Ethics in Web Marketing

In a recent article passed around on Reddit and featured on Factor3, the Free State provincial government spent R40m on its website. What is appalling about this is that the cost of the website was $4 million USD. One would expect extreme demand on a website for that price. Perhaps, something similar to the the scale of Amazon or Netflix would be deserving of that price tag. Even more appalling is the fact that the site was built using a $40 Themeforest template, with virtually no customization, whatsoever. According to Etionee Bruwer, the most ever paid for web development in South Africa was R12m by a financial institution that needed to protect sensitive information. The site that was built for the Free State provincial government doesn’t even have an SSL certificate.

Costs of Development

It’s true that businesses are in business to make a profit. However, the cost of service should match the level of service required. By all means, maximize profit, but don’t bite the hand that feeds you. When developing projects, the focus should always be on the goal of the project. On the clear and effective communication of the message from the broadcaster to the audience. That is goal.

When these things happen, the original focus of communicating the message to the audience in an effective manner is lost. The company developing the website clearly overcharged their client for the service they provided. That cost was placed directly on the shoulders of the tax paying citizens of the country. If a company continues to abuse its community, it will find no more business. Properly priced website development would have allowed the local government to save money on the cost of the project, allowing additional funds to be diverted to providing things like website functionality, years of maintenance and service, as well as new content and multimedia. All too often what’s needed for the long run is overlooked.

Responsibility to Ethics

Make no mistake about it, web marketing is not really about marketing at all. Web marketing is truly about information and data and how it’s presented. Web marketers, along with researchers, journalists, and all other information-based professionals, have a duty to provide diligent and truthful service.

When pricing services out, you should be true and honest with the caliber of your work and capabilities. Overcharging clients may gain you short term revenue, but what of the long term costs? Without a handle on the exact details, the company will soon be answering questions about the project. An ethical approach to business will help avoid embarrassing situations like these.

Quick to Judgment

As quick as we are to condemn these actions, we must realize that not all of the details surrounding the story are out in the open. In the United States, we enjoy a special liberty called the Presumption of Innocence. Until an official investigation is launched, we must remember that these details are merely circumstantial at this point.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that when a business operates in a community, a helpful, honest, and investing approach benefits the business, its employees, and the local community, equally.