Social Media: The frontlines of ethical marketing

As Fervor’s Social Media Coordinator, Olivia Lucas is on the minute-by-minute front lines of marketing-ethics decision-making.

“Social media is a living, breathing wild animal,” she says. “You always have to be checking in and changing things until they work,” Olivia says. That fast pace means she makes principles-based calls all day long. With every post, Olivia is striving to be authentic to her clients’ values and voices.

“I always put my client’s best interest first,” Olivia says. “You have to sit in someone else’s body a little bit. You have to ask, does this sound like them? Is this hitting their ideal advocates?”

Stewarding wisely

Olivia also takes stewarding her clients’ budgets seriously. She wants them to have realistic expectations for what social media can do for their missions and spend accordingly. She advocates for the most “reasonable and beneficial” plan, counter to some less scrupulous social marketers who might try to sweet-talk organizations into astronomical social media budgets.

She says being careful with budgets is especially important when she’s working with nonprofits. “They are doing really good work,” Olivia says, “and you want to help that, not hurt that. They trust us to be the expert.”

Another daily ethical balancing act is how to monitor interactions during social campaigns. “We get some really strange comments,” Olivia says. “Some of them are harmless, but some are just not OK.” She tries to weigh freedom of expression with the best interest of her clients and (of course) platform guidelines against harmful speech. “I just have to go with my gut on what to hide, delete or keep.”

Driven by principles

Fervor’s core principles inform Olivia’s ethical decision-making. “I really love our core principles because we all got to play a part in making them,” she says. “They ring true to how I work.”

Fervor’s commitment to Humble Collaboration has encouraged her to reach out for more input. Even though she’s the only person in the office with a social media title, she says she’s by no means the only person who touches the agency’s social content. Olivia says she loves the way her Fervor coworkers share ideas and opinions—freely and without agendas.

“It opens up this space to be vulnerable with the work that you’re creating, which ultimately has made me a better professional,” Olivia shares.

The core principle of Transparency directly impacts the way Olivia conducts social media reporting. “We tell our clients everything—the good and the bad,” she says.

It’s not uncommon in the marketing world to be encouraged not to bring up failures unless a client asks about them. Often clients don’t know how to interpret the numbers well enough to know something is off. “It’s super easy to be shady in that realm,” Olivia says.

But not at Fervor. “That’s never the case here,” Olivia says. “We always present failures, and we always present an opportunity that can come from the negative news.”  

That kind of radical transparency also gives Olivia a boost of motivation. “I’m going to have to report this, so I need to make sure this ad goes well, and this copy is written to perfection,” she laughs.

Aligning values

Another motivating factor? The values of Fervor’s clients themselves. “Luckily for me, the clients we serve are pretty easy to get behind and support,” Olivia says. “We make sure we are aligned with our values and doing the best work we can for one common goal.”

Those common goals help Olivia refocus when she gets worn down by the daily social media grind. She practices regularly taking time to remind herself what her work is really doing, whether it’s helping children in Kansas City get vital services, connecting families with life-changing therapy, or simply connecting worthy businesses with their ideal advocates.

“After I practice that,” she says, “I get pretty pumped and more passionate about the work I’m doing!”

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