook called NT Local Business Directory

The recommendation that made me suspicious

As I was searching listings for local businesses in various northern territory towns, I came across the NT Local Business Directory.

The rules on this Facebook page are simple: anyone can spruik anything. In fact the page itself says, “Advertise your local business here and help by sharing the page with people that have local business’s SHOW YOUR SUPPORT for NT local Business’s.”

As I looked through, I saw this recommendation from Mark Newman about Haynes Pest Management.

Here is what Mark wrote:

I would just like to say a big thank you to Haynes pest management, My wife and i got our house sprayed about 4 months ago, we had just experienced our first cockroach infestation… My wife was freaking out and i thought we were going to have to move back south, but one call to Haynes pest management and the next day they were here… Best of all we didn’t have to move anything out of my house. its been 4 months and i haven’t seen a single cockroach…. Thanks again Haynes Pest Management
17 August at 20:34

What made me suspicious is that very few people I have ever met have raved about a pest treatment.

I also noted, from my perspective as someone who writes ads and marketing communications for clients, that the writer was being very thorough, almost like they were ticking off a checklist of key messages.

The cream on the cake was seeing that Mark Haynes himself ‘liked’ the comment and within 20 minutes Mark Newman was back with another splurge:

It was so easy, i was unsure at first as i thought i would have to move all my stuff out the house but once you assured me we didn’t have to move anything at all, we were ready to go… Thanks again Mark
17 August at 21:04

Let me state for the record: I am NOT saying that there was anything disingenuous or misleading going on here. My point is that it looked suspicious and made me dig further.

They are friends

The first thing I did after having my suspicions raised was to click on Mark Newman’s name to see if his list of friends on Facebook included Mark Haynes.

Sure enough, it did.

So the world weary consumer inside me decided it would dismiss Mark Newman’s praise on the basis that it appeared bought or compromised.

Unfortunately, I had no easy way of telling whether they became friends after the good experience – something I encourage. I don’t like the artificial boundaries we place between friends and clients. If you genuinely click with someone or respect their professionalism, we should feel free to connect with each other socially, in person or online.

The trouble here for Haynes Pest Management is that my suspicions would have removed them from any potential shortlist of pest controllers I might have been considering, now or in the future.

So, how can we promote friends?

All that the wary and cynical radar inside me needed was to see after Mark Newman’s message¬† (in brackets even) was that Mark Haynes is a friend or that they have has since connected on Facebook as a result of the great service.

Some people will accept that, some might not. I would have accepted it, purely for the mindfulness it displayed about not only being transparent but about being seen to be being transparent.

If that had happened, I would have felt more equipped to judge the recommendation and Haynes Pest Management would most likely have made it to my shortlist.

And now I turn the stage over to either of the Marks if they would like to share more insights into the way this episode played out – just add your comments below.

And the same goes for other forums

On twitter, we can achieve this by using hashtags like #client or #notclient whenever our internal transparency radar senses that our gushingly positive tweet might require it.

In Linked In you can typically tell connections because when you leave a recommendation you are asked up front to explain your connection to the world. One might argue this is an excellent and mature practice.

What do you do when tweeting or commenting publicly about businesses you are connected to?

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