Ethics of an American Tragedy

I remember the day of the Boston Marathon Bombings very vividly. I got home from school, turned on the television and immediately texted my friend, whom I know has family in Boston, to see if everything was alright. Even though most of my days are spent on social media, this was one event that I didn’t hear about on Facebook first. However, for the rest of the time that the bombings were at the forefront of the news, most of that news came to me through social media.

In dealing with the news breaks of tragedies like this, people have many ethical dilemmas about what content to publish on social media and how that content might affect the audience. There are certain situations where someone’s heart is in the right place, but it comes off as in poor taste to the public. When a news broadcaster asked fans to “like” a photo of an injured boy on Facebook to let the boy know how many people care, it was met with some intense backlash. Even in situations that are bad, but maybe not to this extent, I always feel awkward “liking” a post with bad news. I would feel much more comfortable commenting to let the person know that I am thinking of them, rather than “liking” the post. I feel like this is what the broadcaster should have done to create the desired effect of his post, while also possibly eliminating any negative feedback. Although it could be annoying to see so many of the same message, people have the option to personalize it and truly let the boy know how they feel about him.

Courtesy of PA Media Group

In response to the image above that Ford posted to the first responders of the bombings, I saw nothing wrong with it. I can understand why people would think that Ford was doing this to push their own product, but I don’t believe they were. In an article with PR News Online, head of social media for Ford, Scott Monty said “if you manage social media for a brand, this would be a good time to suspend any additional posts for the day.” I don’t think Monty would have said that if his true intention was to sell a product during a catastrophic event like this. If people thought that Ford had an agenda more than sending out well wishes, I think they are cynical. It’s not unethical to thank someone on social media and Ford should not be made to feel bad about doing something good.

With every tragedy, there are going to be questionable moments of whether posting something on social media is ethical or not. If you’re unsure of how people will react, don’t post it. But most of all, think of every possible way the content could be misconstrued and do everything in your power to eliminate those possibilities.

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We All Strive For Accuracy

One of my biggest pet peeves when reading an article online is that it has to be accurate. Probably the most important component of trust in my eyes is accuracy. I don’t care who breaks a story first, as long as the story they’ve reported is correct. All through my undergraduate degree, in journalism no less, I wrote papers and reported news stories seemingly slower than everyone else. it would take me all day to write something that it would’ve taken someone a couple hours to write, because I made sure everything was accurate. I was so upset with myself when I failed a class assignment in one of my journalism classes because I had one incorrect fact; luckily that story was never published.

When it comes to social media, I think speed unfortunately can take even more of a precedence over accuracy. I am constantly referring to the story of Kyle Massey’s cancer hoax┬áto show what can happen on social media when the facts are not checked. I rarely ever believe something first if I read it on social media, unless I’ve checked with a credible news source beforehand and go back to social media to read the reactions. I also rarely ever say to not pay attention to social media, but sometimes news organizations need to do that. If they want their audience to take them seriously, news organizations need to stay focused on reporting the news as accurately as possible. The publications that turn out to be inaccurate will lose viewership because they cannot be trusted, while the accurate ones will remain on top. I also believe that if a news organization is going to publish a story on social media, which they all should be doing, do not hit “publish”, “post” or “tweet” until you are sure every fact has been checked. If it’s an opinion, say it’s an opinion, but don’t make it seem like it could be fact, especially the way things can spin out of control on social. Speed is great if it is possible, but I would rather be trusted because I am accurate than fast.

The other question posed this week is whether it is ethically right to “unpublish” a story on social media if it turns out to be inaccurate. The short version of that is, it is unethical to erase a story that is inaccurate. There’s a good chance at least one person saw the story or post before it was deleted. It seems to me that it is more ethical to own up to your mistakes, which includes leaving the mistake on social, but clarifying or correcting it for your audience. People are human, we make mistakes. If you want to prove to your audience that it is a real person moderating the social media accounts, don’t pretend like something never happened. You can make a new post with the edits and clarifications, but do not “unpublish” the original mistake.

All In Social Moderation

When I consider behavior patterns on social media, I don’t think Facebook and Twitter are all that different for the average person. When it comes to language, people seem to be just as informal on Twitter as they are on Facebook. I think people tend to say more on Facebook just because they can. Many of the things posted on social media require an explanation or backstory that cannot be explained in 140 characters. For me, I’m more laid back on Facebook than I am on Twitter. I think because of the character restriction, I have to think long and hard about what I’m going to say on Twitter. That is why I think I use Facebook for pleasure and I use Twitter for school-and-work-related business.

I know I take more chances on Twitter than I do on Facebook, especially when it comes to engaging with other people, particularly celebrities. On Facebook, I moderate what I say in content because it’s just my friends and I am not sure how they are going to respond to what I post. With Twitter, some of my followers are complete strangers and the celebrities I tweet are not personal friends of mine. So I actually feel more comfortable posting things to strangers than I do my friends. I don’t care if someone I don’t know wants to ignore me or thinks what I said was dumb, but I care about what my friends think of me.

