Category Archives: Social Media Ethics

Social Media Mishaps Affect Us All

I don’t think anyone can speak freely on social media. I hold my tongue all the time when thinking about making a complaint or a statement on social media because I know that post will live forever and it might haunt me one day.

The same goes for broadcasters or people in high profile jobs. If you represent an employer and use social media to promote your work for that employer, everything you say and do represents them. It’s as simple as that. Political and personal views need to be left out of social media because it ultimately reflects on who is writing your paycheck. If something goes awry, that paycheck may end.

I think the golden rule for broadcasters, “If you wouldn’t say it on air, don’t tweet it” applies to everyone. We could all use that saying in a time where we want to be vocal on social media. No matter how private your settings, there’s a possibility that the world could wind up seeing what you say and it negatively affect you.

The implications for broadcasters saying something inappropriate on social media are more severe than an everyday person. The commercial implications could be that they lose a sponsorship deal for the company or themselves. If the post was political they could lose followers over having different political views. Companies who don’t share the same political views could hold it against the news agency. The ultimate goal of a broadcaster being on social media is to grow a following and promote themselves and company they work for. That could all end very quickly with just a few words on social media.

It’s a little different for celebrities. They manage their own careers and technically don’t represent a company. They could lose future jobs because of a social media situation but it’s their career and their choice. Kanye had every right to take to Twitter with his grievances against Jimmy Kimmel. He had a right to say what he did. I don’t think it is ethically wrong. He wanted to draw attention to what happened and call Jimmy Kimmel out. I think Jimmy handled the situation very professionally and didn’t take it in a negative direction to further stir the pot.


Too graphic for some but maybe not for others

Images are powerful. They’ve taken over social media and data shows that engagement is much higher when photos are involved. In the world we live in now where imagery captures attention, it’s a given that news organizations are going to share images with breaking news whether they are graphic or not. Whether people are not fond of them or not.

People are so drawn to images that they might even skip the text and just let the photo tell the story. It really depends on what type of person is consuming the content. With images being so heavily consumed, this brings up the question of how graphic should breaking news images be.

Personally I’m not bothered by graphic images but that’s not to say that others aren’t. I’ve not faced a situation where a tragedy involves me personally and the images displayed would have a more personal meaning. While I am ok looking at the graphic images, I wouldn’t share that type of social media post to my followers in fear that they might be sensitive to it.

In the wake of the Boston Bombings, I wouldn’t want to see a relative’s image strewn all over social media if they were injured and helpless. While they weren’t my relatives in this situation, they are to someone and they might have the same feelings as I do. A photo has to be used with the news but how graphic should it be?

According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “By looking at the photos in terms of what they add to the news, editors should be able to determine whether publication is appropriate.”

News organizations are going to put out photos and news to attract an audience and tell the story. When graphic images are involved they might need to take a step back and think about the end user. Editor’s and social media managers who are selecting the images have been taught the ways in which the organization wants to do things but in times like the Boston Bombings, maybe the nation’s feelings should be considered.

I can’t speak for everyone and say they don’t like graphic images but it’s hard to believe that someone would want to see a member of their family or a friend go viral in this type of situation. A good solution might be to use a more graphic image inside the story link but when putting an image on a social media post that will be shared by many, have the graphic be less graphic.

Social Media’s Role in the Boston Bombings

I remember finding out about the Boston Bombings on social media. There were tweets with the first pictures surfacing from the scene. People weren’t too far away from the blast and showing the clouds of rising smoke. I kept searching for me and waiting to see what was going to come next. The next set of images I saw were people fleeing and images of those being rescued. Videos started to filter in quickly and we were in for days and day of social media coverage of this horrific event.

I rarely watch the news but in this instance I did although most of what I learned was driven by social media. I used TV in the background to supplement what I was learning online.

In a time of crisis news organizations have to be accurate and forget about being the first to report something to score in the viral post department. This has to be stressed to employees. From our lecture this week I learned that inaccurate information from CNN spread more than a correction they made. In a time of crisis people on social media aren’t going to fact check for themselves before sharing information. News organizations have to do the checking for their audience.

With this type of tragedy comes those who want to profit from attention. The broadcaster who posted a picture of an injured boy and asked for likes used an extremely unethical move. The only way I could excuse this behavior is if the person had the right intentions but with the language used, it is apparent the broadcaster wanted to capitalize off the situation for engagement. This broadcaster shouldn’t have asked people to specifically like the image. That’s what throws me off on this one.

I found these awful posts on through a Google search of Social Media Boston Bombings.

