When social media first burst into the mainstream public with Facebook, it was a new frontier that had mostly been unexplored by a wide majority of people. It was a lawless medium where you could tell hordes of random people all your deepest thoughts, or maybe just what you had for lunch that day.
Because most people had never experienced the kind of freedom of expression and opinion that they could on social media, there was no real set of ethical laws that governed it. But, just like anything else in this world, there should be, and are, ethical laws that keep people from overstepping their boundaries and committing unethical acts that they will later regret.
The list of ethical rules should also hold businesses accountable for their online actions. In fact, businesses should be the ones that are the most interested in the ethics of social media, since they’re constantly in the public’s eye, with watchful people waiting for them to make the next big slip up.
If you’re worried about the ethics of social media, and how you and your business should interact with others online, check out some of these awesome tips!
Don’t Give Out False Information
Every business owner should know that you shouldn’t fabricate stories to make yourself seem better, or another rival business look worse. That’s called libel/slander and it has serious legal ramifications. But what I really mean here is that you shouldn’t tell people things like your sales numbers, profits, or product claims that are false. This build distrust between the consumer and your business. Always tell the truth, no matter if it isn’t always the best truth.
Be sure to always check the copyright laws on a picture or video you are sharing, especially if you don’t give credit where credit is due. Social media laws about including a copyrighted picture in a post are a little more lenient than other places, but it’s still always a good idea to avoid any questions of improper use. There are plenty of websites out there where you can find Creative Commons licensed pics to use, so take advantage of those.
Avoid Disclosing Private Information
This is a no-brainer, but avoid disclosing anything about the inner workings of your company, such as an employee’s personal home or email address. Any information that could come back to harm you should be kept off of social media, even in private messages.
Don’t Show Favoritism Toward One Individual
It’s easy to show favoritism toward a star customer, especially when that customer is a strong, outspoken advocate of your business. But if other customers catch wind of you treating one customer more favorably than others, they will soon lose interest in your business and accuse you of playing favorites. Treat all customers equally when you’re answering their comments on your post, or when they tweet at you.
Don’t Post Inappropriate Pictures, Jokes, or Slang
Never post a picture that contains obviously offensive or sensitive content. You can’t please everyone, and you never know when a seemingly harmless post might offend a customer, but use your good judgement and think about whether the picture you post will offend someone before you decide to post it. The same goes for jokes and slang words. Don’t post inappropriate or “dirty” jokes and avoid any type of slang that might be deemed offensive. Know your audience and know what they think is appropriate material before you post anything.
Avoid Political or Religious Commentary/Opinion
I don’t like seeing this type of stuff on my own personal Facebook, I definitely don’t want to see it coming from a business’s official social account. Although some people love to get into a good debate when hiding behind the safety and comfort of a computer screen, posting anything political or religious is a good way to get people angry at each other, and your business. Keep your personal beliefs to yourself and off of social media.
Be cautious about what you choose to post on social media, because there will always be people out there who will try to use it against you, in order to tarnish the reputation of your company. When in doubt, always stop and think before posting!