Most people who use social media have followers and friends they don’t really know in person. They will regularly like or retweet comments that they feel are relevant, irrespective of the source. This is because social media seems to have developed its own, unique, code of ethics. Matthew Knouff has been at the forefront of developing this code of ethics, feeling it is important to raise awareness of this. This is particularly because so many people feel social media is completely unethical.
Twitter Follow Backs
Most people who get a follow on Twitter will follow them back automatically, without being able to say why. According to Knouff, it is because they feel that following someone back acknowledges the interaction. It is a digital way of saying “thank you”, for instance. It is something that you don’t have to do, but people simply find it feels right. Other times, it is done on purpose, in the hopes of building a longer relationship with that person, or they do it because they hope they will find an audience with that person’s follower. In fact, Twitter even has #FollowFriday, which means people start following random people every Friday!
Then, there is the issue of Facebook likes. A lot of people like something just to make it clear that they have read it, not because they actually agree with what is being said. There has been some change in this with the new emojis that Facebook offers, but it is still used mainly to acknowledge the content has been read. For businesses, this can be tricky. They can be seen to “like” something that they really shouldn’t like. The other key issue, and that is one that is strongly involved with ethics, is that of clickbait. For instance, some highly controversial organizations have created images such as “like and share if you like puppies”, which has enabled them to grow their audience across millions of followers, when they actually have no link to puppies. If a customer were to see that a business has liked a clickbait, it can do tremendous damage to their reputation.
Last but not least, there is the issue of accepting someone as a “friend” on Facebook. This should not be an issue for businesses, as they should have pages, rather than profiles. However, company employees may have profiles, and this could lead to them accepting friends requests from random people. Once upon a time, the more friends someone had, the prouder they could be. Today, however, it simply represents that someone spends way too much time on Facebook. Additionally, there is the very real danger of accepting people as friends who are known hackers, spammers, or other unsavory characters. Again, those are the types of people that businesses want to avoid if they are to maintain a positive reputation.
The code of ethics of social media is still being developed, not in the least because the rules seem to be changing all the time. What the future will bring is anybody’s guess.