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Ethics and Social Media

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0041767/00001

Material Information

Title: Ethics and Social Media An Analysis of Corporate Social Media Policies
Physical Description: 1 online resource (105 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Prawer, Sarah
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2010

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: communication, corporate, ethics, media, policies, public, relations, social
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Social media and user-generated content are changing the nature and impact of the media landscape. These online tools have implications for organizations and professionals in the fields of corporate communication and public relations. This thesis addresses how organizations are responding to these forms of online communication and providing internal and external audiences with guidelines for their use. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which large organizations in the United States are discussing social media behavior in a formal policy statement. In addition, this study aimed to determine whether or not policies reflect a concern for ethical communication in the realm of social media. This study employed quantitative content analysis to analyze the Web sites of companies in the United States and determine whether or not the company discussed social media behavior in a unique document or as part of an existing policy. These policies were analyzed for the presence of various social media tools, ethical themes, and means of enforcement. The findings of this study indicate that over one-third of companies address social media use in a formal policy. The study found that the most common social media tools to which policies apply are user comments and discussion boards, blogs, and the sharing of multimedia. The findings indicate that the ethical themes of transparency, confidentiality, and respect are significantly portrayed to similar degrees in the content of policies. The majority of policies indicate a commitment to enforcement through the moderation of content or individual repercussions. Legal issues of copyright, fair use, and liability were also found to be prominently discussed. This study suggests that there is no standard format for the development of social media policies. Although it is relatively unclear which individuals in an organization might be responsible for their development and content, the findings of this study suggest that an effective social media policy can contribute to the public relations function of an organization by serving as a guideline for ethical communication. This study also allowed for a discussion of some of the best practices adopted by companies with regard to policies that govern social media behavior.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Sarah Prawer.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2010.
Local: Adviser: Ferguson, Mary Ann.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2010
System ID: UFE0041767:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0041767/00001

Material Information

Title: Ethics and Social Media An Analysis of Corporate Social Media Policies
Physical Description: 1 online resource (105 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Prawer, Sarah
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2010

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: communication, corporate, ethics, media, policies, public, relations, social
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Social media and user-generated content are changing the nature and impact of the media landscape. These online tools have implications for organizations and professionals in the fields of corporate communication and public relations. This thesis addresses how organizations are responding to these forms of online communication and providing internal and external audiences with guidelines for their use. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which large organizations in the United States are discussing social media behavior in a formal policy statement. In addition, this study aimed to determine whether or not policies reflect a concern for ethical communication in the realm of social media. This study employed quantitative content analysis to analyze the Web sites of companies in the United States and determine whether or not the company discussed social media behavior in a unique document or as part of an existing policy. These policies were analyzed for the presence of various social media tools, ethical themes, and means of enforcement. The findings of this study indicate that over one-third of companies address social media use in a formal policy. The study found that the most common social media tools to which policies apply are user comments and discussion boards, blogs, and the sharing of multimedia. The findings indicate that the ethical themes of transparency, confidentiality, and respect are significantly portrayed to similar degrees in the content of policies. The majority of policies indicate a commitment to enforcement through the moderation of content or individual repercussions. Legal issues of copyright, fair use, and liability were also found to be prominently discussed. This study suggests that there is no standard format for the development of social media policies. Although it is relatively unclear which individuals in an organization might be responsible for their development and content, the findings of this study suggest that an effective social media policy can contribute to the public relations function of an organization by serving as a guideline for ethical communication. This study also allowed for a discussion of some of the best practices adopted by companies with regard to policies that govern social media behavior.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Sarah Prawer.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2010.
Local: Adviser: Ferguson, Mary Ann.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2010
System ID: UFE0041767:00001


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1 ETHICS AND SOCIAL MEDIA: AN ANALYSIS OF CORPORATE SOCIAL MEDIA POLICIES By SARAH PRAWER A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS IN MASS COMMUNICATION UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2010

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2 2010 Sarah Prawer

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3 To my parents

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank my parents for inspiring me to pursue a graduate degree and for their continuous support throughout m y academic career. I would like to thank the chair of my committee, Dr. Ferguson, for guiding me through each step of the thesis process. I am especially appreciative of help in guiding my thoughts during the initial stages to ensure that my work aligned w ith my interests while contributing something to the communication field. I would also like to thank Dr. Hon and Dr. Elias for serving as my committee members. I am very thankful for their time and their valuable advice.

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5 TABLE OF CONTEN TS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ...................................................................................................... 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................................................................................................ 7 ABSTRACT ......................................................................................................................... 8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................ 10 Purpose of the Study .................................................................................................. 10 Motivation for Research .............................................................................................. 12 Background ................................................................................................................. 13 Relevance to Professional Communicators ............................................................... 14 Study Objectives ......................................................................................................... 15 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ............................................................................... 17 Ethics in Public Relations ........................................................................................... 17 Ethics in Public Rel ations Theory ............................................................................... 18 Excellence Theory ................................................................................................ 18 Systems Theory ................................................................................................... 20 Dialogue ............................................................................................................... 22 Advocacy .............................................................................................................. 23 Situational Ethics .................................................................................................. 25 Professional Organizations and Ethics ...................................................................... 26 Corporate Codes of Ethics ......................................................................................... 31 Social Media ............................................................................................................... 34 Ethi cal Issues of Social Media Use ............................................................................ 38 Practical Examples of Social Media Issues ............................................................... 45 Research Questions ................................................................................................... 51 3 METHODOLOGY ....................................................................................................... 53 Selected Sampling Method ........................................................................................ 54 Development and Explanation of Content Categorie s .............................................. 55 Pretest and Inter Coder Reliability ............................................................................. 56 Content Categories ..................................................................................................... 56 4 FINDINGS ................................................................................................................... 61 Data Analysis .............................................................................................................. 61 Findings: Research Questions ................................................................................... 61

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6 Additional Findings ..................................................................................................... 69 Summary of Findings .................................................................................................. 69 5 DISCUSSION .............................................................................................................. 71 Discu ssion of Findings ................................................................................................ 71 Prevalence of Social Media Policies ................................................................... 71 Employees Use of Social Media ......................................................................... 72 Social Media Tools ............................................................................................... 73 Enforcement of Policies ....................................................................................... 75 Ethical Themes .................................................................................................... 75 Industry and Revenue Differences ...................................................................... 77 Legal Issues ......................................................................................................... 79 Implications for Public Relations ................................................................................ 80 Best Practices of Social Media Policies ..................................................................... 84 Limitations and Future Research ............................................................................... 87 Conclusions ................................................................................................................ 89 APPENDIX A INDUSTRY CATEGORY CLASSIFICATIONS .......................................................... 9 1 B CODEBOOK: ANALYSIS OF CORPORATE SOCIAL MEDIA POLICIES ............... 93 C CODING SHEET ........................................................................................................ 97 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................................................................................... 99 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............................................................................................. 105

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7 LIST OF TABLES Table page 4 -1 Tools discussed in social media policies ............................................................... 63 4 -2 Mea sures of enforcement in social media policies ............................................... 65 4 -3 Ethical themes in social media policies ................................................................. 66 4 -4 Presence of social media pol icies among industry categories ............................. 67 4 -5 Relationship between company size (revenues) and social media tools ............. 69 4 -6 Legal issues i n social media policies ..................................................................... 69

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8 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Mass Communication ETHICS AND SOCIAL MEDIA: AN ANALYSIS OF CORPORATE SOCIAL MEDIA POLICIES By Sarah Prawer May 2010 Chair: Mary Ann Ferguson Major: Mass Communication Social me dia and user -generated content are changing t he nature and impact of the media landscape. These online tools have implications for organizations and professionals in the fi elds of corporate communication and public relations. This thesis addresses how organizations are responding to these forms of online communication and providing internal and external audiences with guidelines for their use. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which large organizations in the United States are discuss ing social media behavior in a formal policy statement. In addition, this study aimed to determine whether or not policies reflect a concern for ethical communication in the realm of social media. This study employed quantitative content analysis to analyz e the Web sites of companies in the United States and determine whether or not the company discussed social media behavior in a unique document or as part of an existing policy. These policies were analyzed for the presence of various social media tools, e thical themes, and means of enforcement. The find ings of this study indicate that over one-third of companies address social media use in a formal policy. The study found that the most common social media tools

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9 to which policies apply are user comments and discussion boards, blogs, and the sharing of multimedia. The findings indicate that the ethical themes of transparency, confidentiality, and respect are significantly portrayed to similar degrees in the content of policies. The majority of policies ind icate a commitment to enforcement through the moderation of content or individual repercussions. Legal issues of copyright, fair use, and liability were also found to be prominently discussed. This study suggests that there is no standard format for the d evelopment of social media policies. Although it is relatively unclear which individuals in an organization might be responsible for their development and content, the findings of this study suggest that an effective social media policy can contribute to t he public relations function of an organization by serving as a guideline for ethical communication. This study also allowed for a discussion of some of the best practices adopted by companies with regard to policies that govern social media behavior

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10 CHA PTER 1 INTRODUCTION Purpose of the Study Although the Internet is no longer considered a new technology, its capabilities and impact on the communication process continue to evolve. It has been over a decade since the first weblogs appeared, marking an im portant shift in the delivery and spread of information. In the last several years, social media tools have afforded both professional communicators and citizens of all ages the opportunity to have their voices heard. Social media has taken on a variety of forms and allows for the sharing of ideas in the form of text, images, photos, audio, and video. This act of sharing itself may be done through a variety of platforms including blogs, message boards, social networking sites, Wikis, podcasts, and micro -blogging sites. These tools are not only a means of disseminating information, they are also a source. According to Elgan (2009), social media has surpassed television as the primary source of news for Americans. For public relations practitioners, social media tools offer opportunities to communicate with a variety of audiences in new ways. Online too ls may be used to communicate an organizations goals to the general public, to engage target audiences and as a means of enhancing media relations. While th e possibilities are endless when it comes to communication by way of social media, this communication may not be free of responsibility. Researchers and professionals alike have begun to address the responsibilities and implications that may come with a companys decision to engage in social media (Spence & Quinn, 2008; Wright & Hinson, 2009; Farhi, 2009). Communicators can deliver information instantaneously, in a way that may be casual, informal, and even anonymous. These

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11 are just some of the characterist ics which have led to a discussion of the ethical implications of social media use. In fact, a discussion of ethics and the use of technology existed long before social media. Ogburn (1966, as cited in Marshall, 1999) discussed a theory of a cultural lag, which speaks to societys development of ethical guidelines for the use of technology. It is suggested that there is a lag between the adoption of new technology and the development of the standards that guide ones use of that technology. Decades later, M arshall (1999) went on to suggest that the lag described by Ogburn has grown substantially with the advent of more recent technologies, and additionally, suggests this lag may be more significant during times of rapid technological progress (p. 82). Alt hough social media has added a new layer to the discussion of ethical communication, organizations of all types and industries began addressing ethical behavior long before the prevalence of online communication. According to the Center for Business Ethics (1992), large corporations have become increasingly concerned with incorporating ethics into their culture and practice. Additionally, literature in the field of corporate social responsibility has suggested that business has power, and where there is pow er, there is a requirement for acting responsibly (Mele, 2008). In todays technologically advanced world, corporations are faced with the challenge of communicating in a responsible manner, a task that has only been made more challenging by social media t ools. Several researchers have discussed the responsibilities that come with doing business and the measures being taken by corporations to demonstrate ethical behavior (Mele, 2008; Center for Business Ethics, 1992; Schwartz, 2001; Stevens,

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12 2008; Marshall, 1999). According to Stevens (2008), corporate codes of ethics are one of the most common tools used to establish ethical standards, instill certain values in company personnel, and communicate these values to stakeholders. The growing field of corporate s ocial responsibility is evidence of the attitude that corporations responsibilities are not only financial, but societal and ethical as well. The public relations field has extensively addressed ethics in research and in practice. According to Bowen (2004 ), public relations departments are often seen as the ethical voice of an organization. Research efforts have attempted to link existing public relations theory with ethical philosophies, such as Bowens (2004) extension of the excellence theory to include a principle of ethics, Kent and Taylors (2002) case for a public relations theory of dialogue, and Edgetts (2002) criteria for ethical advocacy. On the professional side, organizations such as the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the Inter national Association of Business Communicators (IABC) have developed codes of ethics for their members. According to the Center for Business Ethics (1992), over ninety percent of large corporations in the United States have a code of ethics, which have been met with a variety of support and criticism (Hunt & Tirpok, 1993; Wright, 1993; Huang, 2001). Motivation for Research In recent years, research has begun to address the role of social media in communicating with stakeholders in order to influence their attitudes and behaviors. According to Marken (2007), online tools such as blogs and social networking sites are consumers primary resources in their attempts to learn about products, brands, and discover general solutions. Eyrich et al.s (2008) study of public relations practitioners found that while some tools such as email and blogs are widely used, practitioners are

