Social media is about people and communication, so there’s always been a connection between social media, ethics and behaviour. People who don’t use social media are bombarded with negative press about it, such as stories of people losing their jobs because of something they’ve shared on Facebook.
Recently the Twitter joke trial reached the High Court. Paul Chambers, tweeting to his friends (but in the public forum of Twitter) in January 2010, seeing that Robin Hood airport was closed because of snow, he playfully tweeted “You’ve got a week… otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!” He got a criminal conviction and lost his job. He is now appealing against his conviction in the High Court.
Social Media is an absolute boon for the virtual leader but how do we decide what to share on social networks? How can we be sure we are acting ethically? Professor Roger Steare has developed a framework for making the right decisions which is outlined in his book ethicability® – How to decide what’s right and find the courage to do it. This framework has been adopted as part of the Code of Conduct at BP and is the basis of the leadership and business ethics programs that Steare develops for such organisations as HSBC, PwC and Citigroup.
The framework contains an easy to remember mnemonic: RIGHT. Let’s take a look at how this might work with social media. These questions will be helpful to work through either for you as an individual as you decide how you want to use social media or if you’re putting together a social media campaign for your business:
What are the RULES?
Am I allowed to share this? Find out what your company’s social media policy is (if you have one) and identify whether there are certain things you are and are not allowed to say. Is what you are saying illegal or could it result in a legal challenge?
Are we acting with INTEGRITY?
Is what you are saying in line with your personal values? Ten moral values that Steare outlines in his book are wisdom, fairness, courage, self-control, trust, hope, love, honesty, humility and excellence.
Who is this GOOD for?
Who will this tweet or status update benefit? What will the positive consequences be for other people of what I share?
Who could we HARM?
Will what I am about to share hurt anyone? What might be the negative outcomes of what I share?
What’s the TRUTH?
Am I being open and honest? Authenticity in social media is really important – people can usually spot a fake very quickly.
Last September I blogged about the ethical failure of a Twitter campaign run by American Express called #amexbeinspired – I can only think that if they had worked through this ethicability® RIGHT framework as they were planning their campaign that it would have looked very different indeed!
If you want to find out a bit more about how you prefer to make decisions – what Roger Steare calls your ‘Moral DNA™’ – you can take a free personality test here.