Is “Ethical Internet Marketing” an Oxymoron?

New Third Tribe community offers an interesting option for online marketers

It seems I’m not the only one who has been feeling less than comfortable about the options for promoting products and services online.

Hence the subject heading for this post, asking whether “ethical Internet marketing” is an oxymoron.

Third Tribe: Internet Marketing Strategies that work without being obnoxiousI am passionate about how the Internet especially now with the power of social media (but even long, long ago before even the Web! but that’s another story) helps us create and enhance wonderful relationships and link up with various communities of interest. I love the generosity and sharing I experience every day. Trouble is, all that relationship building does not of itself generate a lot of income. Which is ok if you have a well paid job or very rich and indulgent other parties – spouses, parents, etc – who cover your expenses. But not so ok if you would like to complement your love of being online with a nice, steady income stream.

But of course there are all those courses you can do to make money online.

The trouble with that option is that, if you are not one of those people who are born able to sell ice to people living in the frozen north, or if you baulk at telling lies and tricking people and don’t regard that as “just business”, you may have found a few of the lessons you’ve paid for not so easy, or practically impossible, to put into practice.

Now I hasten to say there is no question in my mind that there are actually quite a lot of very ethical, decent people who have become financially successful online and who are teaching how to make money online ethically.

But there is also no question in my mind that it is not easy for people new to the scene (or even, sometimes, for some of us who have been around for a while) to spot the difference, to be able to tell who is ethical, truly social and truly interested in providing quality service and products from the, shall we say, less ethically challenged players.

A new option: Third Tribe

So what if there was a community where you mingle and learn, with structured courses and useful resources, and forums to compare notes, a place where you could start to feel some confidence about doing business online and still be able to look family and friends in the eye and tell them proudly how you have managed to buy that new house, or take that long-planned holiday cruise?

Well, it’s early days, but from where I sit, The Third Tribe looks like the genuine article, and may even prove to be in due course the veritable bee’s knees and the cat’s pajamas.

The Third Tribe’s tag line is: Internet Marketing Strategies That Work – (Without Being Obnoxious) .

There are good people involved, some of whom I know and have met, including the legendary Problogger, Darren Rowse, also Chris Brogan the social media wiz, and Brian Clark of Copyblogger fame (I haven’t actually spoken with Brian but I did introduce a panel he was on at BlogWorld Expo in 2008, so I think that counts as having “met”, sort of – the point is, he is real).

As to the general body of members starting to gather to this tribe,  I am already amazed and frankly somewhat in awe, seeing from the forums the range and depth of business and Internet-related experience of members. This is looking like a seriously interesting place to be able to hang out and have good, productive and enjoyable conversation, as well as learning from the courses and using other resources to be provided.

For the first week, which we are half way through, so until Feb 5th, there is an offer for Charter membership at $27 a month, with a 100% refund of the first month fee if you are not satisfied.

There is no affiliate program so there is no link here to earn me any financial benefit. (Update: an affiliate program was introduced after this post was written – it still won’t benefit me as I’m not part of the community now.)

I just believe this new community could make a huge difference, especially to people working solo or in couples from home and not sure whom to believe and whom to trust in the sometimes confusing world of online marketing. Here’s the (no affiliate) link: Third Tribe.

If you decide to give it a whirl, I hope you will comment here, however the experience turns out for you.

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About Des Walsh

I show business owners and other professionals how to navigate the social media maze and use LinkedIn effectively. I'm an author, speaker, business coach, social media strategist and LinkedIn specialist. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get my weekly Social Business Bites.


  1. You are right Nikky about the use of unethical practices. I have to disagree however and say I believe we can do something about it. We can for instance decline to become affiliates of people whose practices are unethical. We can declare and hold by higher standards ourselves. We can choose to associate with and collaborate with others who want to do business by higher standards. No different really from the offline world. As people have known for centuries, Chi va dormir con i cani, si leua con i pulici.

  2. Internet marketing can be very tricky. Many internet marketers do everything even the unethical ways just to create sales for their accounts. This act can be very disappointing, however, we can’t do anything about it but to be observer.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts, Randy.

    Well, it’s actually $47 a month now.