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13 less likely to use more intricate tools, including social networks. Since 2006, PRSA has conducted their own research on the impact of n ew technologies on the public relations field, and most recently addressed social media use (Wright & Hinson, 2009). Outside of critiques of specific cases that have been deemed examples of the misuse of social media, there is little research focusing on t he ethical responsibilities that may be associated with these tools. In the corporate sector, the extent to which employees and stakeholders are held to an ethical standard remains unclear, as is the question of who or what may serve as the primary source of standards in the use of these tools. Therefore, this study will aim to understand the prevalence and nature of formal corporate policies that address appropriate or advisable social media use. Background Reinsch (1991) defines communication as a consc iously intentional, verbal (written or oral) exchange between individual human beings using commonly held symbols and achieving partial success (p. 306). This definition is included here because of its regard for communication as something that is motivat ed and intended for a certain purpose. Reinsch (1991) distinguishes between businesses and organizations. An organization is defined as a formal, enduring social structure within which individuals perform work in pursuit of common goal (p. 307), while a business is defined as an organization that is a source of wealth for its owner(s), and, consequently, one that acknowledges shareholder wealth as a goal (p. 307). Thus, this view acknowledges the financial obligations, among others, of business. The mod ern business has the option to fulfill various responsibilities to individuals and groups outside of those in the financial realm. In consideration of the role of ethics in this study, it is suggested that one such responsibility is the decision to behave in accordance with

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14 a set of ethical standards. According to Reinsch and Turner (2006), business helps produce and shape a community and a culture and has, consequently and unavoidable, ethical implications (p. 344). The function of public relations within the organization is an important element in the discussion of ethical communication. For the purposes of this paper, public relations is defined as the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the publics on whom its success or failure depends (Cutlip et al., 2005). This definition highlights the role of relationships in public relations and reflects their importance in the decision -making process and longterm success of an organi zation. Relevance to Professional Communicators Just as public relations has begun to research and understand the impact of social media on practitioners delivery of information, research in business has also addressed the impact of technology on communi cation. As the media landscape grows and changes, communicators must adjust both their perspectives and their behaviors (Reinsch & Turner, 2006). Online technologies and especially social media have changed the way communicators reach their audiences and t he way audiences react and interact with the messages made available to them, as well as with the organization itself. This topic is thus extremely relevant as communicators navigate new outlets and the meaning of ethical communication continues to evolve. Although communicators may be guided by an existing code of ethics or by their own set of ethical values, communicators and the organizations in which they operate will benefit greatly from a further understanding of the nature and content of corporate p olicy statements. Furthermore, exploration of this topic will influence the current and future use of social

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15 media, our understanding of its role in society, and audiences relationships with organizations. Study Objectives This study will attempt to understand the role of ethics in professional communicators social media use. It will consider whether or not large organizations have addressed the ethical implications associated with the adoption of these tools. It will then determine the extent to which these implications are addressed. The findings will aim to reveal whether organizations uniquely address social media use in a specific document if they are incorporated into existing ethical standards, or if they are not addressed at all. These findings will reveal the variation in content and detail of corporate policy statements of online use, the ethical issues that are identified, and the enforcement of the policies. This analysis will aim to understand the extent to which organizations have responded to the prevalence of social media use among employees and stakeholders. This research will serve to further the u nderstanding of social media adoption and use. As a relatively new but increasingly common phenomenon, it is important to understand the extent to which organizations are embracing these new technologies. The research may reveal that the organizations studied have found a need to establish guidelines specific to social media, or it may find that potent ial ethical issues are only minimally addressed or incorporated into existing standards. Thus, organizations treatment of social media use will add to existing literature in the area of business communication and ethical business practice. In a broader sense, this effort will highlight the influence of online tools on the communication process. Professional communicators continue to face new challenges as webbased tools alter the nature

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16 and efficiency of information delivery. Additionally, the public rela tions process has been dramatically altered by the ability of stakeholder groups to actively participate in conversations with organizations. This research will add to the discussion of how to conduct public relations in a way that is both effective and et hical in todays digital world.

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17 CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE Ethics in Public Relations According to Gower (2008), public relations is about relationships, and relationships are at the core of ethics. Ethics is described as the study of what constitutes right and wrong, or good and bad, human behavior (p. 1). Ethics play an important role in public relations because individuals are routinely faced with ethical dilemmas that reveal the many entities to whom an individual may be responsible. According to Bivins (1992), the public relations function has ethical obligations to several entities. One of these is to the practitioner themselves, as individuals must often balance their own values against those of others. In many situ ations, individuals may need to consider how to complete the tasks required of them while preserving their own integrity. Practitioners also have obligations to a client. This may be the practitioners own organization, or, in the case of public relations agencies, may be an organization outside their own. As a representative of a client, practitioners must often adhere to a contract or simply act in the clients best interest. Ethical dilemmas may arise when a certain behavior that may benefit the client o rganization may not necessarily be in the best interest of other groups. Practitioners may also have obligations to their employers or managers. There is likely an expectation that practitioners will adhere to their own organizations policies or ethical c odes. On a broader scale, practitioners have an obligation to uphold the ethical standards of their profession or the industry in which they practice. Finally, there is an obligation to society at large. Practitioners must consider how their actions, even those which demonstrate loyalty to the entities mentioned here, ultimately influence society at large (Bivins, 1992). In todays

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18 technological world, practitioners must manage many of these obligations not only by way of their actions and communication dec isions through traditional media, but also in their communication through social media platforms. While these tools afford the organization great potential for engagement and interactivity of publics, their use may also present communicators and audiences with ethical dilemmas. The often informal setting of online communication allows nearly anyone to contribute information that may or may not be truthful. This freedom also comes with the potential for the misrepresentation of individuals and groups and dim inished credibility and disclosure. These ethical issues will be further addressed in subsequent sections of this review. Ethics in Public Relations Theory Excellence Theory In the 1980s, a group of researchers led by James E. Grunig set out to develop a general theory of public relations based on a compilation of the most dominant theories at that time. It was hoped that bringing the theories together in this way would benefit both research and practice. The excellence study, funded by IABC, aimed to a ddress how public relations allows an organization to function effectively and to identify the elements of the public relations function that contribute to this effectiveness (Grunig et al., 2006). Following a quantitative survey of over 300 organizations in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, the researchers identified a group of items most commonly associated with excellence and created an excellence factor (p. 66). Those items served as the basis for nine principles of public relations excellence (Grunig et al., 2006, p. 66). Additionally qualitative research revealed that public relations is most valuable when it is relied on to develop and maintain relationships with an organizations stakeholders. Thus, the value of public relations li es in its ability to

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19 provide an organization with quality relationships, particularly when the public relations function has the ability to interact with management (Grunig et al., 2006). Prior to his work on the excellence study, Grunig (1976, as cited i n Grunig et al., 2006) introduced four models of public relations. These four models of press agentry, public information, twoway asymmetrical, and twoway symmetrical public relations were concluded to be normative. According to Grunig et al. (1992, as c ited in Bowen, 2004), a normative theory defines how things should be or how some activity should be carried out (p. 291). The researchers involved in the excellence study later determined that excellent public relations departments would rely on the twoway symmetrical model rather than the other three models. This is based on the idea that twoway symmetrical public relations takes into account the interests of the organization and those of its publics, resulting in stronger, longer -lasting relationships. It is also suggested that twoway symmetrical public relations is the mos t ethical approach to practice (Bowen, 2004). Although the excellence study is considered one of the most extensive studies of public relations, ethics were not included as one o f the principles of excellent practice (Bowen, 2004) Following the completion of the study, the excellence researchers predicted that future research would address ethics as a crucial component of excellence (Grunig et al., 2006). Ethics was mentioned as the tenth principle of excellence by Vercic et al., 1996, and was further expanded by Bowen (2004), who addressed how ethics can be analyzed. Bowen (2004) proposed a normative model for issues management which is based on the symmetrical model discussed above. The first phase of the proposed model is identification of the issue, which is largely

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20 dependent on the practitioners opinion regarding the importance of the issue. This is followed by issue decision making, during which practitioners must turn to either utilitarianism or deontology. According to Bowen (2004), this normative model calls for a deontological approach, where one must act based on universal norms. This is supported by the finding that most American businesses rely on a deontological appr oach, whether or not there is a conscious decision to do so (Bowen, 2004). The next phase is to enact the law of autonomy. Autonomy is the idea that an individual decision maker is not subjected to the interests of any others which might alter his or her d ecision. In public relations, autonomy relates to the individual as well as the entire public relations function, which should allow public relations to act independently of the interests such as those of the legal or marketing departments. This allows public relations to fully enact the role of ethics counselor. The fourth phase involves considering any alternatives to the decision making process, asking whether the decision adheres to Kants categorical imperative, such that others who face similar decisi ons might respond similarly. In agreement with the researchers of the excellence study, the final phase of this model is to adopt the twoway symmetrical model of public relations to engage an organizations publics (Bowen, 2004). This model builds upon th e excellence study and provides practitioners with a framework for ethical decision making. Systems Theory Another area of research which has addressed ethical public relations is systems theory. Systems theory has been applied to several fields as a means of understanding organizational behavior (Bivins, 1992). Systems theory can help explain how public relations functions within an organization and how it relates to other elements that affect

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21 the organization, such as legal and political contexts. Publ ic relations itself is viewed as a system, where information is put into the system, these inputs are organized and responded to, and outputs are the information released to the outside environment (Bivins, 1992, p. 366). For public relations, outputs are often intended to maintain, or if necessary, restore balance to the environment surrounding the organization. Gandz and Hayes (1988) developed a model of ethical business decision making that involves what the researchers call ethical consciousness, or knowledge of stakeholder interests, and ethical analysis, which suggests that the individual apply ethical frameworks, such as cultural or rule-based ethics, to a decision. Bivins (1992) used these concepts as a basis for a model of ethical decision making in public relations. In this model, an issue that has or will likely cause imbalance enters the system. Before responding, the individual must decide whether to focus outputs on external stakeholders or on the organization itself. It is thus important to understand stakeholders in terms of their significance to the organization. Stakeholders can be thought of in terms of how necessary it is for the organization to maintain a relationship with that group. At this point, the ethical analysis component of Gandz and Hayes (1988) model comes into focus, although it not necessarily applicable to public relations given the variety of moral obligations to which the practitioner may be held. For this reason, the unique values of each stakeholder must be address ed. For example, investors and employees will have very different values. At this point the decision maker may turn to either deontological theory, such as professional ethics codes, or utilitarianism, taking into account the effects on all parties (p. 380). Finally, a decision

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22 should be made based on this ethical analysis. It is important to follow the reactions of all stakeholder groups and be prepared to defend ones decision (p. 381). Dialogue Another area of research which speaks to ethical public r elations is that of dialogue and the development of its corresponding theory. Pearson (1989, as cited in Kent & Taylor, 2001) was one of the first to address the concept of dialogue and its role in ethical communication. In his discussion of dialogue, he w rote that it is morally right to establish and maintain communication relationships with all publics affected by organizational action (p. 21). The concept of dialogue has been addressed in several fields, but is described in public relations as communi cating about issues with publics (Kent & Taylor, 2001, p. 22). Kent & Taylor (2001) discuss a shift in public relations theory away from the management of communication with publics to a focus on the use of communication in the maintenance of relationships (p. 23). According to Botan (1997), earlier models of public relations assign publics to a secondary role, but dialogue sees them as equal to the organization itself (p. 192). Dialogue changes the relationship between an organization and its publics through its emphasis on the relationship itself, although it also stated that dialogue alone is not always ethical, and may be used with moral or immoral intentions (Kent & Taylor, 2001, p. 24). Kent and Taylor (2001) discuss how dialogic theory can be adopted by public relations practitioners and put into practice by organizations. Organizations must commit to the five features of dialogue. Mutuality implies recognition that an organization cannot be detached from its publics. Propinquity suggests that rel ationships are oriented in a certain way. Organizations should discuss with publics any issues that affect them, and publics should express their needs to the organization.

