How Social Media Ethics Can Affect Your Brand

posted by Chris Valentine

It is vital that businesses think about their social media behaviors. If done properly and ethically, it can create something of real value, allowing for deeper and more meaningful relationships with customers. However, if no ethics are put in place, the opposite can be true and people will start to avoid your brand, associating it with negative issues. The biggest asset to social media is trust, and it is therefore vital that businesses consider how to behave in an ethical, trustworthy way. This is something that expert Matthew Knouff is now focusing on.

The Use of Hashtags – An Example of Things Going Wrong

Hashtags are hugely popular and most businesses use them in order to make it easier for people to find them. However, sometimes, this goes horribly wrong. Once, the hashtag #Aurora was used to promote a line of clothing, when that hashtag normally refers to the shootings in Aurora, CO in July 2012. The result was that the entire clothing brand was boycotted, something they never recovered from. So how can this be avoided?

Key Ways to Be Ethical on Social Media

In order for a brand or business to use social media in an ethical way, they must:

  1. Stay away from any publicly divisive subjects such as politics or religion. When making a political or religious statement, a business instantly alienates the huge group of people that do not agree with those particular views. Plus, in most cases, those views have little to do with a brand anyway.
  2. Never make defamatory or libelous comments. In fact, doing so is technically against the law under Section 230 of the Communications Act. However, few people ever take legal action. That said, just because you can get away with it, doesn’t mean you should do it. After all, everybody would agree that is unethical.
  3. Stick to the terms of service of the network(s) they use. For instance, if you use Pinterest, you agree that the images immediately become royalty-free, so you cannot then file a suit for copyright or intellectual property violations. Similarly, Facebook says that no more than 20% of your cover picture can be text, and you must adhere to that, or your page will be shut down.
  4. Always tell the truth. That has to be the basic backbone of all ethics. It is also what your consumers and social media audience expect. Besides, the truth will always come out, not in the least when you consider almost 90% of people now research a brand externally online first, and that 70% of those trust what they read in this manner.
  5. Always be professional. At the end of the day, your social media behavior is a direct representation of your brand. You cannot, therefore, become engaged in arguments, use bad language, or otherwise be unprofessional. Consider your social media audience in the same way as you would attendees at a board meeting. If you wouldn’t say something there, don’t say it on social media either.

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