Workplace Ethics: How Much Social Media is Too Much?

Social_Media_@work1Do you “Facebook” at work? Is your Twitter feed constantly open? For me, the answer is “yes.” I justify it because I monitor my organization’s social media platforms. But the truth is I’m not always on those pages. Okay, I’ve admitted it. Now will you?

Many employers are battling with social media. How much is too much at work? In 2012, the National Business Ethics Survey of Social Networks surveyed 2,089 U.S. workers and found 72% use social networks at work. So, how can employers ensure employees are being productive while also being paid. Is it realistic to monitor these online activities? I don’t think so. At least not on a daily basis.

A question posed this week: Would it be ethical for an employer to check employees online history to see how much time they spend on social media? The argument is that these employees are being paid, so why not? Well, I do think this is unethical. I think as long as an employee is getting their work done, and doing it well and on deadline, the amount of time it takes to get it done is irrelevant.

Facebook-at-workAt most companies, if you’re doing your job your boss stays off your case. If you’re not, well then you’re usually monitored more closely. I think in the latter case it would be appropriate for a boss to ask more frequently about what an employee is doing, but again not go as far as to check their online history. This should only happen when illegal or inappropriate activity is suspected. If an employee is not being productive they should be reprimanded, whether this is for personal social media use, smoking breaks, or personal conversations with colleagues. Any of these things could lead to employees not getting their work done.

Picture-Social-Media-PolicyMany companies’ social media policies state that employees are representing the brand even when they are not working, so posting negative or detrimental information could result in consequences. I personally am okay with this type of guideline. Even if I don’t always agree with the decisions made at my organization, I am grateful I have a job and I also realize it could be a lot worse.

How can you ensure your employees are aware and knowledgable about social media policies? At my company it’s part of our annual inservices or training. Along with learning about sexual harassment polices or safety in the workplace, we learn about how to conduct ourselves online (especially when dealing with patients and HIPAA concerns). This is mandatory for every employee, even those who are not using social media. At the end there’s a test and employees must pass to make sure the information is clearly understood. I think more companies should implement yearly trainings like this, not just as a refresher course, but also to discuss any industry changes and up-to-date information.

If employees aren’t loyal advocates for a brand who will be? Be professional. In person or online. That’s what it comes down to.


When was the Last Time You Checked Your Privacy Settings?

Lock Icon: FacebookIf your answer was more than a year ago, you may want to log onto your social networks and take a gander at what people can really see when you publish content. Or if you’ve never checked your settings (especially on Facebook), learn how… now. But don’t feel like you are the only one dropping the ball on your own privacy, according to Consumer Reports 13 million people have never looked at their privacy settings. Wow.

Personally, I check my settings every couple of months or as often as I hear Facebook, specifically, is making changes. I always want to be sure I know what can be seen by my friends and by strangers. For me, I want strangers seeing as little as possible, and depending on how you use social media you may feel the same way.

Even though, Facebook has received much deserved criticism over its privacy settings, I think much of the accountability actually falls on the user. We choose to sign up for a social network. We are not forced. Therefore, we should be aware of where our information is going and who is seeing it. Facebook and other social networks have made it easier to learn about privacy settings, either by looking under your account settings or searching on the site for them. I’ve noticed Facebook has announced when major changes are happening. This extra help can serve as a reminder for users who aren’t as in tune with their privacy settings.

Crossing the Line

Facebook Privacy SettingsIs it ethical for reporters to use social media to contact people in sensitive news situations? I think if the reporter doesn’t identify themselves in as a professional, then “yes” it is unethical. As journalists, we should always identify ourselves as such when we are working. A reporter wouldn’t go to a person’s door and not introduce themselves, same goes for a phone interview. If they fail to do this, they really aren’t a true journalist in my opinion.

People keep their profiles “private” for a reason: they don’t want people they don’t know seeing their content. There is nothing wrong with this. Reporters should respect this. If a news situation calls for contacting someone on Facebook (or any social network) the reporter should always identify themselves in a professional manner. And they should certainly never publish information from a private profile without consent.

Now if the profile is public, then I say it’s fair game for capturing screenshots for stories. We see this done all of the time. But journalists have to be careful. If you republish something because it’s public, that doesn’t mean you don’t confirm the source or validate the content. Just because it’s public doesn’t mean the information is accurate. As for contacting someone with a public profile, I think journalists should still always identify themselves.

So, if you still need convincing on checking your Facebook privacy settings (and getting in a regular habit of doing so) this NBC News video, sums it up in 30 seconds.