Moving to the content I post on each channel, I think Facebook is where I can be myself and post about my personal life or things I find interesting. I try not to post about a high score on a game to annoy my audience, but I will send a game request if I need one because that’s private between two people. I haven’t posted something about school in six months, which means I’m actually using Facebook to be social. On my Twitter profile, you will see many retweets or mentions of other people. I try to engage as many as I can to increase my followers. My postings also aren’t as frequent on Twitter because of my issues with the character count that I mentioned before. I actually didn’t post on Twitter for over two months because I didn’t have anything that interesting to post.

Ethically, I don’t see much of a difference in what people say between Facebook and Twitter. I think people moderate and respond to comments on Facebook more than they respond on Twitter. The response on Twitter is usually just the few words they can fit into a retweet, but not an actual thought out response. I think most of the time people don’t moderate, they sit back and enjoy the fact that people are paying attention to them. Moderation for any business is important because it shows the audience you’re listening and that you care, which I’m learning in my job.

You Break It, A Video Makes You Buy It

As an audience member watching Dave Carroll’s music video for “United Breaks Guitars,” I was thoroughly entertained. If I were an Online Reputation Manager for United Airlines, I would be embarrassed that the problem had escalated to this level. Because of this incident, I would not only have to fix the reputation of United Airlines in Carroll’s view, but for the entire audience that also watched the video.

First let’s focus on the most important person in this situation, Dave Carroll. Without even knowing the full story, I would sincerely apologize to him for what he has gone through. I might tell him an anecdote of a less than ideal experience I have had on a plane to let him know that I understand the frustration he is feeling. Then I would reassure him that the next time he flew with United, someone would see to it that his luggage was handled with care when it is loaded onto the plane. I would also try to find out who he spoke to during his request and find out if they acted under the current policy of United Airlines. If not, I would make sure the people in charge were made aware of the situation so they could reprimand the employees who didn’t act properly.

United would gladly reimburse Carroll for the guitar that was damaged or replace it altogether, as well as extra compensation for the year that it took for this problem to be resolved. The compensation can be ethically justified because United was not swift in trying to fix the issue. I would ask Dave Carroll if there was anything else United Airlines could do for him. I might consider asking for his input on how we can handle these types of situations if they were ever to come up again. Finally, I would check in with him via social media occasionally to see if he had received his compensation and if he was satisfied with the outcome of this problem.

As for the United Airlines audience who viewed this video, it might be difficult to salvage the reputation of the airline in their eyes. I would release a public statement on social media, stating that we apologize for the delay, we are working with Carroll to resolve the issue and anyone else having an issue is encouraged to contact us. I would inform the audience that we are training our current and new luggage handlers to be more careful so we can prevent another incident like this in the future. I would not grovel, but I would also say that I hope this incident does not change the minds of the audience to choose United Airlines for their future travels.

Using My Voice To Build Relationships

This week’s lecture brought up a topic that I’ve been analyzing for several weeks now, finding my voice on social media. I want to be as authentic as possible, but it’s more difficult for me because I also want to be perfect. I definitely have a different voice in written form (emails, social media, blogs etc.) than I do on the phone or in person. Social media is my area to take chances and be bolder with my relationships than I would over the phone or in person, because I can hide behind a computer. That’s an ethical quandary in itself. Once I find and become comfortable in my voice, I think building relationships will become much easier.

As I look over the checklist of advice on finding my voice provided to us in lecture, I have not perfected any of these items, but I’m more confident in certain areas. On Facebook, in both my professional account with the O.C.D. Experience and my personal account, I usually don’t speak unless I’m spoken to. I feel like that aligns with my personality because I am always approachable, but not usually the approacher. I always respond to every message I receive on Facebook, but I’m beginning to send more messages than I used to, at least on my personal account. As I get more confident in my job with the O.C.D. Experience, I may start to make connections that will improve the reach of the brand. Twitter for some reason gives me more confidence to grow my personal brand of becoming a music critic, because I have reached out to, and gotten responses from a few people in the industry that can help later on.

I feel like my natural tone in my writing is a healthy mix of passion and sarcasm. If I enjoy what I am writing about in blogs or social media, the audience will be able to feel that when they read it. When I enjoy writing, I am usually very conversational and human. If not I sound like a robot, which annoys me probably more than it annoys my audience. Unless I am doing something for school, I make myself available at all times for engaging with the audience of the O.C.D. Experience and I respond as quickly as I can. As a company, O.C.D. Experience has lessened the amount we sell on social media, because after a while the same people are seeing the same messages all the time. This can ruin relationships rather than build them.

I think the reason some brands see quick response as a threat is because it challenges them to be better. When responding to a customer’s needs, I respond as fast as I can because that’s what they need from me, moreso than what’s most beneficial to the company. Maintaining good relationships by responding to the needs of the audience will be beneficial to both the audience and the brand because it allows for brand loyalty and maintaining relationships.

