Rules of Thumb: Social Media Etiquette
Takeaways from #SPJ10 and the RTDNA
Anyone engaging in social media and actively posting content on the web should remember that what goes on the Internet stays on the Internet—so be aware of the best practices for posting content online. Even after deleting, you never know who has taken a screenshot of your page. Be sure to follow professional and ethical standards of fairness, accuracy, truthfulness, transparency and independence when using social media.
Truth and fairness: be truthful with your information, and any content gathered or researched online should be verified and confirmed with their proper sources. Be sure to credit authors of any work you include in your posts.
Accuracy: The 140 character limit on twitter should not be an excuse for inaccurate information. Using sites like twitlonger or bigtweet enable you to break tweets into sections or link to the rest of the tweet when it is too long to fit inside of the text box. Don’t forget, social media is live. If you make a mistake, be sure to go back and correct it.
Accountability and Transparency: You are responsible for everything you say. Avoid posting anonymously or use an avatar/username that hides or misleads your true identity. This isn’t Top Gear, and you’re not the stig. Be careful not to post biased or opinionated comments unless it is for a seriously personal blog—never for your organization’s online platform.
Image and Reputation: Personal and professional lives merge online—even though your comments may be on your personal page, search engines and social mapping sites can locate your posts—and your words can become direct extensions of your organization. Also, be wary of who you ‘friend’ online and be willing to explain why you are connected to them. Making personal information such as relationship status and political or religious views public can hold loaded meanings and affect viewer perception so be sure to keep such info accessible to real-life friends only. Be prepared to justify membership in any social groups online, and avoid posting content or photos that undermine your credibility. No keg stands here, please.
Lastly, never insult your readers. Create a respectful, informed dialogue and avoid personal attacks.
There are practical ways to use this new generation of social media tools without compromising objectivity and ethical balance. Following the guidelines above can ensure that your online reputation stays intact. Use social media the safe way and remember that what you post can come back to haunt you: give your latest blog entry or tweet a second thought before unloading your uninhibited thoughts onto the world. Be wary of the risks of slander, libel and other media law issues—to stay safe in the blogosphere.
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