The ethics of social media in B2B market research

Analysing social media content for market research purposes poses ethical questions for some B2C experts. It can be delicate to collect information without the consent of the people involved.

However, I feel that people who give their opinion via Twitter or LinkedIn do so knowing that their comments could potentially be read by millions of people. In 2012, privacy on the web has often been absent. Moreover, generation Z, those born after 1989, have more trust in this type of media than in traditional media.

In B2B, things are different. Comments on Twitter or LinkedIn are made to target companies, directors, presidents, employees of important companies, etc. For the most part, they’re informative or educational. The following graph demonstrates content suggestions that we’ve provided for our clients for their professional Twitter or LinkedIn account.

Usually, we manage our clients’ professional accounts internally and we ensure that the following criteria are respected: 60 % of content refers to the latest news in the industry, 20 % to your company (promotions, products, etc.), 15 % to news from your followers (as a retweet, for example) and no more than 5 % of content touches on personal news. Doing so could do more harm than good to your professional account.

Would the ethical issue be less important in B2B, given the nature of the account? In other words, if the account contains less information likely to compromise an individual’s privacy, would the ethical question be out of place?

Businesses are less likely to express their opinions than people. Generally, we recommend they humanise their professional account by giving an opinion from time to time.

In B2B, analyzing the topics that interest the clients of our clients is more important that analysing personal comments made by a representative of a company’s Twitter account.

What about your corporate account? Do you respect the proportions posted in the graph above concerning your company’s Twitter account?

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