There’s a lot of bad behaviour online and it’s not all by mean-spirited individuals and spiteful celebrities with an axe to grind.
It’s a sad fact that inflammatory words get a lot of attention. And businesses have been increasingly approving the posting of inflammatory content in their online communities because it is ‘on brand’, boosting their traffic and time on site figures.
Now there’s a Code of Ethics for Online Community Management. An Australian first, developed by the co-founders of online community management conference, Swarm, Alison Michalk and Venessa Paech. And a world first.
It draws a line in the sand between acceptable content and trolling or abuse.
The new Code makes it clear that chasing engagement outcomes at any cost is not an excuse for community and social media managers to act contrary to their public responsibilities.
It recommends ways to create safe, welcoming, non-discriminatory and productive social environments online. It aims to help businesses run their online communities successfully, without resorting to nasty tricks.
To create the Code, Michalk and Paech, consulted with the Australian Community Managers’ industry group, and digital media researchers, Dr Fiona Martin and Dr Jonathon Hutchinson from The University of Sydney’s Department of Media and Communications.
“There’s a difference between hosting provocative or challenging discussion and provoking hate speech,” said Paech, director, content & inbound, Green Hat.
“We’re seeing newer social media managers being asked to stoop to tactics that border on trolling in an effort to ‘game’ engagement; justified as long as the tone is ‘on brand’. We think people deserve a better experience.
“Social media is full of competing agendas and ethical complexities. Community management and social media professionals can be torn between commercial imperatives and best practice – and that’s not a tenable situation.
“Having a shared ethical framework that extends beyond traditional advertising into the realm of digital relationships will improve the way practitioners and companies navigate these complexities.”
Michalk, founder of leading community management company, Quiip, added,
“As community managers, we’re tasked with owning digital spaces and managing the discussion within. This can mean hundreds of judgement calls a day as to what is and isn’t acceptable to publish.
“Given the internet is already rife with content that aims to cause damage, hurt and harm, the Code aims to support community managers in making better calls.
“Managing communities successfully and ethically are not mutually exclusive goals. Experience tells us that groups that thrive long term are not run using the lowest common behavioural denominator.”
The Code of Ethics for Online Community Management is available here.