We are so thrilled to have Claudia Kozeny-Pelling sharing 3 social media marketing tactics that we all need to be aware of whether we’re marketing our own services or buying something ourselves.

Income claim marketing

If you’re active on social media, you’ll probably have seen an increase in posts and ads that sound a bit like this:

“Last year, I started my business. This year, I have a 6-figure income! Just sign up to my FREE webinar to learn more! If I can do it, so can you!”.

Often, these posts are accompanied by images of a successful influencer/marketer with a luxury product: a yacht, mansion, fancy car, and/or a beautiful partner. The message is clear: if we follow in their footsteps, we have a good chance of also enjoying this success. 

As Dr Michelle Mazur and Maggie Peterson point out in their ethical marketing podcast series ‘Duped’: “The actual product you’re buying is a course or programme, but the way it’s marketed and sold is all about the lifestyle that business owner is leading.”

Just type in ‘6 (or 7 or 8!) figure income’ on Instagram and check out some accounts and hashtags that come up. There’s talk of ‘proven systems’, ‘6-figure income formulas’, ‘passive income systems’, along with posts about coaching in ‘attraction mindset’, ‘millionaire mindset’, etc.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, it is.

What we don’t see in posts like these are:

  • Their accounting books. Having an x-figure income doesn’t mean anything. What are their expenses? How is their debt situation? Do they employ a team of VAs, an accountant, social media manager, a marketing agency, etc? What’s the cost of their office resources?


  • Their character. Focusing on income only as a measure of success or worth seems a skewed way of evaluating a person.


  • The state of their mental health. What is their daily life really like? Building a 6+-figure business is hard work, especially on social media. If it wasn’t, there would be many more millionaires in the world. Even if their claims about x-figure incomes are true (which I doubt in many cases), they are likely to be stressed, dealing with loans and debts, and trying to keep up the facade on social media. And: 10x-scaling your business “doesn’t mean 10x scaling your personal income”, as the Duped podcast emphasises. In fact, business owners often lose money if they scale too fast.


  • The truth. How does their ‘x-income-formula’ really work? Is it something they bought into and now have to sell on to many more hopefuls? Is it one of the many pyramid schemes or investment frauds featured in the Guardian in 2018

Being pressured into buying from millionaire mindset coaches (“Invest in yourself”/ “Money follows money” etc.) can set clients back thousands of pounds. If they aren’t happy with the results, they are often told that it’s their own fault: it’s their mindset that’s wrong rather than the dream they bought into. Case closed. 

Unfortunately, buyers don’t have enough protection from these schemes. While there are some things you can do to try to get your money back, it’s not necessarily easy.

So: it’s best not to buy into this in the first place. Do your research before you buy any coaching programme.

Lack of price transparency for services

This was briefly discussed by the ‘Duped’ podcast hosts, too, and I couldn’t agree more with them. Most of the time, there is no reason not to display prices for your services on your website or social media posts. 

When prospective clients are told to DM or email service providers for a price, they tend to enter the first part of the provider’s sales funnel. At this point, they don’t even know whether this service is something they can afford, or whether it’s right for them. Saying ‘no’ is hard for many people, though, so even if they do, they may feel guilty enough to remain on the service provider’s mailing list, if they’ve been added to it, or to join free Facebook groups, which can be used for further selling.

Personally, I want to know in advance how much I may have to pay for a service. A ballpark figure will be sufficient before I take the next step. For example, a ‘From £100’ price tag will manage clients’ expectations and tell them whether the service provider’s basic services are within their budget. (Obviously, this amount has to be truthful. Stating a very low starting price just to lure people in is manipulative.)

Price transparency also saves precious time for both service providers and prospective clients. For some services, exact prices can’t be given until more project details are known, which is fine. However, if you offer fixed-price services, please be upfront about the price.

And, while we’re talking about prices: consider ditching the ‘charm pricing’. The reason why supermarkets and the vast majority of businesses use £0.99 instead of £1 is that the human brain is tricked into thinking £0.99 is quite a lot cheaper than it really is. We’re so used to this manipulation that a lot of business owners follow this pricing method. (I did, too, before discovering and taking the ethical move pledge.) 

I found that rounding up or down actually makes my prices look a lot cleaner and easier on the eye. Plus, we don’t want to attract clients who are just after the cheapest service, do we?

Overreliance on formulas and templates

I recently attended a webinar that discussed email marketing. We were shown a few templates of sample text for an automatic daily email sequence, which many attendees then went on to adapt for their own businesses. Predictably, the end results were very samey. All emails started with a humorous headline, continued with an animated GIF, a quirky intro and main text, a call to action, and some sort of cliffhanger. 

Sure, examples can be helpful, but if enough people use these templates, many prospective clients will end up getting extremely similar emails. Any individuality will be lost, and that’s not what you want if you’d like to stand out from the crowd.

Likewise, there are copywriting templates that business owners can adapt for their websites and sales funnels. 

Or common design templates that flood Instagram and Facebook with generic inspirational quotes.

The same problem holds. It’s all very formulaic!

Of course, examples, templates, and formulas have their place if they help you think about how to start tackling certain areas in your business. However, don’t just use them without considering whether they actually fit your personality, style and business ethics. 

In my case, the webinar mentioned above actually helped me realise that automated email sequences simply aren’t my cup of tea. I decided to just send out a short tip in my newsletter every week and I’m much happier with that approach.

Are there any irritating or unethical business or social media marketing practices you’ve come across repeatedly? If so, I’d love to hear about them as I’m sure to write about more social media marketing practices to avoid!

Claudia smiling at the camera wearing a blue cardigan and blue, lightweight scarf.

Claudia Kozeny-Pelling (she/her)

Claudia is a qualified translator, copywriter and social media marketing consultant. A native German speaker, she has been living in the UK since 1997 and offers her services in both languages. Claudia especially enjoys working with ethical, sustainable and fair trade businesses.

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