Ethics of PR and Social Media are always up for debate. Every time something new is brought up on social media, people are debating if that is ethical or not. For my opinion, ethical choices come from trust. People in positions of authority on social media, whether from celebrity, blogging, politics, or any other field have influence that they need to make sure they aren’t using in a wrong way. According to utilitarianism, an action is right if it tends to promote happiness and wrong if produces the reverse of happiness—not just the happiness of the person who made the choice but also everyone affected by it. For me, happiness and trust are linked. Ethical social media involves posts that promote positivity, push positive messages, honesty and good causes, and uplifts the spirit. Unethical social media is when facts are withheld, negative messages are pushes, and people use their influence to potential harm people.
A great example of ethical social media is the company TOMS. Though a famous company, they use their social media for good. They donate a pair of TOMS to those in need for every shoe purchased. Their Facebook page continues to promote positive messages, and help charities get their word out. TOMS gets involved in the community and encourages their customers to do the same. The post featured below deals with Stevie Wonder performing at The Global Citizen Festival, and how TOMS was proud to sponsor this event and be involved with this charity.
One of the most common examples of unethical social media lies in not disclosing sponsorship or free product. The FTC updated its guidelines recently dealing with disclosures on social media. Trust is really critical on social media and blogging. When people trust an influencer, such as The Pioneer Women, they will be more inclined to buy what she recommends. But, if she doesn’t disclose that a product was given to her to review, or that she chose this product to back because she already used it, it may give people the wrong impression. A great example of this was brought to my attention from a Forbes article, In 2006, Wal-Mart suffered a slew of negative publicity when its PR agency Edelman supported two bloggers road tripping across the U.S. writing positive stories about Wal-Mart through the organization Working Families for Wal-Mart. The blogging was gaining traction until BusinessWeek broke the story that the trip expenses for the blogger were being paid indirectly by Wal-Mart. This article also breaks down a few other really unethical, and offensive social media issues.