As communicators, we have the responsibility to use social media ethically. The amount of content that is pushed out daily across social media platforms is insurmountable, and we need to ask ourselves how much of it is true? How much of it exploits emotion? How much of it is misleading?
Social media has the power to influence decisions and shape minds – in both positive and negative ways. It is our duty as public relations professionals to fight the good fight and push out social media that contributes to the conversation in a positive way, or at least, an ethical way. No matter what the subject or strategy behind a post, at the center lies pillars to adhere to such as transparency, authenticity, avoiding misleading information and giving credit where credit is due, to mention a few.
It is also our responsibility to navigate the various social media platforms with the understanding that the way they function are defined by its algorithms, but that social media is only as valuable as the users make it out to be. Users go to each social media platform to fulfill a specific need, and our job is to create content that fits those needs while being cognizant of the pitfalls. For instance, “When it comes to where Americans regularly get news on social media, Facebook outpaces all other social media sites. Roughly a third of U.S. adults (31%) say they regularly get news from Facebook. A quarter of U.S. adults regularly get news from YouTube, while smaller shares get news from Twitter (14%), Instagram (13%), TikTok (10%) or Reddit (8%). Fewer Americans regularly get news from LinkedIn (4%), Snapchat (4%), Nextdoor (4%), WhatsApp (3%) or Twitch (1%),” according to Pew Research Center. It may be that although users go to these platforms to get news, those producing the content do not have the priority of accurately reporting news; and therefore, a need is not being appropriately and effectively met. While you cannot control what others post, you can be proactive in posting ethically.
When contributing to a conversation or posting on behalf of your brand, approach it from an accurate and factual standpoint, rather than reactionary and emotional. Whatever it is that you need to share should be seen as a positive contribution to the overall conversation – even if not everyone agrees – rather than inflammatory or derogatory criticism towards a viewpoint, individuals, organizations, etc. Moreover, it’s about avoiding shock value and providing valid, educational, and insightful commentary that is productive towards an open-minded conversation, even when emotion is justified.
The intention to join a conversation should also focus on portraying your brand’s values and what it stands for from an authentic point of view in a professional, eloquent matter. It’s about using the power of social media to empower your brand without tearing down anyone else’s. Creating trusting relationships with those that consume your content by contributing positively to their feeds should be at the forefront, and to do so, you must focus on transparency, authenticity and accuracy.
In the world of social media, you will encounter all sorts of content that ranges from altruistic to malicious. While we may be limited in stopping manipulative content from surfacing and reliant on the parameters of what platforms do or don’t allow, it is our job to continue fighting the good fight and do our best to provide trustworthy, insightful and transformative content. We have the power to influence, and with that power comes great responsibility.
Gloria Rodriguez, CEO/President, RF Comunicad