Social media is an amazing opportunity — and it represents something bigger than us and bigger than only another marketing toy. In this medium, we depend on trust and respect from our fans and customers. It’s a whole new way of communicating, and it requires a foundation built on ethics.
Think about it this way: Have you ever looked at your inbox and seen 3,000 spam e-mails and wondered, “How did this happen?” It’s the result of marketers, 10 years ago, not standing up when they had the chance to fight for ethics and honesty. And by the time everyone decided there should be rules, standards and policies, it was too late: Spam quickly became a billion-dollar industry and we’ll never, ever get it back.
This doesn’t have to be the fate of social media. Here’s what you can do to protect it.
- You need a social media policy. Create a policy that sets boundaries and guidelines for your employees on how to engage ethically in social media. SocialMedia.org members (the community of which I’m the CEO) collaborated to create the handy, open-source Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit to help you do it.
- You need to require disclosure, always. It doesn’t have to be complicated — and done right, it actually boosts your credibility instead of getting in the way. Demand anyone you recruit to say who they are, who they work for and to clarify any sort of compensation they’re receiving (this includes money, samples, gifts, etc.).
- You need to audit your vendors. This is more than a recommendation and a good idea — the Federal Trade Commission has clearly stated that you are responsible for the actions of those you hire in social media. Audit your vendors on their ethics policies and standards, and insist they meet or exceed your own.
Watch my presentation. Slides are available.