Social Media Ethics and Etiquette

Updated: April 15, 2010

Ethics, by definition, is the concept of what is good, bad, right and wrong. In social media, the right ethic equals the right perspective and the right thinking on how to leverage social media appropriately and how to engage people in the right manner.

Etiquette is a code of behavior within the context of our society. In social media, the right etiquette equals acting the right way. There definitely is a right way and a wrong way to use social media. Anyone who has ever been spammed (and that basically means everyone) understands this concept.

It is very important to remember that whenever you connect with a social media network, you are joining a community. In any community, there is an appropriate time to discuss business. You need to be sure to treat the people in your community with respect and kindness.

It is of utmost importance to respect the boundaries of others. Aggressive targeted marketing has no place in social media. Your motivation for being a part of the community is to give others the benefit of your experience and to build relationships with other members of your community.

The three main principles of social media ethics and etiquette are:

  1. Authenticity—people will respond positively if you are sincere.
  2. Transparency—having hidden agendas will only count against you.
  3. Communication—getting to know people as people and letting them get to know you.

You should always communicate in an honest and open manner. If you show others who you are and what you stand for truthfully, people will respect you and become fond of you. You will establish rapport. Truth is an ethical value that other people respect. They, in turn, will want to be truthful with you also.

From the point of view of etiquette, you should always say who you are, mention your affiliations, and be clear about your intentions. That is proper behavior.

Transparency is essential, in business and in life. Ethically speaking, you should always share information that you feel will help others. It is a demonstration of good etiquette if you tell the truth, even if and when it is difficult.

Without communication, you have nothing. Valuable and mutual conversations get you noticed by other people. Even though your ultimate goal is to sell your products and/or services, you should never just promote your business, give your readers a hard sell or advertise blatantly. Social media is not the appropriate venue for this.

It is totally ethical to use social media sites to spread your message, a message that you believe other people will be interested in and will fulfill some need of theirs; however, you need to be very careful about your approach. Your main objective is to drive more traffic to your business through your website and blog.

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