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23 Empathy suggests that if dialogue is to succeed, there must be an environment of s upport and trust. Risk is seen as a feature of all relationships. There is some risk in dialogue because as individuals expose their positions and often act spontaneously, they become vulnerable to others. Commitment means being genuine in discussing one s opinion, remaining committed to beneficial conversations, and a commitment to understanding and valuing the opinions of others. (Kent & Taylor, 2001). For dialogue to effectively contribute to ethical public relations, the organization must be committed in three areas. There must be a commitment to the adoption of interpersonal skills, such as empathy and openness. Organizations can also build their relationships through mass media channels. Kent and Taylor (2001) addresses the potential of the Internet to employ dialogue. The Web offers great potential to engage publics in a timely manner and allows the organization to respond directly to needs of its publics. Lastly, dialogue should be seen as a procedure, such that certain procedures, when put in plac e by an organization, will encourage dialogic communication. Dialogue is an ethical approach to public relations because it suggests that respect is given to all voices, setting a higher moral standard for communication (Kent & Taylor, 2001, p. 33). Advoca cy Pfau and Wan (2006) discuss the role of advocate that is often played by public relations practitioners. Edgett (2002) defines advocacy as the act of publicly representing an individual, organization, or idea with the object of persuading target audi ences to look favorable (p. 1). Barney and Black (1994) describe public relations practitioners as professional advocates whose obligations are similar to those of lawyers. Although they may be considered single-minded advocates, (p. 240) they

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24 must st ill act honorably in doing so by providing society with accurate information (Barney & Black, 1994, p. 244). Edgett (2002) developed an ethical framework for advocacy which is based on the premise that advocacy is a primary function of public relations and that practitioners are not necessarily comfortable with this role. Additionally, it is suggested that persuasive communication is not wrong and offers value to society. Although the public relations field grew out of criticisms of objectivity in journ alism, public relations must learn to embrace its role as an advocate, rather than feeling they must remain objective. Edgetts theoretical framework suggests that when certain criteria are met, public relations advocacy can be ethical. Evaluation is the f irst of these criteria, wherein the practitioner must evaluate the issue and determine whether advocacy is appropriate. Priority involves the practitioners decision of whose interests should be given priority. In order for the practitioner to behave ethic ally in the public domain, he or she must show at least some loyalty to the client or employer (Edgett,, 2002, p. 11). Sensitivity suggests that the needs of the client must be balanced with those of society, such that target publics may not be fully aware that the information with which they are presented may not be completely balanced. Confidentiality refers to the idea that the client or organization has certain rights to secrecy. Furthermore, some secrets may be morally acceptable, in situations in whic h the material is question is legitimately confidential information (p. 14) such as employee documents. Veracity means the practitioner should remain truthful in his or her delivery of information. Reversibility is the idea that the practitioner must consider whether, if he or she were on the receiving end of the communication delivered, there would there be sufficient information to make an

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25 educated decision. According to Edgett (2002), this is reflective of Kants categorical imperative, which suggests that one treat others in the way he or she would like to be treated (p. 17). Validity holds that the information presented by practitioners must be well -reasoned. If persuasion is to be ethical, communicators should expect their arguments to be challenged, and therefore should be able to defend them. Visibility means that all information that comes from an organization must be identified as such. In public relations campaigns, the identity of organizations must be revealed if communicators are to exhibit th e other principles, such as remaining truthful. Respect means that communicators must value the receivers of messages as independent individuals who are able to make reasonable decisions when they have sufficient information. Consent suggests that all the groups involved in a communication effort are aware of the conditions in which the communication takes place. The communication process is most ethical when all parties are viewed as equals who have agreed to remain committed to similar rules. According t o Edgett (2002), when all ten of these principles are met, advocacy in public relations is functioning at its most ethical (p. 22). Situational Ethics There is research in public relations ethics suggesting that a situational approach is taken by many pra ctitioners. According to Ryan and Martinson (1984), subjectivism, or individual relativism, has become an underlying principle of public relations. This suggests that each individual sets his or her own moral guidelines, and these guidelines may vary in different situations, such that something that is unethical in one situation is acceptable in another (p. 27). Pratt (1993) claims that this approach may mean that other ethical standards are thereby ignored or violated based on the context of the situatio n (p. 221). Pratt (1993) attributes this approach to public relations practitioners

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26 boundary -spanning role, which is well -suited to situational ethics. Additionally, practitioners are often not included in managements decisions, and will therefore act as they see fit in each situation (p. 222). A situational approach runs counter to the values of public relations as a field, such as those of professional organizations like PRSA. These organizations, and other codes of ethics, take a deontological approach, which focuses on responsibilities that apply regardless of conditions (p. 225). Pratt, Im, and Montague (1994) found that practitioners responded differently to various ethical issues, and that their responses varied depending on several factors such a s the individuals age, years of experience, and position within the organization (p. 253). Despite research highlighting the prevalence of this approach, situational ethics does not provide practitioners with guidelines for future ethical dilemmas, which may bring them right back to deciding where their loyalties lie (Ryan & Martinson, 1984, p. 33). Professional Organizations and Ethics PRSA was established in 1948 and is regarded as the primary association in the field (Fitzpatrick, 2002a). It is also the fields largest professional association. According to PRSA, there are over 21,000 members and approximately 100 chapters, representing practitioners in various industries and organizations throughout the country. According to Fitzpatrick (2002b) PRSA members represent about one tenth of the total number of US practitioners (p. 126). PRSA states that its primary functions are to provide professional development, set standards of excellence, and uphold principles of ethics for its members and for t he profession as a whole (PRSA, 2009). It is further stated that PRSA represents the industry standard, and that ethical practice is the most important obligation of members (PRSA, 2009).

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27 PRSA developed its first code of ethics in 1950 to discuss the responsibility for the good character and reputation of the public relations profession (PRSA, 1950, as cited in Fitzpatrick, 2002a, p. 89). The code has been subjected to numerous critiques and revisions, with the most recent revision being revealed in 2000. Contrary to previous versions, the current version of the code contains almost no mention of enforcement, and instead of a focus on prohibited behaviors, carries a more positive tone and discussion of what members should do (Fitzpatrick 2002a). PRSA only revokes membership in cases in which legal action is taken (Fitzpatrick, 2002b). Despite PRSAs own claim that they represent the industry standard, others have criticized the code and its role in public relations. Wright (1993) explained that since membership in the organization is voluntary, so too is adherence to its code. Therefore, the code is unenforceable because an individual in question can simply end his or membership. Olasky (1985) calls the code an imagebuilding tool whose main purpose is to promote a positive image of public relations (p. 44). The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) is a professional association made up of over 15,000 business communicators who represent over 80 countries and several fields including public relations, advertising, government and investor relations, and human resources. IABC also offers its own accreditation, which involves an application and examination process. This process allows accredited members to apply similar communication approaches regardless of the culture or organization in which they practice. The IABC Code of Ethics for Professional Communicators was developed on the basis that the activities of communicators carry with them significant social responsibilities (IABC 2009). It is stated in the code that

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28 ethics are something which can be agreed upon by members of an organization, and that members of IABC should continuously improve their individual competence (IABC, 2009). These suggest that while IABC articulates certain principles, organizations and the professionals within them bear the responsibility of ethical practice. IABCs treatment of code enforcement is similar to that of PRSA, choosing to promote positive actions rather than punishment, and revoking mem bership only when the law has been violated. The Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) is distinct from other associations in that it exists for students and scholars and emphasizes the ethical issues that may arise in Internet research. In 2002, AoIRs own Ethics Working Group developed a code of ethics. The purpose of the code is to make individuals and organizations aware of the ethical issues that might arise when conducting online research. Amidst a growing number of online technologies that mig ht be used to contact audiences and research subjects, a wide variety of ethical decisions may present themselves, and it is unlikely that existing documents will suffice as a guideline. The association advocates a pluralistic approach to ethical decisionmaking, recognizing that different frameworks may apply to different situations. Individuals are encouraged to consider the legal standards that might apply to their Internet research, as well as the p otential risks facing subjects (Ess & AoIR, 2002). Ano ther association that addresses ethical behavior online is the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). WOMMA was created in 2004 and is an important resource for those in the word of mouth and social media industries. Members include both American and international corporations representing the areas of marketing,

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29 advertising, and public relations. They advocate training and adherence to a set of standards that ensures marketers are committed to honesty and integrity (WOMMA, 2009). Ethics is a primary concern of the association; WOMMA states that as this became known, hundreds of companies joined the association in support of its ethics code. The code is based on honesty, such that communicators should be open regarding whom they represent, their own op inions, and their identities. It is also notable that WOMMAs code of ethics encourages members to act according to standards that m ay exceed those required by law (WOMMA, 2009). Members are held to several standards including: disclosure of identity, di sclosure of compensation, disclosure of relationship (with a marketer), adherence to FTC guidelines, honest communication, respect for the medium (whether traditional or online), and respect for the marketin g rules that apply to children. It is acknowledge d that as WOMMA is not associated with a government body, the code of ethics exists in the hope that professionals will engage in self -regulation. In addition to corporations that may turn in a violation, WOMMA also has its own Membership Ethics Advisory P anel that may choose to review ethically questionable behavior, and if necessary, terminate an organizations membership (WOMMA, 2009). The Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) is another organization that has addressed corporate governance, compliance, and ethics (SCCE, 2009). The SCCE was created in 2002 and includes professionals in business and compliance from industries including aerospace, banking, entertainment, government, insurance, food and manufacturing, and oil, gas, and chemicals The SCCE defines compliance as meeting the expectations of others, such as customers and those who regulate

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30 business. The associations Code of Ethics, directed at professionals who work in ethics and compliance, suggests that professionals have obligations to the public, the employing organization, and the profession (Murphy et al., 2007). The code is described as voluntary but is intended to serve as the standard in the compliance and ethics profession (Murphy et al., 2007). Ethical codes such as those discussed above have been met with both support and criticism. One argument that has been made in support of ethics codes is that they are a necessary step in achieving the professional status that has not yet been afforded of some communication fields, such as public relations (Johannessen, 1983). According to Huang (2001), public relations has not yet reached this status, and codes represent a crucial step in moving forward. Hunt and Tirpok (1993) also state that codes can make a field more legitimate and are a reflection of social responsibility (p. 7). They claim that professional codes of ethics are the oldest and most commonly utilized method of maintaining public credibility (p. 3). Another argument in favor of professional codes is that they play an important role in education. According to Johannesen (1983), codes help those who are new to the field better understand what is expected of them and exposes them to potential ethical situations. Some are in favor of a universal code of ethics to whic h all professional communicators be held responsible, rather than codes that apply to individual fields. It has been suggested that the presence of codes such as those of PRSA and the IABC tarnishes the reputation of all communicators because it suggests t hat there is no agreedupon standard of ethics (Hunt & Tirpok, 1993). Professional codes of ethics have also been subjected to criticisms related to their practicality, effectiveness, and enforcement, as was suggested above regarding PRSAs

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31 code. Johannesen (1983) describes the language of many ethical codes as abstract, vague, and ambiguous (p. 59). This means the language is interpreted differently by everyone. Because codes may be interpreted in different ways, they also may not be effective tools in holding individuals accountable for their actions. Furthermore, critics of codes suggest that if they are ineffective, they are also unnecessary (Huang, 2001). Huang (2001), however, feels this criticism can be addressed through revisions and discussions o f improvements that should be made, citing the many versions of PRSAs code as evidence of this approach. An additional argument against codes of ethics is that many professional communicators are ethical by choice, not because a universal code or association forces them to do so (although they may be responsible for upholding the code of their own organization). This argument is supported by research suggesting, as mentioned above, that situational ethics is the most common approach taken by public relati on practitioners (Ryan and Martinson, 1984). Finally, a common criticism of codes of ethics is that they are unenforceable. According to Wright (1993), the standards of the codes set forth by associations are not enforceable because the associations themselves are voluntary. Not only is every professional not a member of any of these groups, but it is individuals, and not their organizations, who are members, so these codes cannot be applied at the organizational level. Corporate Codes of Ethics A common means adopted by organizations to communicate a commitment to responsible and moral behavior is the development of a corporate code of ethics. Formal policies of ethics are relevant to the present study given that they serve as a guide for acceptable behavior in the workplace, just as a social media policy may serve

