MATTER OF FACT – News, Views & Trends from the World of Public Relations by Ahmad Itani, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Cicero & Bernay Public Relations

FACING UP TO THE ETHICS OF SOCIAL MEDIA

“Social media influencers are important change-makers in society. Those who bring wisdom, creativity and positivity are a powerful force for good, because social media is a powerful tool for development and progress.” 

This quote comes from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who is a top social media advocate and has one of the strongest online presences of any world leader, with more than 15 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and twitter. While promoting social media as the modern day majlis and championing influencers with the launch of the ‘Arab Social Media Influencers Club’, he has also sent us a clear message about what these online platforms must be used for — good. The UAE has one of the highest social media penetrations of any country in the world, and online platforms are now the consumer’s go-to news room, messenger, library and all-round support system.
Social media is already an integral part of the communication industry and as its role continues to grow with every passing year, so does our duty of responsibility to our audience. We need to recognise that we are working with an incredibly powerful tool that has unprecedented potential to influence people and affect real lives. With this in mind, I believe that communication professionals must promote a more ethical approach to what they share — one that hinges on customer-centric content that is helpful, realistic and, above all, human.

By focusing on providing audiences with helpful information, companies can ensure they are adding positively to customers’ lives. this builds relationships by putting customers first, rather than sharing irrelevant content for commercial ends. At the same time, companies also need to be realistic about their social media scheduling, and realise that bombarding their audience multiple times a day is likely to damage their relationships rather than strengthen them. Social media content should stand out from the white noise for its sensitive timeliness.

Most importantly, social media content must be human. It should reach out, boost moods, ask questions and adapt according to the audience’s response. We must not be afraid to invite our audience to critique our social media strategy, as this is the key to improving it in line with their preferences and ensuring that we are using it to connect and bring people together.

Connectivity is the greatest gift that social media offers us, and when crafting our online content we would do well to keep Sheikh Mohammed’s words in mind: “Social media has transformed the world once again from a small village into one room big enough to fit everyone.”

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