Social Media Ethics and the 5 Deadly Sins

Social media is one of the key communication and marketing tools in the world today. However, it is also still very new, and this is leading to companies – even huge ones – making serious mistakes. Interacting with customers through these networks has to follow a set of rules, but these haven’t been clearly defined yet. People like Matthew F Knouff are in the process of changing this, gaining an understanding of the importance of ethics in social media. So far, five key “deadly sins” have been identified.

  1. Not Reporting on an Endorsements

Reporting on endorsements is quite complex. Essentially, if an online user, be they on social media, a blog, or any other channel, is given compensation such as a free product, this is classed as a compensated endorsement. One company that got this wrong, for instance, was Wal-Mart, who didn’t report that they were paying the expenses of a blogger traveling the country while writing positive things about them.

  1. Staying Anonymous at the Wrong Time

Often, businesses think that if they remain anonymous or pose as a regular individual, they can easily promote their own products. However, this is very risky! Whole Foods, for instance, trashed company Wild Oats on various forums and social media channels, anonymously, and then made an acquisition bid on the company. Phony reviews are perfectly legal, but they also destroy any trust consumers have in a business.

  1. Not Focusing on Consumer Privacy

Companies obviously want to gather as much data as possible on their consumers. If done the right way, consumers see more relevant information, while brands don’t waste money on targeting the wrong people. However, this can go wrong. Take Facebook, for instance, who share different forms of information every time they make a privacy setting change. This is a non-malicious, unintentional breach, but one that drives people away.

  1. Having Employees Be too Enthusiastic

Most businesses trust their employees to get social media right, because they are personal social media users themselves. However, they can quickly become overzealous and share too much of the wrong information in the wrong way. This happened when a Google employee, for instance, shared a highly critical report on Google+, on their Google+ account.

  1. Getting Free Work Through the Online Community

The term “User Generated Content” (UGC) is something that excites businesses but that online users have renamed “Working For Free” (WFF). This happens when companies ask users to create something nice for the chance of winning a prize, only to then use all the submissions they enjoyed. These competitions do work and are appreciated, but it is very easy to overstep the line and start to move into the realms of WFF, which nobody appreciates.

These are the five deadly sins of social media usage. Unfortunately, even if you fully avoid these five, it is still possible to make a social media faux-pas. In almost all cases, this is completely unintentional. However, being aware of the five sins and the fact that human error is rife in social media will, if nothing else, reduce your risk of making a mistake