In my church’s Bible study classes it’s taught that, despite some post-modern thinking, you cannot separate doctrine from practice. It’s impossible to say you believe one thing and not have your practices reflect that.
The same applies to social media, particularly for those of us in the marketing profession. We cannot say we believe in this, that or the other thing and then practice something that’s contrary to those statements, at least not without being exposed as rank hypocrites. Likewise we cannot spend all our time talking and talking about the latest shiny objects without legitimately looking at how they’re potentially used and aligning that usage with our core beliefs.
The following is a list of statements of belief – creedal, if you like – that reflect what I think social media marketers need to keep at the top of their minds as they go about their daily practice.
- I believe that self-publishing is a powerful tool, one that brings with it enormous potential for influencing not only corporations but also individuals. Like all such tools it’s one to be wielded carefully, not as an outlet for personal grudges or vendettas but with the public’s interest in mind at all times.
- I believe that all media outlets are not created equally. Different types may be important for different reasons, but there are most certainly tiers of influence and importance.
- I believe that despite those differences all media should be treated with respect and dealt with in ways that don’t try to redraw existing ethical lines simply because of the type of media outlet, be it a large news organization or an individual blog.
- I believe that goals are the by-product of communication between the marketing professional and other stakeholders and cannot be derived from thin air nor from flamboyant media stories about the companies behind the tools we use.
- I believe that all client communications should contain value in the form of insights into what a tool is, how it’s going to be used in their program, what the existing best practices thinking is and how it will be measured – including perspective on what those numbers mean compared to other executions. As the people on the front lines it’s our responsibility to give reports that allow decisions to be made based on the best information available.
- I believe that it is a primary responsibility of the social media marketer to say “No” to someone – anyone – who asks them to cross an ethical line, including a full explanation of why that line won’t be crossed.
- I believe that it’s not enough to be well-versed on social media tools based on personal usage but also to know how, where and when they’re best used for corporate usage, especially if advising companies is what I intend to do.
- I believe that unless I can add something positive to the conversation that it’s irresponsible of me to bash a company or another marketer for “not getting it.”
- I believe that writing about a company or brand simply to see if they will notice and respond to it – especially when there is not actual issue to be discussed – is an irresponsible use of self-publishing as it diverts resources of that company that could better be used elsewhere.
- I believe that an employer is precisely within their rights for firing people who violate their guidelines for social media usage.
- I believe that whatever I might think, it’s within every company’s rights to set their own guidelines for social media usage by employees, guidelines that are going to differ by circumstance and business model. My blog is a fine place to offer thoughts on those but those thoughts should take into account what those special considerations for industry and business model are.
- I believe that social media is measurable, but only if I know what I’m talking about.
- I believe that social media can be a stand-alone effort it can also be a component of a larger campaign that incorporates traditional media platforms and that being asked to work with an advertising or other agency is not a form of punishment against me.
- I believe that how and when to talk about client or employer efforts on my own blog is a decision that’s up to me and dependent on what I’m comfortable with.
- I believe that it’s unethical to ask someone to step outside their comfort zone when it comes to discussing client work on their personal blogs.
These are points we cannot simply give lip service to and profess our adherence to if we’re not also using them as the guideposts for our actions. If a client, manager or anyone else asks us to engage in practices outside of these it’s our responsibility to educate them and try to bring them back to the true faith.
Have any that you’d like to add?
There are two things that should make you vaguely uncomfortable, like you’re walking some sort of line between sane and insane, legal and illegal, rational and completely irresponsible.
- You’re own ideas
- The ideas of your friends and co-workers
I’m not saying you need to act on those ideas – at least not all of them – but if you’re not walking the line between what’s acceptable and not in your thinking and surrounding yourself with like-minded people then you’re probably not doing anything truly innovative or interesting. There’s a rush when you brainstorm proposals that carry with them the possibility of either being fired or getting a raise.
