By now you’ve heard that there are reportedly more minors on Facebook than intended. While this clearly raises issues of online security and safety, it also suggests that Facebook marketers may be targeting a different population than they intended: Children.

A Marketing Playground Goes Awry

Marketing to children, while lucrative, can be especially risky if not done carefully. Yet those using Facebook as a marketing playground may have been pandering to minors without realizing it.

According to Consumer Reports' "State of the Net" survey released earlier this week, 7.5 million of them were younger than 13. More than 5 million Facebook users were 10 and younger. Last December, eMarketer estimated that, in 2011, four out of five US businesses with at least 100 employees are taking part in social media marketing. Taken together, that’s a lot of marketers targeting an impressionable audience. Even if it is by accident, it raises a lot of ethical and legal consequences.

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Marketing Truth & Consequences

From inappropriate messages about everything from soft drinks and fast food to sex and violence, marketers may have to answer to angry parents and child safety advocates. And then there are the potential legal implications of marketing to children. Because Facebook is a global network, it’s not just the United States Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) marketers need to worry about. They need to understand what laws other countries have about marketing -- intentionally or not -- to children.

This week’s statistics and subsequent circumstances continue to highlight the need to moderate and diversify social media marketing strategies. As well, it puts more pressure on Facebook and other advertising tools that specialize in helping marketers analyze their Facebook marketing efforts. More transparency is needed so that all parties involved are more aware and accountable for their actions. For companies who considered Facebook a holy grail for advertising, they are learning the hard way that you should never put all your advertising dollars in one platform.