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32 as a guide for online behavior. While there may have been a time when corporate codes of ethics were instruments primarily directed toward and viewed by management and employees, todays corpor ate Web sites allow codes of ethics to be viewed by countless others, as may also be the case for social media policies. The Internet has become an important tool in corporate communication and in disseminating information related to social responsibility (Capriotti & Moreno, 2007). The transparency afforded by online communication suggests that codes of ethics may now be viewed by shareholders, consumers, and the general public. According to the Center for Business Ethicss (1992) survey of 244 companies on the Fortune 1000 list, a code of ethics was the most common tool used to implement ethical initiatives (96%), followed by ethics training (p. 865). Several researchers (White & Montgomery, 1980; Abbott, 1983; Black & Barney, 1985; Center for Business E thics, 1992; Schwartz, 2001; Schwartz, 2002) have attempted to define corporate codes of ethics and their roles in organizations. Frankel (1989) divides codes of ethics into the categories of those which are aspirational, educational, and regulatory (p. 110). Abbott (1983) lists five characteristics of ethical codes: universal distribution, correlation with intraprofessional status, enforcement dependent on visibility, individualism, and emphasis on colleague obligations (p. 855). Fisher (2005) defines co des of ethics as guidelines provided by management to direct and monitor expected ethical norms among all employees (p. 3). Despite many attempts to define codes of ethics, there are many factors which might influence an organizations code, such as its size, industry, and the values of its competitors. There are also numerous characteristics which might influence the individuals to whom the

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33 codes apply, as well as management, who are often responsible for their development and enforcement. Given the many factors that might mold an organizations code of ethics, it is not surprising that studies on the functionality of codes have produced mixed results (Stevens, 2008). Schwartz (2002) argues that despite the prevalence of corporate codes and the associated research, codes are often written and studied in a normative vacuum, and suggests that codes are written off as ethical just because they are intended to be. Robin et al. (1989) criticized codes for their emphasis on rules and prohibited behaviors, whic h prevents them from serving as a tool for ethical decisionmaking. Stevens (2008) states that the presence of a code alone is not sufficient and they should be complemented by policies. It is also suggested that codes are often forced upon employees by management, and employees do not adhere to them because they do not see them as part of the organizations culture (p. 603). Schwartz (2001) identified reasons why individuals may not comply with their organizations code of ethics. Among these are self -interest company environment and ignorance of employees. These factors suggest that understanding employees and demonstrating an ethical culture may increase adherence to a code of ethics (p. 257-258). Others have found that codes of ethics do have the pot ential to positively influence behavior. Laufer and Robinson (1997) state that leaders have an effect on an organizations ethical climate (p. 1043). When the behavior of management and employees is in accord with the organizations stated values and ethic al policies, others will be influenced to adhere to policies as well. Frankel (1989) lists several functions of ethical codes. He refers to them as a moral anchor, without which individuals may feel

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34 anxious about what is acceptable. This alerts employees to which of the many ethical frameworks their organization supports. These tools may also serve as a basis for the public to hold the organization responsible for its actions. As was suggested above in the discussion of industry codes of ethics, Frankel ( 1989) suggests that ethical standards may improve the reputation and trust of the profession. Contrary to Schwartzs (2002)s criticism of the normative nature of codes, Frankel (1989) suggests it may be a positive step when corporate codes allow a profess ion to reinforce biases set by society. For example, those in the medical profession are expected to provide quality healthcare, and these values may be enhanced by organizational codes. Lastly, a code may deter unethical behaviors and encourage employees to monitor one another (p. 111112). There is also evidence that codes of ethics are an important mechanism in meeting legal responsibilities. In response to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, which placed legal requirements on organizations repor ting of transactions, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) describes codes of ethics as evidence of good faith compliance of the law (White & Montgomery, 1980, p. 80). In the event of litigation, it is important that there be evidence of a commit ment to ethical standards. Social Media Solis and Breakenridge (2009) describe social media as anything that uses the Internet to facilitate conversations (p. xvii). Social media repr esents the democratization of content and a shift to a conversational format between authors and audiences (p. xvii). This ongoing conversation suggests that any citizen, not only trained journalists and experts, have a voice that can be easily heard. Before social media, there was user generated content, which included online groups, forums, and

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35 personal Web sites (p. xviii). In their study of public relations practitioners use of webbased tools, the following social media tools are identified: blogs intranets, podcasts, video sharing (e.g. YouTube), photo sharing (e.g., Shutterbug, Flickr), social networks, wikis (e.g. Wikipedia), gaming, virtual worlds (e.g., Second Life), micro-blogging sites (e.g. Twitter, Pownce, Plurk), videoconferencing, event /calendar systems (e.g., Upcoming, Eventful), social bookmarking sites (e.g., Delicious), and news aggregation/RSS feeds. Boyd and Ellison (2007) specifically defined and discussed social networking sites (SNSs). SNSs are defined as webbased services th at allow individuals to construct a public or semi -public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others (p. 211). Despite th eir name, these tools are unique not because they allow individuals to meet new people, but because they allow users to share their own networks and view the networks of others. The researchers trace the history of SNSs, citing the development of SixDegrees.com, the first SNS, in 1997, although it was unsuccessful in the longterm. This was followed by Livejournal in 1999, Ryze.com in 2001, LinkedIn, and Friendster. In 2003, SNSs became more mainstream with the development of MySpace, which intended to comp ete with some of these earlier sites. Facebook began in 2004 at Harvard University and was later extended to the entire university community, and later, to any user. It is unique in that users are allowed to create Applications and personalize their profil es. There are currently over 300 million Facebook users (Facebook, 2009). Also gaining prevalence are micromedia tools, defined as any form of concentrated content created using social tools (Solis &

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36 Breakenridge, 2009). Users of these tools are called media snackers as they are continuously contributing and consuming small pieces of information. For public relations, the value in these tools lies in their ability to monitor and engage in the conversations surrounding brands. Rather t han typing a brand into a search engine, one can view conversations in real -time (Solis & Breakenridge, 2009). Micromedia tools that allow the sharing of text and files are Twitter, Tumblr, Twitxr, and Plurk; video and audio sharing tools are Seesmic, 12Seconds and Utterz. In a critique of Boyd and Ellisons (2007) article, Beer (2008) suggests that SNSs are just one component of online communities. Beer (2008) suggests using the term Web 2.0 to describe the general shift in online technology, and the use of categories to g roup the many online tools this shift has produced. Web 2.0 has in fact been widely used in the discussion of contemporary Web-based tools. Solis and Breakenridge (2009) claim Web 2.0 is founded on online conversation and the discovery, creation, and shar ing of content (p. 37). However, todays Web is not defined by the tools it affords, but rather by the many individuals who share information and show how these tools create conversations and relationships (p. 37). According to Solis and Breakenridge (2009), many ideas of some of the founders of public relations are still relevant today. For example, Ivy Lee conceptualized public relations as a two way street (p. 23) through which communicators could help organizations understand and communicate with th e groups that mattered to them, an idea which is equally important in the twenty -first century. Todays social media provides the field with an opportunity to deliver more meaningful messages, and reintroduces elements that inspired public relations, such as psychology and sociology (p. 25). In the

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37 1990s, as citizen journalism and Webbased communication became more prevalent, Solis coined the term PR 2.0 to reflect the impact of Web 2.0 on public relations. This refers to a dramatic shift to webbased communication, along with public relations role in guiding organizations as they changed the tools used to communicate with publics. PR 2.0 suggests that public relations has new opportunities to engage communication not only through traditional journalist s, but through a group of accidental influencers (p. 30) who have gathered on the Web. While traditional public relations used news releases to disseminate messages, PR 2.0 can use new tools to engage communities and spark relevant conversations (p. 36). Similarly, Wright and Hinson (2008) discuss the ability of these technologies to empower publics by giving them new ways to communicate (p. 2). While the discussion above highlights the effects of Web -based communication on public relations, research has also begun to address the nature and extent of public relations response. Beginning in 2006, PRSA began conducting a study of the impacts of these technologies on the field. Although the study was not based on a random sample, their 2009 findings revealed that 73% of practitioners feel social media has impacted the field, and 72% feel it has enhanced the field. 68% feel that social media has changed the way his or her organization communicates. It should also be noted that while 80% of respondents expect t raditional media to be truthful, only 41% hold social media sources to this expectation. In some cases (31%), practitioners are aware of a situation in which the organizations legal department has become involved in social media use. As organizations inc reasingly demand social media expertise, those in public relations must not only acknowledge these shifts, but adjust their behaviors. Morrissey

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38 (2008) cites a TNS Media Intelligence poll of 60 marketing organizations, which found that client organizations do not feel advertising and public relations agencies are well equipped to address their social media needs. Although they present themselves as prioritizing these tools, in practice they treat them as they do traditional outlets. This sentiment is echoed in researchers attempts to advise practitioners as they navigate social media. Croft (2008) advises that the young people in organizations are an important resource in social media use and identifying the most influential sources. Practitioners are also advised to engage in social media themselves by visiting blogs or SNSs on a regular basis and to constantly be thinking of new ways those tools can be incorporated into communication plans. Christ (2005) also discusses how practitioners can navigate in a Web -centered society. It is crucial that the information -seeking paradigm (p. 5) be understood, such that the Internet now represents a primary source of information about all aspects of an organization, from products to policies. Additionally, each of t he many Web -based outlets affords the opportunity to customize messages to different audiences Social media is not something public relations should use to market through, rather, it should be seen as a phenomenon that invites worthy individuals to enga ge in conversations. This means communicating with honesty and transparency to those who are important to the organization (Solis & Breakenridge, 2009, p. 46). Ethical Issues of Social Media Use As social media continues to change public relations and all communication fields, scholars, professional associations, and organizations have begun to address the ethical implications of its use. Previously in this paper, Ogburns (1966, as cited in Marshall, 1999) theory of a cultural lag was mentioned. This idea suggests that there is

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39 a lag between the adoption of new technology and the development of ethical guidelines for the use of those technologies (p. 82). Spence and Quinn (2008) discuss several ethical issues that arise with the use of new media. One of the se is credibility, which is increasingly questioned as news organizations and communicators try to keep up with the 24-hour information cycle. Web-based tools make it easy to instantly produce and disseminate information in a manner that is so fast, it may mean sacrificing accuracy and thoroughness (p. 265). Audiences may not need to rely on sources that are assumed to be authentic when they have access to the opinions of all citizens (Microgeist, 2009). Another issue is a question of who is responsible for producing online content. It is much easier to publish through online sources than traditional ones, which allows anyone to be a creator and consumer of information (p. 265). Keen (2006) agrees that social media worships the creative amateur, (p. 2) tho se citizens who have taught themselves to be journalists, authors, musicians, or photographers. Therefore, it is important to remain aware that while an individual may possess the ability to publish information, they may not adhere to, or even acknowledge, the ethical standards to which journalists and communicators are typically held, such as accuracy and balance (p. 266). This may also be true in the realm of corporate communication. According to Solis and Breakenridge (2009), many of todays corporate bl ogs are not written by the individual who is listed as the author of the post. Rather, many executives have their public relations or marketing personnel create these seemingly genuine words (p. 141) that may be merely quotes taken from existing press materials. That said, because the customer or audience can so easily access the online communication produced by the

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40 organization, there is also great potential to create a sense of closeness and trust between the organization and these individuals (Microgei st, 2009). The blogosphere itself increasingly provides a forum for the discussion of ethical social media use. Chens Save the Media Blog offers some guidelines for journalists use of social media. According to Chen (2009), ethics for journalists are m ore or less the same online as in print or broadcast media. This means journalists should not plagiarize, should inform readers where information originated, and should not accept any gifts for coverage. They should be transparent about their mistakes and about their opinions, not denying that they have opinions on things, but understanding how opinions affect ones work. Chen (2009) advises that ultimately, ethics come from the individual, and every journalist should come up with his or her own code. Emm anuel Tchividijian is the head of Ruder Finns Ethics Consulting practice and a blogger on PRSAs blog, ComPRehension. Tchividijian (2009) lists three main differences between ethics in the real world and ethics online. One difference is speed, as things h appen much faster online than in reality. Another is space, referring to the perception of little space between the source and the audience, which leads people do things online that they might not do in person. This may be done without regard for the under standing that anyone can be tracked online. Last is scope, as online communication can reach millions. He also lists several values that come into play when using social media: truth (when posting content), transparency, respect, privacy (your own and that of others), confidentiality (information that should not be posted), responsibility (for the consequences of your actions), conflicts of interest, and accountability (to your organization, its stakeholders, and yourself) (Tchividijian, 2009).

