Ethics is always a bit of a funny topic because it deals with personal philosophy as applied to the greater good. At its core, ethics is about doing the right thing. However, what I think is just may not be the same for you. I suppose if ethics were as clear cut as that we would have no need for any judicial system beyond the simple issuance of set citations and our world would have a much more utopian vibe to it. But I digress.
The social media age brings with it the ability to bare all and share all. As a company, you have responsibility for two sets of individuals: Your employees and your clients.
Responsibility to Your Employees
Some companies see corporate responsibility to their employees as it relates to social media as simply as setting policies to distance themselves (often to a fault) from the actions of their team on private social media accounts. I’m sure everyone has come across at least a few Twitter bios with the words, “Tweets are my own.” I usually have a “duh” moment when I see this – I mean, who’s Tweets are they if not yours? – and then feel bad that this person works for a company that doesn’t trust them.
In the scope of business ethics, it is critical that organizations take more responsibility than this. Companies need to be aware that there is more to social media interaction than an individual’s opinions. A 2014 study by VitalSmarts showed 96% of respondents reporting they had been bullied in the workplace (via any medium or in person). An earlier study showed that one in ten employees in the United Kingdom thought cyber-bullying to be a problem in the workplace, and that one-fifth of employers had found cause for disciplining staff for posting “nasty comments” about a colleague in an online setting. If your employees do not feel safe and trusted, there is no way they can do their best work. If they are not doing their best work, your company is not succeeding as it should.
Responsibility to Your Clients
Corporate responsibility tells us that even though our clients have social media presence (and often because we created it for them), we must not – while always tempting – let others know they’re not doing it on their own. Social media management can sometimes be a thankless job with you serving as the man behind the curtain and not the diva in the spotlight. That said, a strong moral compass will do better for your business than listing all the stars, or local businesses, on your roster. Telling me you have an NDA and can share analytics but not the name of the account shows me you care for your clients, and makes me trust your business even more.
And with that, which clients do you want to represent? Are there certain organizations or personalities that don’t fall into the moral code of your company? Do you have a party line for your team when dealing with such interactions when they arise?
So, how do you ensure consistency in moral values across your organization? From the start, it is important to have an understanding of what corporate responsibility means to you and your organization. You probably already have an idea of what your company’s values are, even if they’re not in writing. Think about the highest standards to which you aim as a company and write them down. Do these ideas fit within the culture that is currently being cultivated? Is there some work that needs to be done to realign your practice with your preaching? Do these values stifle your employees’ ability to express themselves personally in and/or outside of work either in person or via social media?
The easiest way to go about ensuring the ethics of your organization are upheld is to open a dialogue with your team about these values as they relate to the business and operations of your company. It is critical to the success of any business entity that every member take the same responsibility for upholding the ethical standards and practices of the company. This begins with giving each member that responsibility to shoulder. Remember that a combination of trust in your team and respect for their personal autonomy goes a long way.
While there will always be that chance of there being someone who doesn’t think before they tweet transparency with your company’s ethical standards will ultimately allow for your employees and clients to find themselves within the framework of your organization and align their own moral compass to help in your success.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alissa M. Trumbull is one-half of the Social Outlaws, a new blog dedicated to the areas of social media and social business. Passionate about business ethics, Alissa seeks opportunities to strengthen individuals and organizations through the application of best practices and human understanding. She is also a graphic designer, voracious reader, and fitness enthusiast.
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