Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ethical Practices in Social Media: Can Someone Tell Me Where to Find Them?

I have just sat through another presentation laying out the rules of the road for ethical guidelines within social media. The description of the talk along with its presenter had given me such high hopes. I actually thought that maybe I would glean some nugget of wisdom. But it was not to be and instead of actually learning something useful, I sat through yet another speech on common sense. Although interestingly, based on some of the case studies of those that have gone astray, I seem to be way ahead of the game:) Along with this, it is always entertaining to listen to the case study of the company that thought it was okay to pay an "independent" blogger for a positive post. Laughable even.

Regardless of how strict one might think the guidelines should be, there is a need. If you think about it, speed limits were probably put in place for people who aren't skilled drivers, might push it just a bit to far and cause an accident or get themselves killed. I think the same holds true for bloggers, although the consequences are likely to be less severe. At the end of the day, we can't have one person or group destroying the credibility of an entire community.

The guidelines must speak to a broad range of topics and not be limited to addressing "pay for play" issues. To start with, we need a standardized system by which bloggers can be both rated and ranked. The system must be based on an algorithm that people who didn't major in Mathematics can understand and one that can't be gamed. There should also be some way to measure credibility on which a critical mass can agree and we need to get past the "if you don't do this for me, I am going to write a nasty post about you." Those social media extortionists are the worst. I sometimes daydream of making a sport out of exposing these people. How do they sleep? Anyway, bless their hearts (great phrase I picked up here in the South that comes in handy when you have nothing nice to say).

Who will take this on? How can we develop guidelines that aren't unnecessarily strict, but that can help us all be more productive in the quality of information we are sharing, and speak to best practices around where and how it is being shared? I feel like the concept that "social media makes everyone a reporter" will plateau and innovation will slow without some framework.

Any volunteers?