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41 It is hoped that the present research will reveal the extent to which these and other ethical values are articulated by companies as necessary for ethical communication using social media. Although the ethical codes of professional associations were addressed in previous sections, it should be noted that PRSA has added to the discussion of ethics and social media since the most recent revision of its code in 2000. Since 2004, PRSA has issued several professional standards advisories. These advisories are published as ethical issues arise in public relations. Professional Standards Advisory 8 addresses deceptive activity online and misrepresentation of people or organizations. Specifically, the Issue is described as misrepresentation by organizations and individuals using blogs, viral marketing, and anonymous Internet postings with undisclosed sponsorships and/or deceptive or misleading identities or descriptions of goals, causes (Whalen, 2008). In response to situations in which Web sites and postings have been found to be associated with undisclosed sponsors, the advisory reminds PRSA members of the provisions within the Code of Ethics that apply to this situation. These include free flow of information, disclosure of information, conflicts of interest, and enhanc ing the profession. As a suggested best practice for situations such as these, PRSA states that misleading descriptions (Whalen, 2008, p. 2) of any kind is unacceptable conduct in which one should not engage. Professional Standards Advisory 7, drafted in 2004 and revised in 2008, discusses the deception associated with front groups, which deceive audiences by not revealing their source or sponsor. PRSA members are advised not to assist such groups, as he or she has an obligation to expose all information that is needed for audiences to make informed decisions. The elements of

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42 the code that pertain to this topic are: free flow of information, disclosure, conflicts of interest, and enhancing the profession (by establishing trust in the field). This advi sory was revised in lieu of cases in which public relations practitioners have set up or contributed to front groups online communication efforts (Lukaszeweski, 2008). The Poynter Institute, established in 1975 by the St. Petersburg Times is dedicated to improving the work of journalists and media leaders (Poynter Online, 2009) Through Virtual Poynter, the institutes online training program for communication professionals, a guideline for the use of social media by newsrooms was recently developed. The y state that social networks should be used as a reporting tool, as they are now so prevalent that failing to use them might result in missed opportunities. Journalists should aim to be transparent about sources and use sources of all backgrounds. Another guideline is that social networks can be used to promote to the work of journalists. This should be done with accuracy and clarity. Lastly, when using these tools, the professional and personal life of the journalist should be balanced. It is increasingly difficult to separate these elements online, and any information that is posted may have an effect on the reputation of the individual or the news organization (McBride, 2009). Adding to the discussion of the ethical implications of communicators use of social media, several news organizations have adopted their own set of guidelines for their newsrooms. Although an indepth discussion of the organizations who have done so is beyond the scope of this paper, it is worthwhile to note the content of some of these statements, as social media use is particularly relevant to the development of communication professions. In October 2009, National Public Radio (NPR) drafted its

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43 NPR News Social Media Guidelines. The document states that social media tools have bec ome increasingly important as a news source and as a means of communicating with audiences. As a general guideline, employees are advised not to conduct any behavior that might compromise NPRs reputation or suggest that the individual is not an objective news source. Additionally, employees should remember that anything they post is public information, and should behave online as they would in a public setting. Employees must be given permission to repost any NPR material in an online forum. The NPR journalist should always identify him or herself as such, and should identify their online sources as they would other sources. As PRSA advised, employees are not to use online forums to express support for political or polarized issues, and should remember that merely joining a group on a social networking site may be seen as ones support of the groups views (NPR, 2009). Like the organizations discussed above, T he New York Times has also acknowledged in their policy that while social media are important r eporting tools, care should be taken in their use. Similar to NPR, T he New York Times cautions employees not to associate themselves with groups that indicate a particular view or political position. They are instructed not to write anything that they woul d not normally write in the paper. Journalists should consider the consequences of becoming someones friend online, particularly when it is someone that might be covered in reporting. When using online tools for inquiries of sources, people should be tr eated in the same way as they would by telephone or in person (Koblin, 2009). Government organizations have also addressed some of the ethical issues associated with social media. In October 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

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44 announced several chan ges to their Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials, which were last revised in 1980. These Guides discuss endorsements made by consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities and the openness of the relationships between advertise rs and endorsers. According to the revisions, in effect as of December 2009, ads that describe a consumers experiences with a product as typical when they are not such, must now clearly reveal the outcomes that consumers can expect. Additionally, any m aterial connections (FTC, 2009) in the form of monetary or other gifts exchanged between an advertiser and an endorser must be revealed. Thus, when a blogger receives cash or gifts to review or comment on a product or service, the blogger must remain open about that connection. The FTC acknowledges the difficulty in determining what qualifies as an endorsement in online media. The revised Guides require the same disclosure for celebrity endorsers and advertisements containing research findings that are the result of sponsored research. In keeping with previous versions of the Guides, the decision to take legal action will be decided on a case-by -case basis. Lastly, corporate use of social media has been addressed by the Social Media Business Council. Form erly known as the Blog Council, the Council exists to allow brands only members to discuss the best practices and issues that corporate leaders may face in their use of social media. Currently over 90 member organizations have the opportunity to participat e in live phone sessions in which member companies share their strategies. The Council has also undertaken projects including blogging metrics and disclosure guidelines in addition to hosting in -person conferences on various topics

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45 related to social media, such as employees use and using social media for social responsibility (Social Media Business Council, 2009). The Social Media Business Council also drafted a Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit, which is described as a living, continuously changing doc ument intended to help companies, employees, and agencies in their communication with bloggers and all social media participants. The Council advises that their guidelines be used as an educational, supplementary tool to existing company policies, not in p lace of them. The first item in the toolkit is Disclosure of Identity. When engaging conversations on behalf of ones company, members are advised to disclose their affiliations, offer a way to be contacted, acknowledge any laws or regulations of disclosur e, reveal the companys participation in any social media tools, and not to use any false identities. The next item in the document discusses employees personal use of blogs and social media. In their personal use, if employees post anything related to t heir employer, their affiliation should be clearly revealed When businesses are working with outside bloggers, they should disclose their own identities, adhere to the blogs guidelines, and never ask a blogger to write or endorse something they do not be lieve in. The document also addresses agencies communication on behalf of companies. Companies should require agencies to formally acknowledge that company policies will be honored, and agencies should always remain open about their affiliation with the c ompany. Practical Examples of Social Media Issues Perhaps some of the most concrete evidence demonstrating the need to address ethics and social media use comes in the form of real world examples demonstrating how some of the reigning ethical values in public relations have been compromised in online communication. Solis and Breakenridge (2009) describe blogs as containing

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46 some of the most honest and hands on information, insight, and advice.. (p. 54). However, some missteps by public relations agencie s and corporate entities have revealed this may not always be the case. According to Burns (2008), some of the well known companies who have been criticized for fake blogs, or flogs, include McDonalds, Sony, and Wal Mart. One of the most common cases wa s the creation of the blog Wal Marting across America, which was created by Wal Marts public relations firm, Edelman. The agency created a front group as part of the companys Working Families for Wal Mart campaign. The blog featured the travels of a couple who parked their RV in Wal -Mart parking lots across the country and interviewed employees of the company at each stop. The couple and the trip were real, but the blog did not reveal the sponsorship of Edelman or Wal Mart. This case demonstrates that public relations practitioners have a responsibility to remain ethical in online communication not only because they may be held to certain ethics codes, but because these tools present the company with a platform for future criticisms and discussion (Burns 2008, p. 41). In 2006, BusinessWeek called this case one of the years worst examples of public relations (Burns, 2008, p. 41). Edelmans membership in WOMMA was placed under review (and later reinstated) for violation of WOMMAs code of ethics and its r equirement that communicators remain open about their relationship. This activity also violates PRSAs Code of Ethics, which requires members to reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented (PRSA, 2000). Another case involving an organizati ons use of social media occurred at Coach. In 2005, the company launched its Get Real campaign to discourage consumers from purchasing fake products. The campaign is run by the agency Paul Werth Associates,

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47 and includes a College Outreach Program. Using funding from Coach and the International AntiCounterfetiing Coalition (IACC), public relations classes at various universities were instructed to act as agencies and develop an anticounterfeiting campaign for the client. In 2007, a class at Hunter College created Break the Chain, a campaign that featured a blog, MySpace page, and Facebook profile of a young woman, Heidi Cee, who offered a reward for her stolen Coach bag, then blogged that the bag that was returned to her in exchange for the reward was ac tually a fake. In fact, the young woman, her story, and her entire social media presence was made up. Similar to the Wal Mart blog, this case compromises values of honesty and transparency, and also violates PRSAs code. In some cases, the lines between earned and sponsored or paid-for coverage are not as clearly defined. It is becoming increasingly common for marketing, advertising, and public relations professionals to help companies build their brand in the social world just as they have in other areas. Many times, this means spending money to generate exposure (Klaasseen, 2009). It has been suggested that paid and earned media (together) are more powerful than either alone (Klaassen, 2009, p. 1) This has led to paid tweets and blog posts, often in the form of paying celebrities to discuss a brand through these channels. There are different positions on this phenomenon which may be related to the roots of different communication fields. While an advertising perspective may not see much difference between paying a celebrity to endorse a brand in traditional media and paying them to tweet about the brand, a public relations view might support social media exposure that is nonpaid, as would be the case in traditional channels. Thus, this type of exposure may actually fall somewhere between

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48 traditional advertising and earned media coverage (Klaassen, 2009, p. 2). Kari Hanson (as cited in Solis & Breakenridge, 2009), author of the blog First Person PR, discusses ghost posting as it was discussed at a panel h eld by PRSA. When asked if a public relations practitioner should ghost write a blog, all panelists said this was behavior was not advised. However, some attendees disagreed, claiming that practitioners already do this when they draft speeche s or quotes fo r press releases (p. 145). These discrepancies, which may occur between individual communicators and within the same organization, highlight the need for a social media policy that articulates which activities are acceptable and which are prohibited. W hile it may seem natural for mass media organizations and public relations agencies to take the lead in addressing employees ethical use of social media, there is growing conversation regarding social media use in the corporate sector as well. According t o Solis and Breakenridge (2009), social media tools are underrated and misunderstood by the majority of businesses (p. 137). The authors list some of the most successful blogs as those run by companies such as Whole Foods, Dell, General Motors, SouthWest and Google (p. 137). The blogosphere itself has produced numerous pieces of advice on corporate blogging. These range from informal dos and donts to the Web site ENGAGEMENTdb, which claims to have compiled the first database of corporate social media efforts and in 2009 released a ranking of the 100 most engaged brands on the web. Solis and Breakenridge (2009) feel that companies should communicate online as they communicate directly with consumers. They should be transparent, genuine, and not a vehi cle for repurposing marketing content, (p. 141) as transparency is crucial to social media participation.

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49 In 2009, the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) and the Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) conducted a survey of professional s in for -profit, non-profit, and governmental organizations to determine how companies are handling their employees use of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The results suggest that there is little to no consistency in either policy making or monitoring of employee behavior (HCCA & SCCE, 2009). Very few companies have specific policies for the use of these tools, and when usage is monitored, it tends to be done in a passive manner. 50% of respondents said their companies do not have a policy for employee use of social networking sites. Of the companies that do have a policy, 34% include social networking use (in and outside of work) as part of a general policy on online usage, and only 10% of respondents said their companies ha ve a policy that specifically addresses social networking usage (HCCA & SCCE, 2009). Companies monitoring of these tools was also addressed. 53% said their company either has no monitoring system in place (21%), or has a passive system in which issues are dealt with as they arise (32%). Despite the informal approach to handling these issues, 24% of respondents said an employee in their organization had been disciplined for social networking behavior. 37% of respondents did not know if employees had been di sciplined for these issues. The researchers concluded that this lack of formal policy along with the need to discipline some individuals suggests that there may be significant activity taking place of which companies are still not aware. There is risk in t his situation in that employees may be engaging in online behavior that reflects negatively on the company, and furthermore, as companies develop policies to handle this, issues may

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50 arise as employees learn that some current behaviors are no long permitted (HCCA & SCCE, 2009). A post by the Associate Editor of Mashable, an online guide to social media, agrees that it is likely employees are using these tools, and states that companies need a social media policy that sets the foundation of your expectationsempowers your employees to tweet or blog without fearand educates staff on things to avoid (Van Grove, 2009). Dave Fleet, the Account Director of Social Media at Thornley Fallis Communication and author of his own blog that focuses on public relations and social media, developed a short e book on corporate social media policies. Fleet says social media policies are important because while some of the rules that already exist in your organization will still apply, other rules will be unique to these tools. Good social media policies will articulate what the company and employees will and will not do online, as well as what the public may or may not do on company platforms. Policies protect organizations by providing boundaries, and also empower employee s (Fleet, 2009) by informing them of what is acceptable. Many entities may be involved in developing policies, including management, marketing and public relations, information technology, human resources, and the legal department. Fleet (2009) divides po licies into those that are internal and apply to employees, and those that are external and are directed at consumers. Internal policies might address how transparent employees are required to be and what is allowed during working hours. Organizations may choose to have a separate policy that specifically focuses on employee blogging. As for external policies, guidelines should be publicly available on the corporate Web site and other online platforms and should inform users of what is acceptable (Fleet, 2009).

