Design A Code of Conduct to Approach Social Media Responsibly

┬áIn your observation, what is the most jarring thing you’ve experienced with the advent of the internet: changes in behavior stemming from the technology, or the differences in mind-set when it comes to sharing information on it?

The internet is over twenty five years old. People who grew up with the internet think of it differently than previous generations. To them, their world always had the internet. Their parents grew up with TV and radio. One generation was used to receiving information, the other grew up connected, sharing and transmitting information as easily as their parents read the newspapers. The divide lies in how we approach the sharing, keeping and controlling of the information, which is crucial on both professional and personal levels. How else can you explain the stuff that people post online?

Think of social media, for one. People can use it to update each other on what’s happening and what they’re doing, and get to say what they want to say. Whether it’s a fact or an opinion, once it’s posted, it’s out there, and while for the most part a lot of the information is generally innocuous, there are always the posts that can get people fired, ruin their reputations, or get them arrested. Or possibly all three. And watching from the sides, all you can ask is, “What were they thinking?”

Social media is another method of communication. Communication goes two ways using social media: from the originator to the audience, group or intended receivers, and in replies to the senders. We see this in likes and re-tweets and down-voting, in comments and in engagement — no, not that kind: when two or more people are talking to each other, on or off-line, they’re engaged in conversation. The issue lies in the fact that the internet is a public forum. And there are social expectations regarding things people can do in public without being noticed, censured, and talked about.

You’ve probably seen also sorts of mindless drivel and ill-thought posts, both in personal and professional social media accounts. Imagine the impact on your business with the posting of something…unacceptable.

Advertising is a push method. Marketing is an interdisciplinary approach. One’s a tactic, the other’s a strategy. Your marketing strategy may guide you towards using YouTube to offer the public (and your customers) free lessons is assembling a computer, for example, if you’re an online supplier of computer parts. Your strategy may include Twitter and blogging as tactics to leverage your platform as a communicator. Whatever you choose, you are leaving yourself open to feedback, positive, negative and sometimes plain unbelievable. You have to have a plan to deal with all of it.

The methods advertisers use to reach their market in TV and radio are different from how people can use social media to promote their businesses. Many social media accounts are free, unlike advertising, and so the burden is on you on how you use whatever avenue you choose, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. to promote yourself and your business, and to educate, interact and communicate with your market.

Answer these three questions as thoroughly as you can:

  • What is your purpose in using this particular type of social media?
  • How do you plan to interact with your audience?
  • What rules would you consider to be essential to a code of conduct to govern your communication and interaction on-line?

Starting small is the best bet. Having access to all sorts of social media is no good if you can’t sustain the interaction necessary for each one you choose. You have to rank serious issues, respond to serious questions and statements, not to mention have some civilized method of dealing with trolls, entitled and unenlightened feedback, and the inevitable hecklers.

Simple strategies to leverage your presence include consistency, respect and openness. With most social media coming at no charge or with free sign-up to start, your expenses lay in time, planning, consistency and eventually, your reputation. You can’t take back what you say on the internet — it has caches. It’s rapid sharing — which can spread the word in seconds. Using the answers to the three questions posted above, once you’ve gotten your code of conduct down, when you see a bad social media goof make the headlines, study how it happened and practice what you would do just in case something similar pops up for you. This time, it’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes than make your own. Plan deep and stick to the guidelines.

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