 

Ethical Dilemma of Facebook

I have had a fairly substantial background with the idea of ethics as it relates to journalism. In my time studying journalism at the University of Arizona, I may have only had one formal ethics class, but the idea has been weaved through many of my other classes as well as my personal work. The part of the dictionary definitions of ethics and morals that strikes a nerve with me is the idea that morals are concerned with an entire society and not necessarily an individual. There should be certain universal morals of course, but the idea that an entire society dictates what’s right or wrong for one person to do irks me a little bit. I like the idea of moral dilemmas, because the “right decision” for one person within that society might not be the “right decision” for a different person in that society.

With regard to this week’s main discussion on whether it is ethical to send a friend request on Facebook to a murder suspect’s friend if you are a journalist, I would say yes it is. Means of contact are growing and I think as long as it is ethical to contact the murder suspect’s friend through phone or email, then social media should be OK as well. Speaking to the friend of the murder suspect has journalistic value, as lecture states, and as long as that source agrees to talk to you everything is fine in my book.

The video brought up the idea of whether or not the journalist should hide their identity as a journalist when sending the friend request. This is something I would never do because I find it unethical, however I understand and respect the arguments to the contrary. Certain situations like uncovering potential crimes would deem it necessary that a journalist hide their identity to obtain the story and I am OK with that. If there is a potential threat to any person and the only way to uncover that threat is by going undercover or concealing your identity, by all means do it. If this murder suspect has the potential to hurt other people and talking to the friend while your identity is concealed is the only way to help prevent future crimes, do it. But if the journalist is only interested in the story and not the well-being of the audience or the source, that to me in unethical.

However, nowadays many posts that appear on someone’s Facebook profile are public because they don’t take the time to make every post private or don’t fully comprehend the privacy terms and conditions. If you can find public information without having to send a friend request to the suspect’s friend, or if the request you do send is denied, that is also within the realm of things that are ethical to do in order to obtain the story.

I would take utilitarian approach when weighing the pros and cons of sending a friend request to the murder suspect’s friend. My duty would lie with the audience who may be affected by this story, which includes the source, the murder suspect’s family and the murder victim’s family. I think the model of motivation, likely effects and where your duty lies is acceptable in this as well as most cases of an ethical dilemma. I may not always use the same order when examining an ethical dilemma, but each aspect almost always comes into play.

Putting Value on the Priceless

I thought that half of the readings this week were trying to force a number onto something that couldn’t necessarily be computed. The other half was like a story that found its footing at the end and turned in two of my favorite articles of the semester. As a storyteller, it will be my job of telling you the “facts” of the supposed monetary value of social media first before I dive into the longstanding effects social media on your personal life.

Mashable basically told me that in order to gain measurable return on investment or ROI, you need to be personable and interact with the audience. It’s a concept that’s basically been beaten to death in the last 10+ weeks, if you don’t please your audience, your product suffers. Also being fake and not having great content hinders your ability to sell. Tell me something I don’t know yet. I feel like what they are doing with this article is just recapping everything we’ve learned into one compact place and it didn’t really have an effect or give me an epiphany moment. If this were the story’s introduction, I would have stopped reading already.

Sales Force Marketing Cloud wrote an article that could have easily been titled “Social Media Fundraising 101” because knowing what I know now from my time in this program, I could’ve deduced all of those tips if I wanted to create a fundraising campaign. These tips can also be handy when running a business, so I don’t necessarily think that it needed to be just about fundraising. I was looking for something to jump out at me and convince me that there’s something unique about this approach, but there wasn’t. Now that I think about it, the article could have been titled “How to Market Anything You Want Using Social Media”, because these tips should come into play 100% of the time.

Now for the more redeemable conclusion to ROI story, there’s no singular way to do it says Raven Tools. I swear Courtney Seiter, who wrote this article, went into my brain pulled out exactly what I wanted to say about ROI. Don’t set impossible goals or try to do math that makes your head hurt. Do what you do best on social media and the results will please you. I completely understand and agree with her stance that as journalists we need the answers. But as a critic, where I come up with my own answers and nobody else’s, this notion of do what you do best really speaks to me. E!, Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone are three of my favorite brands, but all of them have completely different approaches to social media and they’re all successful. Everyone has a different voice and personality and shouldn’t be told that they have to do it one way to excel.

My other favorite article this week, for completely different reasons, was The Atlantic’s piece on how social media is helping, not hurting, the most important investment of all which is the human relationship. I want to show this to all the naysayers of social media, shake them and tell them to join this century. Playing devil’s advocate here, I hate when you’re trying to have a face-to-face conversation and they can’t put the phone down. But, that’s just one instance where I don’t think social media benefits a person in the long run. There are few occasions where I outwardly pimp my brand, the Social Roller, or use my disability to prove a point, but when other people do that for me, it makes me happy. I would not be getting a master’s degree right now if it weren’t for social media. I think being able to use Facebook and Twitter (among others) can help me become a better journalist and a better marketer because it gives me the access to human contact that I sometimes rarely get without the help of my parents or city transportation. Social media helped me immensely when I was in the hospital for several weeks unable to attend school, I would have gone crazy without it. In short, social media is my life saver and no amount of money can come close to the ROI I have received in being an active social media user.

What are your thoughts on social media ROI: can it be calculated and should it be calculated?

Did you learn anything new or helpful about ROI in the articles by Mashable or Sales Force Marketing Cloud?