Social Media Business Ethics

Does she really fall? Social media business ethics.
OMG! She’s fallen! Does she really? Paying attention to social media business ethics.

Reaching for my camera (rather than my daughter’s foot) as Megan falls from a Chicago skyscraper, suggests an untruth is perhaps at play…

But, hey, why worry about reality? I have your attention now.

May be your curiosity will drive you to read on and uncover the deception. If you do, Google might increase my popularity ranking. And my daily fix of publicity oxygen (poxygen?) will be swallowed with suitable swigs of shallow satisfaction. Everyone wins.

Okay, may be this is just a bit of fun. But when it comes to social media business ethics, things need to be taken more seriously.

Social media business ethics V Seeking the spotlight

Being able to stand out is a key survival strategy in a competitive business environment. Like the trees and plants in a dense rain-forest, we seek  the light. Or if you’ll forgive me, the spotlight. But social media has changed everything. In our fight for fame, the spotlight is readily available to all, but our desire for attention alters behaviour. So much social media is sensational nonsense and/or lacking in any kind of worthwhile content.

Since social media launched, I must confess I have been guilty of posting a handful of tweets and site comments to gain attention. I remember ‘crow-barring’ the word ‘sex’ into a tweet promoting an HHGE post only to be publicly slapped-down by a disappointed site visitor.

Seeking short-term gain using hyped content may be very tempting, but it doesn’t build trust or foster good relationships. And businesses that ignore these principles play a dangerous game.

Business ethics and social media principles

The US-based organisation NPR, has published an ethics handbook for social media providing 14 key guidelines referencing: accuracy; honesty; use of images; use of sources; self protection; and legal matterrs amongst  other issues. The guidance is aimed at journalists but all business owners would do well to follow this code of conduct.

Writing about business ethics and social media for  the Magazine of Corporate Responsibility, James Hyatt highlights the fact businesses should have a social media policy. Tied in with this is the need to better define what is acceptable social media behaviour.

Through Mr Hyatt’s article I also found the Social Media Business Council which provides a thorough tool-kit helping businesses create social media policies. However, the tool-kit includes a series of 12 check-lists each with between 4 and 12 points! That means a lot of information to absorb. For most micro and small businesses this is not going to be practical.

Social media business ethics fundamentals

So if your small business wants to adopt the principles of business ethics and social media but lacks the time and resource for writing policies and communicating long lists, here are my top 10 fundamental recommendations for action:

1 – Be honest and truthful

2 – Be consistent with behaviour

3 – Disclose your identity

4 – Identify any business affiliation if relevant

5 – Comply with the law

6 – Provide appropriate training to staff

7 – Don’t blur editorial and advertising

8 – Respond quickly and accurately to queries

9 – Don’t hide behind mistakes

10 – Remember content is always king

And in terms of 10 (content), apply the same 10 fundamentals so your use of business ethics and social media always remains consistent.

Key Learning Points: Social media is a powerful promotional medium that is both easy to access and abuse. When considering business ethics and social media it is always best to communicate and apply a consistent approach based on sound principles.


PS. The picture of Megan was taken at the superb National Media Museum in Bradford. She walked away from the experience completely unharmed…


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