Social Media Ethics: If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online

Twitter feuds, social media ethics, broadcasters, celebritiesThis week’s lecture boils down to one thing: If you wouldn’t say it in person or on air, don’t post it on social media. It doesn’t matter if you’re a well-known celebrity or a relatively unknown graduate student, the rule applies to all! The nature of social media (especially Twitter) is that anything you say can go viral in minutes. Even if you have post-posting regrets and delete a controversial comment, there’s a good chance that others have already seen, documented, or shared your content.

Social media has changed the dimensions in which people can connect with news personalities, public figures, and celebrities. Long gone are the days of only seeing them when they’re in a controlled setting (work, press circuits, etc.). Social media gives us access to what public figures are doing and thinking 24/7. While this unlimited access is great for the fans, it does add a little bit more pressure to the public figures.

For instance, if a broadcaster feels passionate about a specific issue, they may have to stifle their opinions in order to remain unbiased for the viewers. Journalists also may have access to information that hasn’t been made public yet. They shouldn’t take to social media to spout off about confidential information until they have been given the green light from an editor or producer. Broadcasters and journalists always have to be aware that they’re representing an organization/brand whether they’re on the clock or off.

As a news editor or producer, you have to be vigilant about what your reporters are saying online. At a previous newspaper that I worked at, we had an older staff, many of which hadn’t yet embraced Twitter. These factors made it pretty easy to stay on top of what our reporters were saying on social media, on and off the clock. As news continues to evolve and Twitter plays a larger role, they’ll have to put formal social media guidelines in place. These guidelines will have to explain that the reporter is in the public eye and represents the brand, and they don’t have the luxury or saying whatever they want online.

Kimmel Kanye Twitter Feud

Celebrities have a little bit more leeway when posting on social media. Although social media is an extension of their brand and certainly can affect their public image, they’re not bound by rules stating that they need to remain impartial. Sometimes letting their opinions be heard can make them seem more human and can earn them more fans/followers. However, just because they can tweet every single thought, doesn’t mean that they should. There is a fine line between appearing more human and looking plain crazy (cough, cough Amanda Bynes). As entertaining as it is for us regular people to read about Kanye feuding with Kimmel, it’s best to keep the drama off social media. It makes you appear unprofessional and kind of like a middle school girl! (That applies to everyone, not just celebrities!)

Data Mining: When collecting online information crosses ethical lines

data mining

Because of events like the National Security Administration being called into question for spying on American citizens, data mining has been at the forefront of the news in the past couple years. Just in case you haven’t figured out what data mining means in this digital age, it’s when corporations collect and huge amounts of data to predict patterns. Not surprisingly, this collection of data has raised many concerns.

As a marketer, I can see the advantages of data mining. The collection of consumer data can result in a better understanding of who your customers are and what they want. Any marketer that tells you they wouldn’t like to have more information about their consumers is either lying to you or not a very good marketer! Even as a consumer, I can see how data mining could be beneficial. Of course I want my shopping experiences and products to be tailored to me. I’m not likely even to notice a product or story if it’s unrelated to any of my interests.

The positives of data mining aside, I share many of the same concerns as my fellow consumers. Any data about me that is collected without my consent seems to violate my privacy. It’s one thing if I voluntarily take a survey or fill out a questionnaire about an organization…then I at least have some control over what information is being collected and who is receiving that information. It’s a whole different story if someone is collecting information about me unknowingly, and sharing what could be private information with others before I share it with them. For an example, check out this article about how Target knew a teen girl was pregnant before her father did.

As a marketing manager, I would be very transparent with consumers if and when I was data mining. I would be very upfront about the fact that we were collecting data in order to make a more tailored customer experience. I would let them know that their information would be secure and anonymous. Finally, I would allow consumers an opt-out option if they wished not to be tracked. Hopefully these steps would ensure that my customers felt secure when they were visiting my site.

Obviously organizations spying on citizens or tapping into their cell phones is a little more intense than any data collecting I would be doing. I’m sure some people will say that various organizations may be collecting this information for the public safety, and I’m really grateful for any information collected that has prevented the loss of life. That being said, I don’t think that ordinary people should be subjected to this clear violation of privacy.