Social Media and Online Marketing Ethics

Social media has grown exponentially in the past five years and continues to grow. More and more companies are recognizing social media’s importance and are finding the need to get their name out there not only with their website, but with social networks as well. Rules and ethics have to be considered when composing an online identity.

Social media and online forums enable for better engagement with the audience. Not only can viewers obtain information, but they also can comment and ask questions. The journalist in turn can provide additional feedback. Also, social media has become a fast and easy way to get information out quickly to a large audience. Because of this, social networks need to be monitored constantly to provide accurate and ethical information. The Web has ended the one way flow of communication entirely.

Today, public figures are speaking directly to the public through online networks. Five years ago, we did not know what Charlie Sheen had for breakfast everyday.

Because of the easy access and publicity involved in forums and social networks, false advertising occurs much more frequently. Therefore, having professionals who can monitor and sift through information and people is necessary in making sure the right information gets out to the public. The best way to describe the need for regulation is in the text Producing Online News: Digital Skills, Stronger Stories by Ryan M. Thornburg. Thornburg states, “Setting up a place on website where readers can discuss news and then ignoring them when they come there is a bit like throwing a party at your house and then going upstairs to take a nap. The guests will certainly help themselves to the drinks in your fridge, but they are likely to leave the place a mess.”

Online ethics are important to always keep in mind with online marketing. How you portray yourself through social media projects on how you are perceived as a journalist. Anything that is posted online is out there forever and you no longer have control over who can and cannot see it. Even if you have restrictions on who can see the site, viewers can take screen shots of what they see and show it to whomever they like.

In order to manage legal and ethical issues, a code of conduct needs to be created on a website. The code needs to address treatment of community members and website restrictions.

As an online journalist, I find it essential to have rules and regulations such as:

  • Prohibition of vulgar comments
  • Protecting privacy of users and quotes used
  • Keeping advertising out of editorial sections
  • No Impersonation
  • Do not post copyrighted material
  • Banning threats or hate speech

Most importantly, use common sense! YouTube starts of their code of conduct perfectly: “Respect the YouTube Community: We’re not asking for the kind of respect reserved for nuns, the elderly, and brain surgeons.  We mean don’t abuse the site. Every cool new community feature on YouTube involves a certain level of trust. We trust you to be responsible, and millions of users respect that trust. Please be one of them.”  To check out the rest of the guidelines go to

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