“Above the Fold” celebrates its 13th episode, and Jeff and Francis discuss ethics in online marketing and technology.

Brand management, the wrong way

Jeff and Francis begin with ethical online reputation management.

The unethical way to do reputation management? Trying to trick Google into taking down bad reviews using a forged judge’s signature on a fake court order to remove them. (Don’t do this. Google and the legal system will outsmart you, and then you’ll spend nine months in jail.)

The right way? Deal with the problem head-on. Respond to negative feedback and turn it into a conversation.

Jeff tells us about the time he bought a car that didn’t have gas in the tank or a spare key, so he took his grievances to Yelp. Luckily, the car dealer knew the right way to manage an online reputation. Jeff received his missing car key and took down his angry review.

A future without ethics officers looks a lot like Jurassic Park

Next, Francis and Jeff discuss ethics in Silicon Valley. Is the Chief Ethics Officer role really needed? Jeff thinks so, but is sad that the tech industry has come to this. What happened to the Golden Rule?

Technology has a way of enamoring people with shiny new capabilities, but someone needs to resist getting caught up in the many exciting things that technology can do and instead focus on what you should do with it.

Francis points out that Hollywood has been very vigilant in warning mankind about what happens when technology evolves too fast for ethical conversations to keep pace. If you’re not careful, your innovation will rip your head off, eat up your lawyer and poop out a car. And who has time for that?

The dark side of influencer marketing unnerves Jeff

The ethics conversation veers into the realm of influencer marketing, which is actually a lot older than Instagram. Remember when John Wayne promoted Camel cigarettes? Me, either. That was in 1950.

Jeff asserts that the best way to use influencer marketing is to do so genuinely. He discusses the “dark side” of influencer marketing. Francis puts on his counselor hat and tells Jeff that he has a bad reaction to online personas that should be genuine and personal, but are actually just aggressive and false efforts to pump up a name for the sake of affiliate marketing.

Francis and Jeff think there should be a Better Business Bureau rating that says how genuine an influencer is.

Context-free quote of the week:

“Any takers out there? I would like a Photoshopped Francis riding a unicorn, blowing flames, holding a sword.”

“Should I give this person a pencil, or should I stab them with a pencil?”

Molly Ploe is a senior writer at Brafton in Chicago. When she's not writing, she spends her time reading, going on walks and drizzling honey onto ice cream.