Ford Motor Company is another situation that I think could’ve been avoided. They used product placement when thanking the first responders. They saw a situation and took advantage of it. If a company is sincere and wants to show their thanks, a product shouldn’t be involved. The users who commented about commercial interests and opportunistic advertising are right. I agree 100% with them. Next time Ford should evaluate their accompanying image and think how it will affect people.

I do think brands should hold off on posting content during a breaking news situation like the Boston Bombings. The last thing I want to see is a sales flier or a piece of unrelated content while reading through mphoto-81-550x207y newsfeed about a tragedy where people lost their lives. If a brand doesn’t want to address the situation at hand, they should just be silent for a while. Give people a break while they digest the severity of the situation.


What social media platform provided you the most information about the Boston Bombings?

Can you recall any other brands/people taking advantage of the situation to improve their engagement or follower growth?

Social Media during the Work Day

I check Facebook incessantly. It’s an addiction but at least I’m aware. I would be afraid to count the times I check it a day. It also doesn’t help that I keep the tab open on my computer and can just jump back and forth between Facebook and work.

Should my employer be worried that I’m spending too much time on Facebook? No, they shouldn’t especially since I’m in charge of our social media efforts and utilize the platform more than half of that time for work purposes.

For employees that don’t work in social media, they shouldn’t be on Facebook or any other social media too often during the work day. It is a distraction and definitely eats up the time that employers are paying them to be productive. I wouldn’t say that employees can’t check Facebook but the time spent should be limited.

I don’t think it is unethical for an employer to track the amount of time employees spend on social media during the day. It is their time that is being wasted so they have the right to see if they are getting their money’s worth.

I liked the tip in our lecture about if you wouldn’t do it in the store, then don’t do it on social media. That’s a good lesson to follow especially if your biographical information or previous posts tie you to a company. At the point that you make that information public, you are representing them whether you’re working at the time of the post or not. You are now an extension of their brand and what you post can reflect back on your employer.

A good way to ensure that your staff is aware of the social media policy is to walk them through it. If the staff is too large to complete this, then distribute the policy and have them sign that they have read the material. Does this mean that everyone will read it? No but they will at least be aware that there is a policy.

To turn social media usage at work into a positive, a company can have employees do research or promote the company. It would be nice for a company to say to their employees that they can spend time on social media if they are sharing company posts, checking out competitors, engaging in communities that benefit the brand or doing research about what others are doing that would be cool to replicate. Companies can get a lot out of employees spending time on social media but the usage guidelines need to be addressed.

Do you think your employer tracks social media usage of employees?

Does your employer have a social media policy that everyone is aware of?

Privacy Settings

Thirteen million people have never looked at their Facebook privacy settings. That should raise a red flag to Facebook. The platform should figure out a way to make people aware. While I cannot remember the last time I adjusted my privacy settings, I certainly know how to find them. I should adjust them more often but I’ve always taken the set it and forget it approach.

I think there should be a way for Facebook to place a pop up on a person’s page alerting them that it has been a year since their privacy settings have been touched. This would be a great reminder to people. It could even give a direct link and take all the hunting away from people and get them involved in protecting themselves. I think most of those 13 million probably don’t even know that you can adjust who sees what on Facebook.

There are a lot of people who fail to understand that what they post on social media could come back to bite them. While they may have set their page to private, that doesn’t take away the ability for others to share what they’ve posted. Nothing is ultimately private online. If you share something you better be OK with the entire world seeing it just in case it goes viral or gets into the wrong hands.

There was a time in my life where I thought this is my Facebook page and I can saw what I want. That backfired when I made a complaint about work and it was reported to a previous boss. I was frustrated at the time I wrote the post and I should’ve bitten my tongue and not said anything. While I didn’t get in trouble, that warning definitely opened my eyes to how my personal and professional life mix on social media and I cannot always speak freely.

When we first discussed reporters friending interviewees on Facebook I was all for it and didn’t feel that they should have to identify themselves as a reporter. I felt the obligation fell on the person getting the friend requests to do their homework. Several weeks later my tune has changed some. I still think the person should do their homework but I don’t think a journalist should act differently on social media than they should in person. In person they would identify themselves and I now believe that to be true on social media as well.

I do feel it is unethical to take information that has been posted in a private space and share it with the public. However, the hard part is knowing if someone’s account is private or not. I won’t know what someone has as their privacy settings or remember if they had to allow me to follow them on Twitter or not. I’m also not going to take the time to investigate someone’s privacy before sharing something.

