Guest Blogger: Jessica Atkinson
Everyone knows that what one says in a social media environment is public information, right?
Common sense tells us that we shouldn’t share confidential information online or allow ourselves to be tagged in media that compromises our sense of personal integrity. But beyond these basics, how much do you really know about the business of social media?
I first began to consider how online social activity can be utilized for profit when I received my very first Facebook ‘gift,’ a $10 Starbucks gift card for my 33rd birthday.
“Sweet. Coffee!” I thought.
Then I went to claim my gift and realized that I had to submit my email address to the vendor. “Hummh…Does this mean I’ll be bombarded with offers from Starbucks now? I know Facebook has to make a profit on us somehow, but what exactly is in that user agreement that nobody bothers to read?”
Intrigued, I began researching.
Apparently, while I’ve been living on my own little planet, those brilliant techies began using sophisticated data analysis programs that turn tweets into cash! At least I haven’t been alone on that planet – perhaps you, too, are among the 32% of consumers using social media that have no idea that their conversations are being “monitored!
It’s called social media listening and it’s one of the top three priorities in 2013 for 42% of companies.
In the business world, social media listening is an important strategic element for managing communities, following influential trends, monitoring brand perception and identifying engagement opportunities with consumers.
Such techniques are a bit controversial, however, and there are certainly some serious ethical implications. The two key ethical questions that must be considered when using such techniques are:
- Are the Posts public? Tweets, YouTube videos, blog posts, consumer review comments, Facebook Groups, Pages and Walls (if left open and public) are all considered public information.
- Can any harm be done by aggregating this information? Individuals are NOT personally identifiable.
If the answer to both of these questions is ‘yes,’ then the methodology cannot be categorized as ‘unethical’ because it is not deceptive, it does not invade personal privacy or cause any obvious harm.
However, in our world of rapidly advancing technology, ethical boundaries can quickly become blurred (think “Face recognition technologies”).
In order to avoid the consumer privacy landmines, corporate management must take measures to ensure that they are being responsible in their utilization of social media and related technologies.
As with all sound corporate governance practices, it begins with the adoption of policy — a ‘SMM Code of Conduct’ that is based on industry standard best practices.
As you use social media, how do you ensure that your practices are sound and Ethical?