Social media is now an integral part of both business and personal life. As a result of this, certain rules around etiquette and ethics have to be followed. However, this is uncharted territory, and many struggle to really define what it is. Experts like Matthew Knouff, however, are dedicating themselves to professionally defining this.

What Are Ethics and Etiquette?

Ethics is about knowing what is right and wrong and behaving accordingly. In the social media world, this means providing the right perspective on how social media can be used to engage an audience. Etiquette, meanwhile, is a behavioral code aligned with societal norms. In terms of social media, ethics and etiquette are very close, as it is all about behaving the right way. Not spamming, for instance, is an excellent example of both ethics and etiquette on social media.

The Social Media Community

Social media is a global community and you have the opportunity to connect with anyone within that community. And, just as in any other community, there is a place for business at set times, and people expect to be treated kindly and respectfully. Every person has their own boundaries, and these should always be respected. This means there is no place for aggressive marketing techniques. Rather, social media is about sharing experiences and building relationships.

Knouff has developed three key principles of ethics and etiquette on social media:

  1. Being authentic. If you are sincere, you will receive positive responses.
  2. Being transparent. Nobody likes hidden agendas.
  3. Understanding that communication is a two-way street.

All communications should be open and honest. Show your audience who you are and what you believe in. This builds respect and trust and enables you to establish a rapport. Telling the truth is an ethical value, and one that is reciprocated. Etiquette should be for you to identify yourself, tell people what you intend to do, and be clear about your affiliations.

Then, there is transparency. The ethical thing to do is share information that could be of benefit to others. Etiquette is about telling the truth, even if the truth hurts.

Lastly, there is communication and you are nothing without it. Mutual conversations are valuable to others. Yes, you should want to sell your products and services, but social media has stopped the era of hard sales. Communication will do far more for your bottom line. Spreading your message through social media is the ethical thing to do, so long as you believe your information is interesting to others. However, how you do this is very important. The goal is to get people to trust you and to enter into a relationship with you. You have to set yourself up as an expert, and that means engaging in long-term conversations with people.

With these tips, businesses should be able to maximize the benefits they get from using social media. People like Matthew Knouff are working very hard at creating a globally accepted framework for this. However, in the meantime, understanding basic ethical considerations and proper etiquette is the most important thing.