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  • Writer's pictureRed Dot Digital

Ethical Data Use and Honest Digital Strategy Carve a Path Toward Long-Term Success

Using data unethically can lead your brand toward the kind of disaster from which you can’t recover.

As Cambridge Analytica has shown us in recent weeks, data is our new currency. It is power.

Like any form of power, it can be used in ethical and unethical ways. It all depends on the choices of the brand using it.

Ethical data use carves out a path toward long-term success. It provides new consumer insights and confirms or challenges existing ones. It helps to identify trends, markets and opportunities. It enhances how competitive you can be in your industry. With data, brands can expand their footprint while still being able to concentrate on their core consumers.

The advantages of good ethics can be difficult to see when you’re struggling to make a profit. It can be tempting to pursue shortcuts that promise quick rewards. But we have seen what can happen when data is used for unethical purposes. Cambridge Analytica might be the latest example of a firm using data inappropriately, but they are far from the first ones to do it.

Using data inappropriately may provide short-term gains that make success seem within reach. But for long-term success, there are no shortcuts. The consequences of using data unethically will catch up with you.

Dishonesty in one area of your business usually means dishonesty everywhere.

Cambridge Analytica didn’t just make unethical use of data. The group also took the concept of unethical marketing practices to new levels. They presented pitches to potential clients in a way that made it seem like they had already worked for major brands like American Express or Coca-Cola, which they had not. When American Express heard that their brand was being used as pitch material for Cambridge Analytica, they requested that all mentions of their brand be removed.

Is it illegal to create a hypothetical pitch to a major brand? No. Does it suggest to the client that you’ve done this work already and can repeat results? Absolutely. It creates a false narrative that knowingly misrepresents your experience. When your clients receive a pitch that involves a major brand, there is an expectation that you’ve actually worked on that project. With a misleading approach, you might gain a client in the short term, but in the long term, dishonest marketing can cause you to lose everything.

Digital shortcuts make for dishonest growth.

In the digital world, businesses want to grow their platform, polish their image and extend their reach to new customers. With the right digital strategy and the quality to back it up, you can achieve huge success.

But far too many brands are fearful that their competition will get an extra click. That makes them focus on dubious digital techniques that might seem like a good investment at the time. But these shortcuts are another form of digital dishonesty, and they can come at a high price.

You’ve likely seen some of the techniques that are used across the internet right now.

  • Keyword stuffing. How many times can you legitimately say the same thing in one sentence? Even if you fool a search engine, you won’t fool an actual reader for long.

  • Buying followers. What are fake followers going to do for your brand? Make you look more important? Only if nobody takes a closer look—then you just look just as fake as your followers.

  • Violating e-mail laws. If you reach out to people without consent, are you really going to make a sale? This is a shortcut to the spam filter.

  • Hidden links. This one makes me shake my head all the time. Sourced links have tremendous value. Why hide them… unless you’ve got something to hide?

  • Page swapping. Once a page is ranked, this technique changes the entire page to give site visitors a completely different experience than they expect. It makes both readers and search engines hate you.

Further shady digital techniques include spamming blogs, creating comment spam, and even placing affiliate cookies on computers to increase referral sales.

The problem with these techniques is that they don’t actually grow your brand. You gain short-term clicks, maybe some impression revenues, and perhaps the occasional sale. That’s it. With these techniques, you’re more likely to get blocked from websites, banned from search engines, and seen as sleazy by your potential customers.

Digital dishonesty is not a recipe for success.

Why is it so important to build organic results? Because they last.

You must have an authentic dialogue with your customers to remain profitable. If you’re using digital dishonesty to manipulate the conversation, then authentic dialogue is impossible.

Some firms might find it acceptable to use data and digital techniques in dishonest ways. At Red Dot Digital, we do not. If that means we lose your business, then so be it. In my three years at the helm of this firm, I have always pushed back against clients seeking shortcuts. Under my watch, we will never use shady digital business practices. When you’re legitimately good at what you do, you don’t need to cheat.

Here at Red Dot Digital, we use data to gain insights. We conduct business with the goal of growing your brand authentically over time in a way that allows you to dominate your niche. And we build your reputation for real. Our goal is to make your brand successful using proven methods built on more than two decades of experience in this industry.

The power is in your hands to ditch digital dishonesty. If you want to work with an outstanding and morally sound digital and data insights firm, get in touch with Red Dot!


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