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Exposure and Disclosure

Harnessing the benefits while avoiding the perils of online marketing

A quick Internet search of the phrase “If you’re not online…” produces results like “you don’t exist,” “you have no business,” and “you’re missing the boat.”  While not everyone agrees with these assertions, it’s hard to argue with the power and reach of the worldwide web. 

And though it may be tempting to stay ‘old school’ and avoid the complications of the online revolution, a search of your company name will undoubtedly come up with something.  Rather than cede this control to others, many produce buyers and sellers are wading into the murky waters of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media to tell their stories.  We decided to take a look into the lesser known aspects of a web presence—the hidden dangers and potential risks—and find out how to protect your company, your products, and perhaps most important, your reputation. 

Big Audience = Big Risks vs. Big Rewards

Remember last year’s scandal involving lean finely-textured beef?  A combination of YouTube clips, an online petition, and an ABC News story demonized “pink slime” and resulted in the near ruination of its manufacturer.  Or the controversy surrounding clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, which erupted after discriminatory comments by the company’s chief executive—made seven years ago—came to light?

These debacles are prime examples of just how powerful the Internet can be, and marketers must be mindful of the potential downside of 24/7 exposure.  Big Brother is indeed watching—along with customers, competitors, employers tracking workers, colleges eyeing applicants, and even debt collectors trolling Facebook.  Yes, the digital landscape can be perilous, but there are ways to control the negatives and accentuate the positives. 

According to, one out of every five people on the planet used social media at some point in 2012.  With Facebook subscribers in North America soaring towards 200 million, and the same number of active worldwide Twitter users, social media is a land of plenty.  So how does the produce industry measure up?  Well, most buyers and sellers have websites, but a recent Growing Produce poll found 92 percent of respondents felt their companies were not using social media to its full potential. 

Dan’l Mackey Almy, president and CEO of Texas-based DMA Solutions, Inc., says the digital world continues to evolve and isn’t what it was just a few years ago.  Back then, Almy says the conversation with clients revolved around setting up a website; today, it “starts with ‘who do you want to reach?’ and what content do you have or can you create to keep audiences engaged?” 

Mike Oelhafen, director of media at Wisconsin’s Charleston Orwig, says companies should think of a website as the “perfect employee” capable of performing a myriad of tasks, 24/7.  Yet having the website isn’t enough; it needs to have a range of interesting, up-to-date content—and a person responsible for making sure content “isn’t alienating prospective clients.”

Defining Terms

You’re probably familiar with various disclaimers.  Privacy policies are designed to protect you and your site’s visitors, defining what if any information you collect. Your “Terms of Use,” on the other hand, spells out limitations, liability, payment terms (if applicable), ownership of intellectual property, and restrictions on the use of information provided by the site.