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51 Research Questions Although there is no universal theory of ethical public relations and additionally, no reigning standard of ethical online behavior, this review of the literature demonstrates the dramatic effects of social media tools on the pra ctice of public relations and the use of technology in corporate communication. This review suggests that everyone from academics, public relations practitioners, media organizations, and the general public has begun to acknowledge that online communication is a complex phenomenon that may present organizations and communicators with a variety of ethical issues. Based on the public relations theory discussed above and the values professed by these theories, an emerging question for this research is which of these values are most likely to be associated with social media use. Given the lack of overarching guidelines on social media, it is important to address this issue at the level of the organization. It has been suggested that employees are more likely t o be held accountable for the values and guidelines set forth by organizations, rather than those of professional associations or personal codes (Fisher, 2005). Thus, the present research will address the extent to which organizations have formally discuss ed social media use, the nature of social media policies, and the most common ethical themes professed in these policies. Addit ionally, the relationship between a companys industries and revenues and its likelihood of having a social media policy will be analyzed The following research questions guided this study: RQ1: What proportion of sampled organizations address social media in a formal policy? RQ1a: What proportion of sampled organizations has a policy statement that is specific to social med ia?

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52 RQ1b: What proportion of sampled organizations address social media in an existing code of ethics, policy st atement, or acceptable Web site behavior policy? RQ2: To whom are social media policy statements most commonly directed? RQ2a: What pro portion of policies address employees social media use for professional purposes? RQ2b: What proportion of policies address employees social media use for personal purposes? RQ3: What online tools are most commonly addressed by social media poli cies? RQ3a: To what types of online services do social media policies apply (i. e. social networking sites, blogs, micro blogs, multimedia sharing)? RQ3b: Which online platforms are most commonly mentioned in policy statements (i e Facebook, Tw itter, LinkedIn, YouTube)? RQ4: What proportion of social media policies address enforcement of the guidelines? RQ4a: What proportion of companies identifies s pecific disciplinary actions that will be taken if social media policies are violated? RQ5 : What are the common ethical themes set forth in social media policies? RQ6: What industries are most likely to address the use of social media in a formal policy? RQ7: What is the nature of the relationship between a companys size (indicated by its rev enue) and its likelihood of addressing social media use in a formal policy?

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53 CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY The purpose of this study is to better understand the content of corporate social media policies and determine the practices and ethical issues most commonly addressed in these documents. Given the se objectives the research approach of content analysis was selected. Content analysis is often used to identify and describe what exists within a body of communication content (Wimmer & Dominick, 2006, p. 152). An advantage of this method is its ability to address current topics that are of present day interest, (Berger, 2000, p. 181) making it appropriate for the relevant nature of social media use. Given the lack o f research specific to social media policies and that these are relatively new technologies, a similar body of research was considered. Several research efforts have employed content analysis in attempts to understand and quantify the content of the ethica l codes or policy statements of corporate entities. Hite et al. (1988) used content analysis to study the most common ethical topics discussed in the ethics codes of large companies. Gaumnitz and Lere (2004) analyzed the ethical codes of 15 professional business organizations and created a framework for such codes, which centers on topical elements, such as themes and tone, and structural elements, such as length and detail (p. 329). Although a few individuals have begun to compile databases of corporate s ocial media guidelines and discuss their implications, there are not as of yet, any formal attempts to systematically analyze the content of these policies. This research attempted to fill this void by providing a quantitative understanding of the extent to which large corporations in the United States have developed social media policies.

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54 Selected Sampling Method The 2009 Fortune 500 list of companies served as the sampling frame for this study. Fortune magazine ranks companies each fiscal year according to total revenues. In this case, rankings are based on the data for the fiscal year ending on or before January 31, 2009. Eligible for inclusion in the rankings are all companies that file financial statements with government agencies, including private c ompanies and those which file such statements even if they are owed by a company that does not ( Fortune, 2009). Previous research on the content of ethical codes and policy statements used the Fortune data or similar lists as a basis for the sampling of co mpanies. White and Montgomery (1980) used content analysis and survey methods to study codes of conduct based on the Fortune 1000 list, and Hite et al. (1988) studied the content of ethics codes based on a sample of Fortune 500 companies. Lefebvre and Sing h (1992) used the Financial Post 500 companies to study the similarities and differences among ethics codes. The Fortune 500 list is appropriate for this subject matter because it is comprised of large companies who were expected to be more likely to for mally address the appropriate use of social media. Based on the review of the literature above, research efforts have not addressed the ethical implications of social media use or studied this phenomenon in a systematic manner beyond an analysis of individual company policies. From the standpoint of data collection, the Fortune 500 list is accessible online, and the data provided offered insight into oth er issues related to the topic, such as the relationship between social media practices and a companys i ndustry or annual revenues. Following an initial examination of the Web sites of some of these

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55 companies, 200 companies were randomly selected from the Fortune 500 list to make up the completed sample for this study. Development and Explanation of Content Categories To develop the content categories for this study, emergent coding was used to identify categories based on an initial examination of the data (Wimmer & Dominick, 2006). This examination of the Web sites of 10 companies, randomly selected from the Fortune 500 list, revealed several common themes related to the goals of the study. Companies tended to vary in their presentation of appropriate social media behavior, such that these topics were in some cases addressed in a policy that was specific to the companys use of social media, or in other cases was incorporated into existing guidelines. Content categories were designed to reflect this distinction and ensure that content not be excluded merely based on a companys presentation of the informat ion, as this may be subjective. Initial examination also revealed that policy statements may be directed at employees, the general public, or both of these entities. Certain social media tools, such as blogs and discussion boards, and specific sites, suc h as Facebook were commonly mentioned in policies. This examination suggested that companies tended to address enforcement either by stating that content is s ubject to review and/or removal or that individuals may be prohibited from future use. Lastly, ethical values communicated in these policies seemed to fall within three main areas: disclosure and openness regarding ones identity, the importance of confidentiality and privacy, and the maintenance of respect.

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56 Pretest and Inter -Coder Reliability A prete st of these initial categories was conducted through an examination of an additional 10 companies, also randomly selected from the Fortune 500 list. This process allowed the researcher to more explicitly define the categories described abov e and ensure that categories were sufficient to answer the research questions of the study. In addition to categories directly related to each research question, the pretest revealed that certain legal issues tended to be addressed in social media policies, and three vari ables were added to reflect those issues. To test the inter -coder reliability of the coding sheet, 10% of the companies in the sample were coded by an additional graduate student. The researcher and the coder coded the set of data independently according to the guidelines in the codebook. Initially, the coders achieved acceptable levels of percent agreement of 90% or higher on all variables. Scotts pi values suggested that variables associated with ethical values, the only variables in the analysis with m ore than two possible classifications, were slightly lower than desired. To correct this issue, these variables were further clarified so both coders understood what qualified as some presence and detailed presence of transparency, confidentiality, and r espect. An additional 20% of the sample was analyzed independently by both coders. This clarification proved beneficial as Scotts pi for all coder pairs was .80 or above. Content Categories The first several variables are related to the identification of the company, including the URL of its home page, revenues, industry, and name of the policy (if any) in which social media is addressed. As mentioned above, Fortune identifies each company as belonging to a certain industry. However, there are over 70 possible

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57 industries. In considering that cross -tabulations with chi -square tests would be run to make meaningful conclusions about the industries, the researcher used the Fortune classifications to create eight industry categories. This was done so there w ould be less of a chance that expected frequencies would be below 5, which would affect the reliability of the chi -square te st. For a complete explanation of the original Fortune categories and their classifications for this study, see Appendix A The f ollowing three variables addressed the first research question: the mention of acceptable social media use anywhere on the companys Web site, the presence or absence of a policy that is specific to social media use, and the presence or absence of discussi on of social media use in any of the companys existing policy statements, such as a code of conduct or Web site Terms of Use. The second research question asks to whom social media policies are most commonly directed so as to determine whether companies a re primarily concerned with employee usage or that of the general public. Three variables were included to address this question: the presence or absence of any content related to employees acceptable use of social media, the discussion of appropriate beh avior when social media is used for professional purposes, and the discussion of appropriate behavior when social media is used in a personal setting. Based on the initial development of the categories and the pretest, it wa s assumed that those policies that do not discuss employees use are directed at the general public and it would not be worthwhile to include this as its own category. The third research question aims to determine the most common social media tools identified in policies. The researc her looked for the presence or absence of each of four social media tools: blogs, comment or review submissions, multimedia sharing

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58 (photos, videos, or links to other Web sites), and social networking sites. Additionally, the researcher coded for the menti on of each of three specific platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Three items were intended to address the fourth research question of the extent to which policies suggest that the recommended behaviors will be enforced by the company. The research er n ote d whether the policy stated that all user submissions are subjected to review or removal by the company, and whether or not the company has the ability to take action against the individual user beyond the removal of hi s or her content. Additionally the researcher noted if the policy states that other company policies, such as those mentioned above, also apply to social media. The fifth research question attempts to determine the most prominent ethical values discussed in policies. The first of th ese was assessed based on whether or not the policy communicated the value of transparency. Transparency, or the quality of being transparent, is defined as visibility or accessibility of information, especially concerning business practices (Merriam -W ebster Online Dictionary, 2010). Based on the pretest and the review of social media issues discussed above, this value was included in the analysis in order to reveal whether or not a company expects users to reveal their identities, positions, or backgrounds. Additionally, the researcher looked for the ment ion of confidentiality. This intended to determine how extensively policies advise d users against the sharing or posting of information that would otherwise be kept private to themselves or the compan y. Lastly, the researcher looked for a statement related to the maintenance of respect between users and the company. This may have

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59 be en described as having consideration or appreciation for the opinions of others, or a s a statement that insults or bullyin g are not acceptable. Each corporate policy was coded for these themes based on whether the theme was completely absent (0), wa s stated with some explanation (1), or was explained in detail such that it is clear to the reader how that value is to be enac ted (2). For example, following the pretest it was evident that some policies merely stated that users should be respectful of others, while others follow ed this statement with a detailed list of the types of behavior or language which are not considered t o be respectful. Similarly, transparency may be present as a statement that users must disclose their identity if they are an employee of the company; this is considered Some Presence. Or, the policy may explicitly state that employees must include a specific disclaimer when contributing any content; that is coded as Detailed Presence. Accordingly, distinguishi ng between these approaches add ed to the richness of the data and allow ed the researcher to draw conclusions about the depth of these values The sixth research qu estion asking what industries were most likely to address social media in a formal policy was assessed by classifying each of the companies in the sample into a certain industry category. As mentioned above, the res earcher created ei ght classifications including an Other category to address this question. The final research question related to company revenues was dealt with by recording the revenues as listed by Fortune. As suggested above, pretesting revealed that a discussion of certain legal issues was present in many policies. Accordingly, the researcher coded for a reference to issues related to the liability of the user or the company, the use of copyrighted content,

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60 acceptable use of content, and childrens rights. For a complete description of content categories, please refer to the Codebook in Appendix B.

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61 CHAPTER 4 FINDINGS Data Analysis Data collected were analyzed using SPSS 18.0 for Windows. Frequencies were run to address the research questions discussed above. Cross -tabulations with chi square tests and independent sample T -tests were used to further test the relationships between the studied variables. Findings: Research Question s RQ1: What proportion of sampled organi zations address social media in a formal policy? This part of the research question was answered by the variable Web Mention. In total, 72 (36%) of the companies included in the sample addressed social media behavior in a formal policy. This includes companies that addressed social media use in a policy that was specific to social media, or in an existing policy such as the Web sites Terms of Use or the companys Code of Conduct. RQ1a: What proportion of sampled organizations has a policy statement th at is specific to social media? This part of the research question was answered by the variable Social Media Policy. Of the 72 companies mentioned above, 42 (21% of all companies) addressed social media in a policy that was specific to social media, suc h that the policy did not apply to behavior outside of social media and was made available to the general public online. RQ1b: What proportion of sampled organizations address social media in an existing code of ethics, policy statement, or acceptable Web site behavior policy?

