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Real-world ethics should be part of the social media experience, but unfortunately many individuals and businesses aren’t transferring their values into the digital world. Catriona Pollard looks at creating a code of ethics for your social media activity.

Most people live by their own morals and ethics and we all have our own beliefs as to what is right and wrong in life. However, it seems that when it comes to social media and having an online presence, some individuals or companies believe that ethical behaviour is moot.

The dynamics of personal relationships and interactions have changed and some may feel that becuase they are hiding behind a computer screen and typing the words instead of speaking them, it really doesn’t count as unethical behaviour.

However, social media is now becoming more and more legitimate in business as well as in personal life. The way that a business or individual should professionally act in real life is being transferred into the online world.

But where do these ethical boundaries lie?

We are taught as we grow up through face to face interactions, experiences and lessons what we should and should not do. It’s important to transfer our values and ethics into social media.

Transparency
As a business, an expert or professional in any field it is vital to stay transparent. Transparency is something that is sought after in the professional world so why can’t it be sought after in the digital world?

Social media is all about creating relationships with your target audience, forming bonds, communities and creating a better understanding of each key target. If you don’t stay transparent you risk losing all you have built and your reputation could even be irreparably damaged.

There can be no harm done in being honest with your followers – in more cases than not they will appreciate and like you even more for being so.

Anonymity
Everybody has a right to privacy, however in some cases the internet can take privacy a little too far. Anonymity and allowing people to comment anonymously on your website or blog is not consistent with your goal of transparency.

Social media is, in its own way, anonymous enough already. Giving individuals the right to log on as anonymous can pose many problems for your business as well as for your audience.

People seem to feel as though they can say anything they want once they have that anonymity power and although everybody has a right to privacy, allowing people to choose a user name rather than use their real name is private enough for a public website.

Treat others as you would like to be treated
It is known as the ‘Golden Rule’ and is probably one of the most important ethical tips to stand by when it comes to social media.

Think of all the things that people do on social media that you personally dislike – whether it be tweet your work without crediting you, selling your personal details to telemarketers or sending you promotional emails once you have accepted them as a friend.

Chances are if it annoys you then it will annoy your audience, so why do it? If social media is all about relationship building then why would it seem ethical to treat your audience in a way that would make them feel used or annoyed?

Social media is becoming more and more legitimate in both the professional and personal world. Being ethical and having a code of ethics for your social media campaign or even for your own personal social media channels is vital to stay successful.