We live according to our own moral standards and beliefs and we run businesses in the way we believe is ethical and appropriate. Unethical business practices can not only damage your business reputation, but can also completely ruin the business itself. When it comes to dealing with your public either in person or on social media, it’s important to know which behaviors are ethical and which are not.
Of course, ethical norms vary from business to business and from culture to culture, but some are more or less standard for most business practices. Also fairly standard the world over is businesses’ use of social media to attract, educate and engage consumers. However, there are certain definitively right ways to use this ubiquitous tool. What are they? How do we make sure we stay ethical in our everyday social media interactions?
1. Be straightforward and transparent about your business. Social media helps you create relationships with your target audiences. The best business relationships are built on mutual trust and respect. If you are dishonest with your public or you are hiding something, you risk losing your clients’ trust and damaging your professional reputation. Be honest and encourage honesty.
2. Avoid making misleading statements. The truth will come out sooner or later – it always does. Do not pretend to be whom you are not. For example, if you are not a lawyer, do not presume to provide legal advice on your social media channels. Quoting a professional on legal matters would be within ethical bounds, but pretending to command a lawyer’s expertise and knowledge of law would not.
3. Do not disclose any privileged or confidential information about your company or your former or current clients. Many people trust you with their confidential information. Do not fail them by sharing it with a third party.
4. Do not use inappropriate language of any kind. Do not make any offensive, discriminatory or racially motivated statements. It is both unprofessional and unethical. In fact, it’s a good idea for everyone with access to your social media accounts to first go through spokesperson training to ensure they know how to handle themselves in the public eye.
5. Disclose all informational sources you use in your posts or comments, including photo credits. By all means, use as many sources for your social media content as you require. However, it is highly unethical to pass it off as your own, original creative. Make sure you list all sources you used to produce your material.
6. Follow the Golden Rule: Treat your followers and supporters on social media like you would like them to treat you. That means respect them, listen to them, engage with them and try to see things from their point of view.
Building mutually beneficial relationships via social media is a great way to grow your business. It is one of the best vehicles for increasing public awareness about your business. Complying with ethical standards in your everyday social media interactions is a surefire way to gain more trust and support for your business from your key audiences.
Axia Public Relations can help you build your social media presence in the most effective and ethical way. Download our Essential Social Media Management Guide to get started on developing the best social media strategy for your business.
Yulia Dianova is a public relations professional who is skilled in building relationships with target audiences. She provides counsel to organizations that seek PR help to further their growth and reach their goals. Yulia earned a master’s degree in public relations management from University of Maryland University College. She is fluent in Russian and English and is always looking for a new challenge.
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