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62 This part of the research question was answered by the variable Existing Policy Mention. Thirty of the 72 companies (15% of all companies) addressed social media behavior in an existing company policy that was made available onli ne. RQ2: To whom are social media policy statements most commonly directed? Three variables were intended to address the audience to whom the policy was directed. The first of these variables was Employee General Use. This was intended to account for the companies whose policies only mentioned employees use of social media in a general sense whereby it was not made clear whether the policy applied to professional or personal use. 10 companies (5%) in the sample referred only to employees general use RQ2a: What proportion of policies address employees social media use for professional purposes? The variable Employee Professional Use accounted for the companies whose policies specifically referred to employees use of social media for the purpose s of their role within the company, such as contributing content on the companys behalf, or instructing employees not to do so. 18 companies (9%) discussed employees social media use in the professional sense. RQ2b: What proportion of policies address em ployees social media use for personal purposes? The variable Employee Personal Use accounted for the companies whose policies addressed employees personal use of social media in settings unrelated to their professional responsibilities. 16 companies (8%) in the sample discussed employees personal use of social media. The results of these three items indicate that

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63 22% of all companies in the sample address employees use of social media. Among companies with a social media policy, 44 (61.1%) discuss emp loyees. RQ3: What online tools are most commonly addressed by social media policies? The variables intended to address this question applied to either part (a) or (b) as listed below. RQ3a: To what types of online services do social media policies appl y (i.e., social networking sites, blogs, microblogs, multimedia sharing)? Sixty three (31.5%) companies in the sample addressed behavior related to the submission of comments via company platforms, such as discussion boards or responses to blog posts. Forty -three (21.5%) companies discussed the use of blogs in a policy and 38 (19%) company policies discussed the sharing of multimedia, such as links to outside Web sites, articles, or photos Twenty (10%) discussed the use of chat rooms in a policy. Only seven (3.5%) companies referred to general use of social networking sites; this item refers only to those policies that did not identify specific social networking sites. Therefore, most social media policies apply to user comments, blogs, and multimedia sharing. T he se frequencies and percentages (based on total number of policies) are presented in Table 4-1. Table 4 1. T ools discussed in social media policies Tools Frequency Percentage Comments 63 88% Blogs 43 60% Multimedia 38 53% Chat Rooms 20 28% S ocial Networking Sites 7 10% RQ3b: Which online platforms are most commonly mentioned in policy statements?

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64 The three variables intended to address this part of the research question were based on the pretest, though the data suggests that the use of spe cific tools is rarely discussed. Five (2.5%) companies addressed Facebook in their policies. Five (2.5%) companies discussed use of Twitter and two companies (1%) discussed use of YouTube. RQ4: What proportion of social media policies address enforcement of the guidelines? This question was answered by the variable Subject to Review, which identified whether or not the policy stated that submitted material may be moderated or removed by the company. Forty eight (24%) companies stated that social media c ontent is subject to review. The variable Reference to other policies is also related to this question as this suggests that social media behavior may be subject to the terms or ramifications listed by other company policies. Twenty -seven (13.5%) compani es referenced an existing policy. As previously explained, this variable was only applicable to companies possessing a specific social media policy, who may reference existing policies to indicate that existing rules also apply to social media. This means that of all companies with a specific social media policy (42), 64% referenced an existing policy. RQ4a: What proportion of companies identify specific disciplinary actions that will be taken if social media policies are violated? This part of the ques tion was answered by the variable Individual Action. Twenty -six (13%) companies stated that there are ramifications, such as termination of access or employment, for any individual who violates social media policies. The results

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65 of research question 4 ar e presented in Table 42. Only the frequencies are listed as the percentages for these variables were based on different total values. Table 4 2 M easures of enforcement in social media p olicies Measure of Enforcement Frequency Content is subject to rev iew 48 Reference to an existing policy 27 Individual action may be taken 26 RQ5: What are the common ethical themes set forth in social media policies? The variables Transparency, Confidentiality, and Respect, were included to answer this question. In total, 57 (28.5%) companies communicated the value of respect; of which six (3%) had some presence of respect and 51 (25.5%) had detailed presence. In total, 49 (24.5%) discussed confidentiality; of which 28 (14%) companies had a policy with some pr esence of confidentiality; and 21 (10.5%) had a policy with detailed presence. In total, 43 (21.5%) discuss transparency; of which 25 (12.5%) companies had a policy with some presence of transparency; and 18 (9%) of companies had a policy with detailed pre sence. Cross -tabulations with chi -square tests were used to further the understanding of the relationship between the companies that addressed social media in a policy and the prominence of each ethical theme. Among all social media policies ( N =72), 25(34 .7%) featured some presence of transparency, and 18 (25%) featured detailed presence. Therefore, 59.7% of policies addressed transparency in some way. The result of the chi square test between those addressing social media and the presence of transparency is significant, X2 (2, N =200) =97.38, p <.001. Among all social media policies, 28 (38.9%) featured some presence of confidentiality; 21 (29.2%) featured detailed presence of confidentiality. Therefore, 68%

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66 of policies addressed confidentiality in some way. The result of the chi -square test between companies addressing social media and the presence of confidentiality is significant, X 2 (2, N =200) =115.38, p <.001. Lastly, six (8.3%) policies featured some presence of respect; 51 (70.8%) featured detailed presence. In this case, the chi -square value is not reported given that expected frequencies were found to be lower than 5 in more th an 20% of the cells. However, 79 % of policies discussed respect in some way. The extent to which the se ethical themes were present is shown in Table 41. Table 4 3 Ethical themes in social media p olicies Ethical Theme No Presence Some Presence Detailed Presence Transparency 29 (40.3%) 25 (34.7%) 18 (25%) Confidentiality 23 (31.9%) 28 (38.9%) 21 (29.2%) Respe ct 15 (20.8%) 6 (8.3%) 51 (70.8%) RQ6: What industries are most likely to address the use of social media in a formal policy? Frequencies were run to assess the industry categories represented in the sample. The eight categories and their representation is as follows: Travel ( N =26, 13%), Services and Retail ( N =39, 19.5%), Construction, Chemical, Electric ( N =47, 23.5%), Financial Services ( N =17, 8.5%), Information Technology ( N =16, 8%), Food and Beverage ( N =18, 9%), Insurance ( N =19, 9.5%), and Othe r (N =18, 9%). Cross tabulations with chi -square tests were used to determine whether industries differ in their tendencies to address social media in a formal policy. Accordingly, the Industry

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67 variable was cross -tabulated with the Web Mention variable. Results indicate that there is a significant difference between the industry groupings, X2 (7, N = 200) =31.19, p <.001. To gain a better sense of the strength of these differences, column percentages were also calculated. These results indicated that wi thin certain industries there is a greater chance of companies who address social media in a policy. Within the Information Technology industry category, 81.3% of companies discuss social media behavior in a policy. In the Food and Beverage category, 61.1% do so; in Financial Services, 47.1%; in Services and Retail, 38.5%; in Insurance, 31.6%; in Travel, 30.8%; in Construction, Chemical, and Electric, 14.9%; in the Other category, 22.2%. See Table 4 -4 for full results of these percentages. Table 4 4 Pre sence of social media policies among industry c ategories Industry Frequency Percentage Information Technology 13 81.3% Food and Beverage 11 61.1% Financial Services 8 47.1% Services and Retail 15 38.5% Insurance 6 31.6% Construction, Chemical, a nd Electric 7 14.9% Travel 8 30.8% Other 4 22.2% RQ7: What is the nature of the relationship between a companys size (indicated by its revenue) and its likelihood of addressing social media use in a formal policy? The studys use of the Fortune 500 list as the sampling frame allowed the researcher to collect the revenues of each company in the sample and address this research question. The highest revenue represented in the sample was $230,764 million and belonged to the company that ranked fourt h on the list. The lowest revenue

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68 represented was $4,659 million and belonged to the company that ranked at number 494. The average revenue of companies in the sample was $20,001.42 million. An independent -samples T -test was run to explore the relationship between company size indicated by its revenue, and the likelihood of addressing social media in a policy. Companies that addressed social media in a policy (Presence) had higher revenues (M =$25,523.54 million, SD=$29,916.1 million) than did those that did not address social media (Absence) ( M =$16,895.22 million, SD=$24,174.77 million), t (198) = -2.22, p =.028. These results indicate that companies do differ based on their size in their likelihood of addressing social media. Though not directly relat ed to the research question, an independent samples T test was run to further explore the relationships between the size of the company and the likelihood of discussing the use of the three most common social media tools: comments, blogs, and multimedia sh aring. The results indicate that companies that addressed the sharing of comments in their policy had higher revenues ( M =$26,942.06 million, SD = $31,538.32 million) than those that did not address comments (M =$16,809.74 million, SD=$23,498.30 million), t (1 98) = -2.53, p =.012. Additionally, companies that addressed the use of blogs had higher revenues ( M =$31,573.45 million, SD=$36,218.43 million) than those that did not ( M =$16,832.01 million, SD=$22,470.078 million), t (198) = 3.29, p =.001. Lastly, companie s that addressed multimedia sharing had higher revenues ( M =$28,220.1 million, SD=$35,535.15 million) than those that did not ( M =$18,073.58 million, SD=23,814.03 million), t (198) = -2.13, p =.034. Together, these results indicate that companies differ based on their size with regard to the discussion of comments, blogs, and multimedia. All of these differences are significant

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69 (p <.05), with differences for blogs being the most statistically significant. This information is presented in Table 45. Table 4 5. Relationship between company size (revenues) and social media tools Tool Discussed Average Company Revenue Strength of Relationship Blogs $31,573.45 million p =.001 Multimedia $28,220.1 million p =.034 Comments $26,942.06 million p =.012 Additional Fin dings Frequencies were also used to determine the extent to which legal issues are addressed in social media policies. Copyright issues were addressed by 54 companies (27%). Acceptable use of content that is permitted or prohibited was addressed by 38 (1 9%) of companies. Thirty three (16.5%) of companies addressed liability, referring to statements that users are held liable for their own contributions or that the company is not liable for any consequences of those contributions. Twelve companies (6%) mentioned the rights of children or listed a minimum age requirement for use, typically 13 or 18 years of age. These frequencies and percentages (based on number of social media policies) are shown in Table 4 6 Table 4 6. L egal issues in social media polici es Tool Discussed Frequency Percentage Copyright 54 75% Acceptable or Fair Use 38 52.7% Liability 33 45.8% Childrens Rights 12 16.6% Summary of Findings The findings of this study indicate that a little over one-third of companies (36%) discuss s ocial media behavior in a formal policy. More companies discussed social media in a specific policy rather than in an existing document. For the purpose of the

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70 discussion that follows and this studys goals, the percentage of companies discussing social me dia in any way (36%) will be referred to as those with a policy and are the focus of this summary. Although employees do not appear to be a primary concern when the entire sample is considered, a majority of companies with a policy do discuss employee behavior. Policies are very similar in their discussion of professional and personal use. The most common tools to which policies apply are user comments, blogs, and the sharing of multimedia; social networking sites do not appear to be prominently discus sed. Enforcement of policies appears to be a concern of companies, as a significant number are concerned with moderating content, taking action against policy violations, or both of these. The ethical themes of transparency, confidentiality, and respect ar e featured with similar prominence. Over half of policies address at least one of these themes. Legal issues are mentioned with similar prominence; copyright issues appear to be the most likely concern. It appears that industries do differ in their likelih ood of developing a policy with the greatest percentage occurring in the Information Technology, Food and Beverage, and Financial Services categories. Companies that rank higher on the Fortune 500 list are more likely to have a social media policy; there i s a significant relationship between a companys revenue and their discussion of comments, blogs, and multimedia, with the most significant of these occurring between revenues and blogs.

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71 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION Discussion of Findings Prevalence of Social Media Policies One of the goals of this study was to determine the extent to which large companies discuss social media in a formal policy. Content categories were designed so that the format in which the company chooses to address social media was distinguished, but all formats were subjected to further analysis. This was appropriate given the findings; of 72 companies addressing social media in a policy, 42 were specific to social media and 30 incorporated this into an existing document. These findings suggest that the majority of Fortune 500 companies are not addressing social media behavior, although the number of companies that do is still notable and worthy of discussion. Although the use of the Fortune 500 list prevents this study from gene ralizing to smaller companies, this decision was made largely due to the exploratory nature of the study. Based on the results of the study, there are no overarching guidelines detailing what should be covered in a social media policy or even if one should exist at all. That said, there are also no official guidelines governing the development of corporate codes of ethics. However, as suggested in the review of the literature, codes of ethics are clearly more prevalent than social media policies. Also, there are several recurring themes and behaviors addressed in codes of ethics, suggesting that at least to some extent, there is a standard of their content. Codes of ethics were found to be implemented by 96% of Fortune 1000 companies and are considered the primary means of communicating a commitment to ethical standards (Center for Business

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72 Ethics, 1992). It was not expected that social media policies would exist in such great numbers; however, the extensive body of research on codes of ethics did serve as a premise for this study. It is too soon to determine whether a discussion of appropriate social media behavior will approach the prevalence of the discussion surrounding other workplace b ehavior. These findings are evidence of the cultural lag mentioned earlier in this paper. It was suggested that this lag is even more significant during times of rapid technological advances; perhaps guidelines for so cial media use will continue to develop over time, as has been the case with other technologies. Corporate social media use is still a relatively new phenomenon and the findings of this study indicate this practice is not entirely commonplace among large companies. Employees Use of Social Media Another goal of this study was to determine the audiences to wh om policies apply. Of those with a social media policy, over 60% of them addressed employee behavior in some way. While this is a significant percentage, it was expected that this number might be even higher given that in almost every case in which compani es are engaged in social media, employees are involved in some way. An exception to this might be a company whose only social media tool is a blog written by a toplevel executive. However, this is the exception and not the norm. Among policies that do not mention employees, it may be unclear to members of the public, and possibly to employees themselves, the extent to which employees are to be involved in the organizations online communication. This is particularly true in large companies comprised of employees at a variety of levels, positions, and departments and any combination of these individuals could potentially use these tools.