I went on a comic book movie binge with four of the best of the recent batch. I got the itch to watch the X-flicks back when Wolverine was coming out but didn’t get a chance to until now. And with the hype about Iron Man 2 building as pictures are released and all that I figured I’d include not only the original but also the other movie Tony Stark makes an appearance in.
Finally got around to seeing the new Star Trek flick, directed by J.J. Abrams and starring a full cast of young stars and unknown lense flairs.
I won’t get into the plot too much in case there are some that still haven’t seen it. But the story is very well written and developed and actually gives the audience a lot to chew on, especially if you’re big on piecing together and mapping out in your mind the vagaries of time travel and such. All I’ll say is that the marketing campaign did a good job of selling the movie as it is.
What I like about the movie the most is that it’s respectful to the original series without feeling a need to overtly pay homage to it. We know these characters or at least are familiar with them and so it’s easy to get invested in them and the story they’re involved in, especially since the exposition is never delivered in an incredibly heavy-handed manner. Instead it gets sprinkled here and there among the action, with the audience expected to keep up, a rare assumption that there are intelligent people watching.
One of my favorite movies, both for its Chicago setting and for John Cusack’s fantastic performance. It’s so incredibly well written and it stands up so strongly from when it was released eight or nine years ago. Cusack’s line deliveries in particular always, always kill me and make me laugh out loud regardless of how many times I watch it.
In the few weeks or so since their release, I’ve failed to see what about the guidelines for online activities by Dow Jones is provoking such a strong reaction from social media types. While I might not agree 100% with with all of them I don’t see anything that goes beyond the primary online activity rule of “Don’t do anything stupid.”
- Don’t use a false name when acting on behalf of Dow Jones: That’s just common sense.
- Base comments on facts and don’t get into partisan political arguments: This makes sense in the same way that employees of any company shouldn’t go around making ridiculous statements about competitors or do anything that’s going to impact the operations of their employers.
- Don’t recruit friends to promote your work: So basically don’t send “Please re-tweet!” emails to your family. That doesn’t mean people can’t do so of their own volition, just that you shouldn’t raise up an army.
- Be careful when connecting on social networks with contacts and sources: Again, that’s just common sense. If you’re using someone as an anonymous source but you’ve “friended” that person on Facebook, it’s not hard for third parties to draw the line between the two, defeating the point of them being anonymous.
- Don’t detail the creation process of an article: This one I’ll actually take issue with. I think, as long as it’s not breaking any journalistic ethical codes, it can be informative to see just how an investigative piece was put together. This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of using the web to publish the full transcript of an article that was excerpted for the article.
- Don’t disparage the work of competitors: Pretty much common sense.
- Don’t aggressively promote your own work: Again I’ll take issue with this one. Writers should be the biggest promoters of their own work, publishing it to Twitter, contacting bloggers who cover a similar topic and engaging in other such activities to bring a bigger audience to the piece. As long as it’s done in an above-board manner that doesn’t violate any of the other guidelines above, go for it.
- Don’t engage in impolite dialogue with critics: In blog-speak this is known as “don’t feed the trolls.”
- Avoid giving highly-specific advice to site visitors: So don’t specifically recommend a service or anything else. Makes sense.
- Clear potentially controversial posts with editors: Basically this is an extension of clearing anything else with an editor. Not a big deal.
- Business and pleasure should not be mixed on Twitter: I’ll disagree with this one as well. Writers should be building up their personal brand through a combination of promoting their professional work and connecting with people around other shared interests. If I get to know a writer on Twitter and can have a casual conversation with them in addition to a professional one I’m more likely to promote their work myself, something that’s good for everyone.
The few points of disagreement I have with the rules are more because I think they are the ones that hamstring unfairly the promotion of the content online. I don’t think any of them violate any sort of social media best practices or increase the secrecy of the media process. I just think they get in the way of writers being able to promote their works to the audience. Those sort of rules and guidelines don’t make sense to me simply because that’s how content is being found on sites like Twitter and other social networks. That sort of content needs to be part of the stream of updates in order to reach the social networking audience.