    It’s not my job to defend the setup, but the reality is that the Third Tribe concept has attracted a group of very impressive people. I don’t mean impressive just in terms of their achievements or good name, although there is a good array of very well known and respected people: for me at least, the impressiveness is more in the quality, depth and breadth of the conversation, and the generous sharing of ideas and thoughtful advice. And frankly, the humility – there is none of the adolescent (with all due respect to adolescents, a group of whom I was once a member) boasting and point-scoring that goes on in some other Internet marketing gatherings.

    From what I have seen so far, I doubt that many, or perhaps any, of us would want to set ourselves up a “Internet marketers with a conscience” if the implication is that unspecified others don’t “have a conscience”.

    Saying that the formation of a gathering and learning place for people who have a certain cluster of views about how they want to do business and are willing to pay a monthly membership fee means that they are setting themselves up as “the good guys” and thereby labelling everyone else as something other, is a colorful debating point, but it’s what I think lawyers would call a “straw man”.

    As for the cost, well, a) it never ceases to amaze me how much people spend at restaurants and bars as if there is no tomorrow (even though I’ m a Sydneysider born and bred, I nearly fell over a couple of years ago when I went to a bloggers’ meetup in a city hotel and one glass of mediocre wine cost $9) and b) it takes money to run things well. I imagine if a perception ever takes hold individually or collectively that group membership does not provide value for money then the subscriptions will cease.

  4. While I agree these are unquestionably the best in the business, I think it’s a bit “snobby” or old-school Internet marketing to make people pay for the privilege of joining. It’s $20 something a month now, but what will it climb to in the future. I still think the blogs and sites put out by the founders of the Third Tribe are some of the best in the business, but to me the concept is like saying “You can be part of the Third Tribe – a group of Internet marketers with a conscience – so long as you pony up the cash and continue to do so in perpetuity. Since when should I have to pay a monthly fee to be considered one of the “good guys”?

  5. Des, I love the honesty of this post. I need to be able to live with myself and feel proud about my actions and behaviour.

    I joined Wealthy Affiliate for the first full month (because there were no refunds I visited frequently) to really assess it. I didn’t feel comfortable. After logging out each time I felt like a shower. (I kid you not). Everyone had this sense of urgency to make money. I’m more of a cautious and critical approacher and then I really get going.

    I felt comfortable joining Third Tribe because I had already had experiences with Brian with Thesis, loved Darren’s Aussie contribution and read Chris’s book after picking up a copy at last year’s Affiliate Summit in New York. I haven’t really had much to do with Sonia to date, but that will be remedied soon.

    So far, I’ m enjoying my experience – but I’m still hesitant to see how different it is. I’ll do my best to keep the bas*ards honest 🙂

  6. @ Edmund
    Yes they do market their products well and I find the way they do that does not make me uncomfortable. Let’s talk soon.

    @ Darren
    Appreciate your stopping by.

    @ Lis
    I do understand your viewpoint and it’s definitely interesting food for thought. I’d be interested to know what Darren, Chris and the others would have to say on that.

    I’d just like to reiterate the observation in my post from what I have observed in just over a couple of days so far about the caliber of people and the quality of the conversation. Not to trivialise the issue, but I’ve on occasion spent more than $27 in one lunchtime or one lot of evening drinks, for conversation about sport, or politics, say, which did not actually advance my business one bit.

    So it’s that community with intelligent and useful-for-business conversation that I think I’ve joined for, at least as much as to learn from webinars run by – with due respect, guys – Darren, Chris et al. And the first month money back guarantee is a pretty good risk management offer, wouldn’t you think?

  7. I think what you can learn from these guys is watching what they do – not what they say. Most of us dont’ have the years of followers behind our blogs that peole like Darren and Brian have. I personally have issues with them trying to teach a model that works for them and cannot be easily replicated by someone new starting because they have the solid first mover advantage – jsut my 2c

  8. thanks Des – great to have you involved!

  9. Edmund Pelgen says:

    Hi Des, Great to read this..I’ve just signed up for the program as well and I’m quite interested to see how things develop. I love the way Sonia Simone and Brian Clark have marketed their products in the past and I think they are great models to emulate and this whole third tribe concept sits comfortably in my gizzard and is an approach I think I will follow in several of my projects.

    Also I will have to give you a call to chat as Lonnie Hodge speaks very highly of you. I must admit I was very impressed with him as well.