Social Media’s Social Responsibility

10 Ways to Make Social Media Accountable

Social media networks draw on our human need to socialize, as underscored by Facebook’s amazing growth numbers. By giving us the tools and technology to interact and share the details of our lives with those that matter to us, whether it’s our immediate family or college buddies, social media platforms enable us to expand and enrich our personal networks in new ways. Concurrently, these platforms provide companies and other organizations with the ability to participate and build relationships too.

Individuals and businesses use social media to expand their reach and networks, often without considering the longer-term consequences of their actions.  At its core, social media is about the interactions of real people. Being transparent in these forums pulls back the veil that some individuals and companies use to hide their true identity, regardless of the reason, either good or bad. While this social media evolution has increased our connectedness, we need to remember that behind every Facebook page, blog post, YouTube video and tweet is a live person with real emotions.

Just as Spiderman learned that with great power comes great responsibility, we, the companies, professionals and individuals who connect and share in the social media ecosystem, need to apply this to our actions. Here are ten factors to consider:

  1. Know that your audience consists of real people with broader, more diverse backgrounds than you can imagine. Each individual brings a unique perspective that you might not have considered previously. At a minimum, they deserve your respect for giving you their attention.
  2. Don’t react in haste. In online interactions, people tend to disassociate themselves from the person to whom they’re communicating. We don’t think about the person at the other end when we talk with our fingertips. As a result, people often express opinions that they wouldn’t on the phone or in person. Count to ten to give yourself space to think before you respond, especially when your feelings are raw.
  3. Appreciate that online actions are permanent and can’t be reversed. There is no Undo action for a sent message. Moreover, the Internet never forgets. Any message sent can come back to haunt its sender, usually when it’s least desired.
  4. Understand the context of interactions and content presented. Don’t respond to partial messages. Don’t let your feelings rule. Put the information in perspective and be sure you understand it before responding.
  5. Don’t judge an idea’s quality by the syntax and grammar in which it’s expressed. With a broad audience, the people with whom you engage may not be native speakers of your language or have similar levels of education. Don’t let this detract you from the core of what they’re trying to communicate.
  6. Consider what you’d say face-to-face or in a live group. Don’t blindly follow the group. As your mother taught you, show a level of civility and an understanding for where others may be coming from. Remember you haven’t walked in their shoes.
  7. Don’t spread gossip and hearsay in your quest for your fifteen seconds of fame. Make a positive contribution to the public discourse.
  8. Check your facts before you contribute. Your audience knows more than you do and will call you out for factual errors. Wikipedia is an example of the combined intelligence of the mass. While one person may not be an expert on everything, together they’re very smart with lots of fact checkers who aren’t afraid to correct you.
  9. Stay on point with your contributions. Social media is a conversation, not a lecture. Leave space for others to broaden the discussion and make it richer. Remember it’s a conversation held in a public forum. Be polite and play well with others.
  10. Don’t be self-centered. Don’t bore others with your me-me-me focus and/or promotion overload. It’s the fastest way to clear a forum.  The sweetest thing a person can hear is their name and your sincere interest in them.

At the core, our actions and contributions on social media platforms should follow the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Since the social media ecosphere expands each person’s reach exponentially and speeds message distribution, it’s easy to forget that behind each screen is a human being with real feelings. As individuals and marketers, we need to integrate this into our social media interactions.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Photo credit: Olaf Gradin via Flickr

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