As we mentioned last week, September has been named Ethics Awareness Month by the Public Relations Society of America. As public relations professionals, we must consider ethical practices at all times—especially on social media because of its emerging importance, high visibility and influence on its users. Content on social media easily reaches people all over the world, and brands use it to build relationships with their audience. That being said, it’s a good idea to have a plan in case you run into some tricky situations. Here are a few things to consider regarding ethics on social media:
- Best Practices: Take the time to write a social media code of ethics or best practices to avoid getting caught in an ethical dilemma. Think about potential problems that might arise and draft some guidelines for your firm. No two situations are the same, but if you encounter gray areas, having written rules and regulations can help steer you in the right direction.
- Authenticity, Accuracy and Accountability: Distribute accurate information and avoid making false and/or misleading statements on social media, just as you would in a press release and other marketing materials. Authenticity of voice is especially important when you’re posting or tweeting on behalf of a client. Use real customer/user commentary and testimony versus making it up to make your client look good or relevant. Last week, a publicist came under fire after releasing a fake tape of Joan Rivers promoting “My Son the Waiter, a Jewish Tragedy,” an off-Broadway show. Rivers had been scheduled to record the ad before she died. If you do make a mistake, own up to it and issue an appropriate apology. Some brands have claimed that their social media pages were hacked after publishing content that was not well-received or that was inappropriate. While that is certainly the case sometimes, it shouldn’t be used in an attempt to cover up a social media flub.
- Keep It Real: On the topic of authenticity, don’t buy Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers to make your page look more successful. Practices such as these are an attempt to cheat the system, and in the long run, they will only hurt your client because you will see little or no return. Sure, your client’s social media pages will have a lot of followers, but your audience will essentially be fraudulent, and it won’t deliver the engagement the page needs.
What other ethical issues can arise on social media? Share your ideas and tips with us in the comments.