Don’t Mind if they Mine

ImageI wonder what a data miner looks like. Does he/she need a hard hat like coal miners where for when they go digging through the piles and piles of data being collected on the internet? Who am I kidding? There’s no way a person could comb through all the data being mined. That takes the work of some very sophisticated computer systems.

Prior to our lecture I didn’t really understand how all the data being mined would be put to use but when Amazon was brought up it all started to make sense. Amazon collects a ton of data and with that it can probably predict shopping patterns or the latest trends and be prepared for future sales. I thought the Netflix example was an interesting one as well. Netflix can track what shows are most popular and then create its own shows that are similar in categories and hope that they resonate with its customers.

Without hearing bad examples of data mining, I have a hard time understanding if I should be concerned or not. Relating back to the Netflix or Amazon example, I don’t feel like I’ve lost my privacy for the data they collect. I see benefits in that they know products to recommend to me and so forth. I would be worried if Amazon was selling the data but if they are using it in the way that they state I’m not concerned.

I know Facebook uses our data to make money off extremely targeted advertising. It is making money off our usage of the platform. It bothers me but not enough to stop using Facebook. I guess the bright side is that the companies buying the advertising aren’t getting my data. They are just allowed to show their ads to me. It doesn’t seem as bad when you think about it that way.

The specific guidelines I would create would be around the security of the data collected. I would want it protected so that it couldn’t be hacked into and I wouldn’t want it to be sold. If I’m giving a website my business I’m fine with it using my information. I’m not fine with it making money off of me. But again it doesn’t worry me enough to go look at terms and conditions before I use a website to know what I’m getting myself into.

Accuracy should win

I wouldn’t want to be a journalist now with all the news being reported on social media and having to dig through it all to figure out what is correct and what it is not. If you end up relying on a piece of information that is incorrect your career may be over. That’s a lot of pressure to live up to.

ImageSocial media and breaking news first has led to a lot of inaccuracies. The responsibility relies on the person doing the posting. It was really interesting to see how advance Twitter’s search could be. I had no idea of the level it could go but that is a great resource for those hunting down correct information.

When it comes to the speed and accuracy debate, accuracy should win. Why would a brand want to be the first if it is in fact incorrect? They will then have that error tied to them as more news swirls. While I’ve not been in a situation to know what I would do, a brand could send an initial tweet about what they do know to be correct and say more details coming. Then more details could be released as they were to be found accurate.

If speed and accuracy are both important to an organization then they need to have the resources available to have all hands on deck when breaking news occurs. While you can’t plan for it to happen, you can have a plan in place and know who will play what role. That will create less scrambling and more people verifying facts and pushing out messages on social media in the time of breaking news.

While at the LPGA, I followed all of our golf industry media on Twitter and you could always see them trying to be the first to break a story. We would embargo news yet it would still break prior to our release going out. Waiting was not good enough. Once someone was out there with information they all would follow suit as fast as they could. No one wants to be left out even if that meant putting more time and information into a piece. It became about who could say it first on Twitter and I imagine it still is.

I don’t find unpublishing images to be unethical. I can see how a brand may not want to have the image remain on their social feeds, so they remove it. Case in point recently with Delta tweeting a World Cup score with a picture of a giraffe representing Ghana. I saw the image on Delta’s feed prior to it being deleted. Yes the image will forever live in the social space because nothing ever really dies, but at least the brand doesn’t have it on their page continuing to stare them in the face. It also keeps the original from further spiraling out of viral control.

Respond Like A Human

ImageI’m not sure I have the heart to handle negative complaints that a lot of companies get, especially ones that provide a service or a product. It has to be hard to see the negativity and respond in a kind and caring way all the time. I’m sure people aren’t saying what they really want to say but turn on their professional tone and assist customers with their needs.

If I received this complaint how would I respond?

“I am disgusted about the state of your store on 1467 Justin Kings Way. The counter was smeared in what looked like grease and the tables were full of trash and remains of meals. It makes me wonder what the state of your kitchen is?!!! Gross.”

My response:

“I really appreciate you making us aware of the state of our store. What you described certainly doesn’t meet our standards. I’d really like to get more information from you and make up for the situation. I will message you my contact information.”

I don’t want to be too robotic and have a standard out of the box answer. I used “I” in the response to make it more personal instead of using “we” as a company. I tried to infuse sincerity and concern while finding a way to move the conversation off social media. I wouldn’t want more details spilling out for all to see. It’s bad enough for other customers to see this complaint, so I’d want to stop the situation before it could get any worse. Hopefully the customer would comply.

