20
Sep
08

Ethics in the Wild, Wild West (AKA social media)

After Kami Huyse discussed relationship building, Dr. Kaye Sweetser presented the findings from her pilot study on the impact of ethics on relationships.

She quoted some previous literature in organizational use of social media.  One study was by Kelleher and Miller (2006) about  relational strategies through organization blogs.  Kelleher and Miller found that organization blogs more conversational and used a human voice.  Another study she did with Emily Metzgar where they exposed participants to an organization blog and personal blog in a crisis situation.  Their findings revealed that the organization blog was able to defuse a crisis situation.

The study employed an experimental design with two groups exposed to YouTube video series on a campaign featuring BMW cars called Rampenfest.  The manipulation dealt with ethical behavior.  One of the groups were told that BMW was honest about their involvement with the campaign, designated as the truth treatment.  The second group was told that BMW lied about their involvement with the campaign, referred to as the lie treatment.  There was also a control group.

The 80 participants were mostly female with an average age of 21.  On the relationship scale or the “big honkin’ score for relationships,” the range was from 12-60, with the larger the number indicating a higher level of perceived credibility.  The control group had the highest credibility score, followed by the truth group with the lie treatment group significantly lower than the other two.  Basically, lying damaged BMW’s relationships.

There is evidence that mere exposure decreases credibility for an organization.  This pilot study allowed for a better understanding of interconnectedness of ethics and relationships.  A crucial item to learn from the results is that an organization must act ethically in social media campaign.  However, Dr. Sweetser emphasized that new media tactics should be treated as tools, just like other PR endeavors.

Dr. Sweetser said the takeaway message is that organizations must behave ethically, no matter what format they use to communicate their messages.  Don’t risk a good relationship!

Other links associated with her presentations can be found at: http://www.kayesweetser.com/archives/129

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