Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

Does it Take a Social Media Code of Ethics or is it Plain Obvious? 1

This is the complete unedited text of an email I received last week. It’s just the latest one. I get a lot of them.

Hi Tim,

I was wondering if you took paid guest posts on your site?  Not a traditional “guest post” but one you’d be compensated for and have complete editorial control over.

I’m part of a business that does high-end brand placements worked into guest posts on a variety of subjects. The posts don’t advocate or review our clients, they are informational and/or newsy.  We include a reference link to our clients amongst other topical links inside the content. We’d provide the article, written by a domain expert, and money for you to review and post it upon your approval.

(If you don’t take guest posts, we also have arrangements where we discuss your upcoming post and find one in which a link makes sense and pay you to include it.)

Is that something that you would be interested in?

I always say no. Do you?

Back in the dinosaur days (1970-71), when I studied Journalism in grad school, they taught ethics in journalism. There was a code of conduct. And It’s still around, if you’re interested. Here’s a quote from the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics:

Journalists should:

—Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
— Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
— Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
— Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
— Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.

I say all non-advertising writing, not just all journalism, should follow that code of ethics. Not just blogs, but all of social media too. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+: if you get paid to endorse something, say so, or you’re sleazy. Social media is also publishing. And this is just simple right and wrong.

Besides which, if sell yourself like that, then you have no credibility.

What do you think?

  • http://www.cubert.net Charles Robinson

    I’m with you completely. It irks me to no end when people I know are doing product reviews or talking about companies and I suspect there is some back room deal happening. I ask them about it and give them the chance to clarify their relationship.

    If I decide I want to discuss or review a product or service I either pay for it or use a trial version. I want to ensure there is no possibility for the appearance of bias.