How should a mainstream news network respond to this complaint when the programming was actually not one sided?

“Your reporting on the Middle East is biased in the extreme. You gave almost all your air time to spokespeople for the Israelis last night and there was no right to reply for the Palestinians. The conflict upsets me so much and your reporting of it, saddens me even more and makes me f**king furious.”

My response:

“Thank you for reaching out and taking the time to provide your feedback. I’m sorry that our broadcast stirred up such negative emotions for you. This is an extremely important matter and we always want to report fairly. I’m going to remove your comment because of the language being used as it goes against our community guidelines. I will make our producers aware of your feedback.”

That was a tough response to develop. How do you respond politely to someone yet tell them you don’t think they are right. You want them to feel like their opinion matters and that you are listening. The user of a cuss word also makes for an interesting situation. If the company had community guidelines posted, then I would have every right to remove the comment but first let the person know why it is being removed. I wouldn’t want someone to think it was removed because it was negative.

How much to moderate?

While I may not use social media as a negative sounding board, that doesn’t mean that others won’t. Brands have to be ready for the good and the bad. They also have to have a policy in place for moderating all types of comments. Of course they will always be caught off guard but it is important to be at the ready.

ImageOur lecture talked about how social media is not our property, even though it may be our Facebook page. I’ve never looked at it that way. Everyone has a right to leave messages whether you agree with them or not. The last thing a brand should do is remove a comment unless it is obscene or hurting their community.

I think there are big differences in how people behave on Twitter and Facebook. I also think it depends on the end user. Someone on Twitter might blast a company with a negative tweet but the 140 character limit puts a stop to someone writing a novel about a bad experience. If someone wants to go into a lot of detail then Facebook is going to be the place to do that. I feel like negative comments on Twitter are more readily available to the public than on Facebook. With Facebook you have to dig a little to find the negativity.

I’ve not been in a situation until recently where I’ve had to moderate comments. Just this weekend I had a few fans make questionable comments and I wasn’t really sure what to do. It made me realize how handy moderation guidelines would’ve been to help know what to do about making lewd comments. One fan called another team sh*t and another fan posted a photo with text on it saying “Surprise Mother F****.” While the photo had didn’t have the offensive word typed out, you knew what it mean. It still seems like an image we wouldn’t want in our comments.

I also think it is important to remember with moderation to reward the good. I make it a point to like comments from our fans and give replies when needed to positive and negative comments. For some brands, moderation is a full-time job. The pages I manage have a reasonable amount of comments so it is easier to handle but again we need a policy in place to help steer me in the right moderation direction.

How would you feel if we broke your guitar?

ImageIt would’ve been fun to have been a fly on the wall the day that United Airlines found out about the video from Dave Carroll that ended up going viral. I’m sure reactions were not positive but did United take the video seriously at first? I don’t know the answer to that. I doubt United thought it would spiral out of control like it did and this being the first of its kind, I doubt they had a plan in place.

If I had been the United Airlines Online Reputation Manager at the time, I would’ve taken swift action. From all that I’ve read, it doesn’t seem like United acted very quickly. It took several days for the mainstream media to pick up on the video and that is when the video spiraled out of control with views and social media activity. In that time I would gotten out in front of the story and tried to put the fire out.

My tactic would’ve been to be compassionate towards Dave Carroll and present a message that was on his level. Corporate speak during this type of situation isn’t going to work, no matter how prestigious the brand. With any communication taking place, it would be important to remember that you’re speaking to a person. I would’ve used a tone that made people realize that United is putting themselves in Dave’s shoes.

An apology and reaction to the video would’ve been issued and circulated though all forms of media. It doesn’t seem that United did much on social media in terms of approaching the subject or responding to any comments. Social media and blogs is how the video went viral, so it is important for United to utilize those outlets when spreading its message.

While I know I wouldn’t have been able to respond to everyone, statements can be made generally to address the comments being made. While the main stream media would be running with the topic, they also could’ve presented United’s thoughts had there been some.

A formal press release would be posted to the company website and kept in place until the attention died down. I wouldn’t want people coming to United’s website and not see any reference. People shouldn’t have to find the response from United on any other site. If the company had a blog, I would’ve had someone write about how the situation could’ve gone differently and ultimately give Dave Carroll credit for new customer service policies that would be put into place.

Dave Carroll ended up producing multiple videos and United was prepared. It ended up responding with a statement an hour after the second video and even using a pretty laid back message as its response.