Farris Timimi, M.D., Medical Director for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, recently published the Clinic’s social media policy, which can be boiled down to 6 words:
Don’t Lie, Don’t Pry
Don’t Cheat, Can’t Delete
Don’t Steal, Don’t Reveal
Is that a little too succinct? Let’s explore it further.
- Don’t lie. This is a good rule in general, of course. But too many people like to hide behind what they think is the anonymity of the Internet. Forget it. Everything online is there to stay, and everything can be found with the right search.
- Don’t pry. Dr. Timimi’s advice was created for healthcare workers, who are bound by different privacy laws than the rest of us. But it can’t hurt for us to act as if we follow the same laws: Don’t use social media platforms and online interactions to seek out personal data, no matter what your business is.
- Don’t cheat. In the social media world, you’ll be found out. How many stories have you read in the news recently about big companies setting up fake accounts to defend their reputations or secretly paying bloggers to write positive pieces about them? When you’re found out, you’ll lose your customers’ trust.
- Can’t delete. As we said above, things can never truly be deleted from the Internet. So you really need to think before you type. First, if it’s at all possible to recognize who you’re talking about, what you publish needs to be 100 percent truthful—unless you want to be sued for libel. Second, consider your audience. Will your post or comment be appropriate? And finally, does your post add value to the ongoing conversation? Unlike a spoken faux pas, something you publish on the Internet can be repeated endlessly.
- Don’t steal. The same rules that applied in college when you were writing papers apply here: Give credit to every source. Just because you read it online instead of in a book doesn’t mean you can use someone else’s information and call it your own. If you want to quote a short segment, link back. If you want to include someone else’s entire post on your blog, get their permission. On Twitter, make sure to include the original poster’s handle when you retweet or forward.
- Don’t reveal. You’d think this would be obvious, but don’t post proprietary or confidential information of any kind on social platforms. Your company should have a social media policy in place that you can consult if you’re not sure. If they don’t, always err on the side of caution.
Essentially, the same general rules that apply in real life apply to online interaction, but breaking one will happen in front of a much larger audience. So let these words be your guide to avoiding the potential pitfalls of social media.
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