Social Media: Trust No One or Everyone?

socialmediafriendsHow many Facebook friends do you have? How many Twitter followers do you have? When I think about my respective numbers: 804 and 334, do I trust each and every one of them? No. Do they all trust me? Probably, not. Social media makes it so easy for us to connect with people from all of the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we are developing stronger relationships with these people.

In a traditional way of thinking, trust is something that is earned over time and through multiple personal interactions. On social media, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. A person can be following someone’s updates for awhile before ever actually engaging with that person. You could be earning someone’s trust and not even know it. For me, when it comes to Facebook or Twitter, I look to follow people who post valuable content in my opinion. That could mean a number of different things: something I find humorous, something I can relate to, something I can use on a school assignment, something I can share with a co-worker, etc. Nothing can earn trust more on social media than valuable content.

One of the great things about social media is you don’t actual have to know someone personally to gain their trust. In a 2012 study, 51% of Millennials (age 18-34) say they trust user-generated content and anonymous reviews over recommendations from friends or family. Word-of-mouth recommendations take on a whole new meaning on social media.

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 10.49.20 PMSomeone specifically that I “trust” on social media is Kim Garst. Not only does Kim post interesting information concerning social media trends and platforms, she also posts motivational content and keeps her online presence very “human.” (see screenshots). While I’ve never met Kim in person (I hope I can someday), I trust her because I find her content helpful, valuable, motivational. If she endorsed a certain company, platform, or person I would trust her opinion because she has proven herself to me as a trustworthy resource on social media.

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Another thing to consider when discussing social media and trust is engagement. Social media is a two-way communication tool. If users engage with brands or individuals, we want a response — even if it’s just a “like” or a “retweet.” That small acknowledgement can go a long way with users.

I’m by no means a social media “guru” or “expert” but I feel like I’m laying the groundwork for when someday I could be a trusted resource for others. The benefit I think I bring from my trust is “retweets” and “shares” and mentions in my blog. While a whole lot of people may not be following me yet, I’m hoping to build on that credibility by mentioning other credible sources, and in turn their content is reaching a broader audience. Sharing each other’s content and engaging with one another is what social media is all about. The more we do those things the more trust we will be able to create.

How do you measure trust on social media? Is a “like” or a “retweet” enough for you or do you need a deeper level of engagement?

Has a brand or individual been able to regain your trust through social media after losing it?



“Just Trust Me!” Building Trust on Social Media is a Science


Social media has enabled us to talk with each other very easily and often. But has it really helped us develop meaningful relationships? Not always. Yes, we may be “connected” to more people on a daily basis, but can we trust those people (or brands)? Who is on the other end of the keyboard? Is anyone really listening?

Trust is something that can be hard to earn, especially online. Brands and individuals struggle with gaining the trust of their followers, but it can be done. This week, we learned about Steve Rayson’s Trust Formula:

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 9.43.15 PMA stands for Authority

H stands for Helpfulness

I stands for Intimacy

SP stands for Self Promotion

In addition, we added R for Reliability to the numerator. But when thinking about earning followers’ trust. Are there more components that should be added to this equation? I believe so.

I think a C should be added to the equation for Creativity. What do I mean by this? Well, digital communication should be creative by nature, yet not all brands are taking creativity into account. Not only do brands need to be helpful, responsive, and reliable, they should also bring a unique value to their content. For instance, if a brand gets several customers/fans tweeting to them about an issue or problem, yes a tweet responding right away is great, but maybe brands could take it a step further. Maybe snap a picture saying ‘We are working on [insert problem]. Thank you!” or shoot a short video from a company executive saying the issue is being addressed. Then when there is a resolution, another video could be posted with that messaging. These images/videos could then be repurposed on other social networks to highlight the resolution. Even if your company doesn’t think it’s smart to bring attention to a negative situation, making good on that situation, in a creative way can help you regain trust from those specific followers or gain the respect of others who see are watching your brand.

Another addition to the equation: V for Values. Reputation and trust are built over time. I think many companies need to align their social media strategy and tactics with the overall company values. At my company, Carilion Clinic, we have five values we are charged with honoring: Commitment, Courage, CommUNITY, Compassion, Curiosity. As a healthcare organization, every employee is charged with not only showing these values to our patients, but also our colleagues and our community. On social media, we implement these values with every interaction and engagement. We not only practice them, but we highlight our employees who showcase these values on social media, such as in this video:

I believe adding creativity and values to your formula for building trust on social media is key to finding success with your followers. For myself, I only engage with brands that engage back. Social media is a two-way communication tool and brands who don’t use it that way will fail with building trust amongst followers.