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The recent Justine Sacco debacle has brought to light what I believe to be a very serious problem in marketing and PR. There is a linear relationship between responsibility and one’s prominence in the public’s eye. The more public you become, the more responsibility you have to act in a manner befitting of a public figure. Social media has altered your relationship with the public. Your prominence now has an exponential relationship your responsibility to behave appropriately online. What you say can quickly be spread across the Internet, far beyond your immediate reach. Even if you have a private account, someone will screenshot what you have written and repost it. Many people were not aware there was a Justine Sacco in the world, but they do now, and not for a good reason.

Stepping away from the immediate issue, the greater issue is that people fail to turn on their filters for themselves or the brands with which they work. There is this false sense of security and anonymity that results in poor responsibility with online content. Couple that with the illuminated misunderstanding of how to use and measure social media for business, and we have ourselves a handful of social media debacles a month.

There is this false sense of security & anonymity that results in poor responsibility w/ online content. – @MerlinUWard (tweet this)

These debacles are completely unnecessary. If the right processes and frameworks were put in place, and people were knowingly held accountable for the content and ideas they put out, we could avoid stupid tactics that result in social media posts like the Home Depot tweet, Spaghetti O’s tweet and situations like #AskJPM. All of these can easily be avoided if people would just use the correct lenses! There is no reason to act like a fool on the Internet. Tough situations can be avoided if content publishers taking into account the business, the people and the environment as lenses for their content.

  • Business lens – Does this content align with the values of the business I represent or the brand for which it is being posted?
  • People lens – Does this align with the values of my audience, and will they appreciate it? Does it give them value?
  • Environment lens – Does this content align with the format, tone and construct of the network as well as the industry in which it is being used?

If the content doesn’t pass one of the lenses, it should not be posted! It should be reformatted, reworked and then reconsidered. The end of 2013 is near. Marketers have been earnestly using social media for nearly five years for businesses. It’s time to grow up and stop these foolish behaviors.

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