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73 Social Media Tools As suggested in the preceding chapter, the most common social media tools to which policies apply are c omments, blogs, and multimedia sharing, followed by chat rooms and social networking sites. These results are somewhat consistent with Eyrich and Sweetsers (2008) findings of the tools most commonly used by public relations practitioners in which use of email and blogs were some of the most common tools and social networking sites were less used. The present study did not consider email as a social media tool. Initial pretesting suggested that nearly every Web site offers users the option to email comments or submit feedback. While this is considered engagement to some extent, this study focused on tools that are used to initiate a conversation between audiences and the company. It is not surprising that comments were clearly the most referenced tool (63 companies; blogs were discussed by 43 companies). Comments are in a way an extension of email or previously existing feedback options, such that users are still submitting information to the company but now with the possibility that it will be viewed by ot hers. It was also expected that blogs and multimedia sharing would be some of the more common tools. Although blogs potentially open the door to conversation that may be positive or negative, blogs may also be treated similarly to other one way forms of co rporate communication. Used in this manner, it is possible that some companies view blogging as a stepping stone to more engaging tools. If users are not given the option to respond to blog posts, corporate blogging may hardly be distinguishable from other forms of communication. Solis and Breakenridge (2008) discuss the fear associated with blogging in its most engaging form. The authors advise companies to use blogs as a way to open conversation, as it is not realistic to assume that negative responses ar e

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74 not taking place somewhere else just because they are not allowed on the blog itself (p. 144). This study was concerned with the guidelines of social media use rather than their levels of adoption and did not specifically determine the format of each tool. However, given the prominence of comments and blogs, as well as the findings related to moderation and review of content, it can be inferred that the prominence of blogs and comments is related to the closeness of their functions. Multimedia sharing w as also fairly prominent in social media policies and was discussed by 38 companies. This finding suggests that companies are aware of the interconnectedness of the Internet and recognize the value of sharing information and discussion from outside sources However, inclusion of this feature suggests that companies are also aware of the potential risks that come with this sharing. Allowing users to link to other sites has legal implications as well as possibly threatening the organizations reputation. So cial networking sites in general, and specifically Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter were rarely mentioned in social media policies. It is important to remember that this study aimed to understand the discussion of guidelines surrounding these tools, not the prevalence of their actual use. It is possible that companies are not concerned with referencing these tools in their policies because they are hosted on outside sites that may have their own user guidelines, as all three of these sites do. However, these are still pages operated by the company and it was expected that companies would be more concerned with the behavior and conversation taking place on these sites. There are also implications outside of these official pages. The low percentage of companie s mentioning social networking sites overlooks the pos sibility that employees may visit

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75 them as well as the nature of conversations taking place through these pages. This is not to suggest that policies should exist in an attempt to control and mitigate t his online conversation; rather, they indicate that the company acknowledges and values these conversations. Enforcement of Policies The findings suggest that companies who have a social media policy are also concerned with taking measures to ensure that guidelines are enforced. Every company in the study that discussed social media behavior mentioned that content was subject to review, that there would be repercussions for individuals who did not comply, or stated both of these. Additionally, nearly half of the social media policies referenced an existing company policy. This implies that the guidelines of those policies also apply to social media. While this may be positive with regard to appropriate behavior, from a communication perspective it is possi ble that those viewing a social media policy will not put forth the extra effort to read additional company policies. The prominence with which policies review content or enforce guidelines is also related to the ethical themes professed, as this suggests that companies intend to take the steps necessary to ensure that respectful communication, for example, is maintained. Ethical Themes The findings of the study indicate that the ethical themes in question are all prominently discussed, with respect ( N =56) being somewhat more prevalent than confidentiality ( N =49) and transparency ( N =43). The fact that all of these themes were prominent in social media policies suggests a similar concern for all of these issues. It was important in the development of content categories to ensure that this analysis looked beyond material included in policies for purposes of legality. Thus, the findings in

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76 this area are notable as they indicate that companies are not merely concerned with guarding themselves from legal problems and wish to create positive environments in which employees and publics are open and honest in their communication. A goal of this study was to determine the most common ethical themes in social media policies. In accordance with the quantitative methodol ogy, the researcher was able to place nearly all ethical issues into one of these categories, and their similar frequencies suggest that these were appropriate classifications. In an effort to enhance the richness of the data, the study accounted for the extent to which policies addressed these values, rather than merely noting their presence or absence. Among those discussing respect, an overwhelming majority (91%) demonstrated detailed, rather than moderate presence. This is likely related to the way re spect was defined. Pretesting suggested that respect either existed as a very general mention, or as a detailed list of behaviors that are unquestionably considered to be disrespectful. Apparently, the pretested companies were not necessarily as representa tive of the sample as would be preferred. Given the variety with which respect may be defined, it was difficult to define the extent of respect in a way that ensured acceptable levels of inter -coder reliability. However, it is positive that companies were found to discuss respect in great detail as this allows users to understand the type of behavior that is acceptable. Among the policies that discussed confidentiality, a nearly equal number portrayed this theme in moderation and further detail. It was not necessarily expected that this theme would be as common as was found. Most Web sites discuss how private information will or will not be used; however, this study aimed to look beyond this

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77 technical collection of information to the extent to which private information is valued. In the absence of specific laws, it is important that policies articulate how users can demonstrate respect for the privacy of others, as was done by many of the policies in the study. Similar results were found among policies por traying transparency. The findings suggest that companies are concerned with dialogue that is open and honest and that it is important to reveal ones identity and background. It is positive that many policies reiterated the importance of transparency in s everal forms as they apply to users and employees. Disclosure of identity is particularly important for those who represent the company; this may be further indication of the importance of discussing employee behavior. Industry and Revenue Differences T he findings of the study indicate that industries do vary in their tendencies to develop a social media policy. It may be expected that the highest percentage of companies possessing a social media policy was found in the Information Technology category (81.3%). Companies in these industries are representative of some of the largest providers of digital and Internet services, making them a natural fit for social media adoption. Several of the companies in this category have set up online communities where users can discuss the various services provided by the company while interacting with other customers and employees. Within the Food and Beverage category, 61.1% of companies have a social media policy. With a few exceptions of companies that serve business es, many of these companies are grocery stores and large chain dining establishments. Perhaps more so than other industry categories those in the Food and Beverage category may be subject to the greatest amount of

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78 conversation surrounding their company, as their products may be consumed on a regular or even daily basis. Accordingly, consumers may consider themselves to be personally invested in the company and feel entitled to share their opinions. Based on the results of this study, it appears that compan ies in this industry are aware of this as a large percentage of them have provided consumers with a place to share their views. In the category of Financial Services, 47.1% of companies have a social media policy. Many of the companies in this category are commercial banks, institutions which one might expect would be more likely to adopt social media. Financial issues are often sensitive, but are also highly important. Based on the mixed results in this category, it is not entirely clear why policies are not more prevalent. It may be that social media is not the medium of choi ce for one to engage his or her bank, or it may be that these companies do not wish to reach consumers in this manner. The Services and Retail category is made up of retailers and merchandisers as well as companies that provide services including healthcare and energy. The moderate presence of social media policies in this category may be related to the broad types of companies included and the fact that this category includes sever al business -to business companies. Similar results were found in the Insurance and Travel categories (31.6% and 30.8%, respectively). It is surprising that social media behavior is not more prominently addressed in both of these industries. With the except ion of a few companies in the Travel industry, companies in both of these categories are interacting with individual consumers. These industries are also somewhat similar in the sense that consumers have many choices when it comes to decisions in these areas; companies might benefit from more extensive engagement. It is not surprising that the

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79 Construction, Chemical, and Electrical industry category featured the lowest percentage (14.9%) of social media policies. In most cases, these companies are not direc tly providing products or services to consumers, and if they are, these areas are unlikely to generate conversation among online audiences. It is difficult to make any meaningful conclusion about companies in the Other category, as there are no more than a few companies from a particular industry in this category. Legal Issues The results of the study also indicate that legal issues are a primary concern for companies who choose to adopt social media. In fact, some of the policies suggest that they ma y have been developed by the companys legal department, rather than by those handling public relations or communication. Such policies were extremely short and were not tailored to the tools or sites to which the policy applied. In most cases though, it i s to be expected that large companies such as these are concerned with protecting themselves. The most commonly ref erenced issue was copyright law cited by 54 companies. This is a natural concern given the potential for users to unknowingly post copyright ed information on a company site and the ease of accidently violating intellectual property rights. This finding may also be related to reference to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which frees online providers from copyright liabilities provided ther e are measures in place to report violations (US Copyright Office, 2010). Acceptable use was mentioned by 38 companies and indicates that users have some rights to use the content made available on social media sites. Although there are legal ramifications for violating this rule, acknowledging that users may share content for non-commercial uses is positive from a communication perspective as it encourages involvement. Liability was mentioned by 33 companies and suggests that the company is not

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80 responsible for any losses that may be suffered by a user. Childrens rights were mentioned by 12 companies. This low number may be due to the fact that many of the companies on the Fortune list do not sell directly to consumers and would not be concerned with childr ens issues. Findings also indicated a significant relationship between the size of the company and the likelihood that comments, blogs, and multimedia are addressed. It is interesting to note that the relationship between revenue and blogs was most significant (p =.001). Blogs are some of the most commonly employed social media tools among companies, and it appears that the larger the company, the more likely they are to adopt this tool. Implications for Public Relations The use of social media by pro fessional communicators has only begun to be formally studied, and there is even less known about the extent to which formal policy applies to its use. The results of this study will therefore make several contributions to the practice and theory of public relations. Social media has dramatically changed public relations because it allows publics that were previously regarded only as receivers of information to become active participants in the issues and practices of a company. As stated by Solis and Break enridge (2008), monologue has shifted to dialogue (p. 2) and there are more ways than ever to reach publics. Those communicating on behalf of an organization now have countless tools available to them that, if used effectively, can enhance the goals of public relations. New media tools allow for greater and more targeted dissemination of information while allowing audiences to actively respond to information they receive in return. Given the companies included in this study, it is important to note the valu e of social media for

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81 companies of this size. Whether a business -to -business to business-to -consumer company, online tools may allow large companies to connect with publics in a more personalized way and can be used to shift perceptions about the company o r its industry. This research contributes to our understanding of how various fields have and will continue to respond to social media adoption. One implication of the study is that at this point, it is unclear exactly who within a company is responsible for orchestrating social media or for the development of policies, highlight ing the effects of social media on many aspects of an organization. This should not be viewed with intimidation; rather it is an opportunity for public relations. Those with a com munication background are the individuals within an organization who understand the importance of forming relationships with publics and r ecognize that they are crucial to the organizations success. This study suggests that public relations treatment of ethical communication can be applied to the content of these policies, thereby improving the effectiveness of these tools. The values included in this study are closely aligned with those employed by public relations practitioners in their use of tradition al media. By encouraging transparency and respect for others via a social media policy, these values may be demonstrated online as well. The findings suggest that there is no real uniformity in the content of these policies. However, as there is some cons istency in the ethical themes addressed, communicators may use these findings as a guideline of what might be included in a social media policy. The general lack of uniformity in content is not necessarily negative; it highlights the variety with which organizations and audiences may use social media. It

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82 was found that it is common to refer to existing company policies or to incorporate social media into those guidelines; this indicates that social media policies and codes of ethics are closely linked in th at they are both representative of the organizations values and the image it projects. The development of a social media policy offers an opportunity for public relations to build upon or improve existing reputations. The findings of this study relate t o several areas of public relations theory. In terms of the way an organization views its public s this study has implications for the understanding of dialogic communication. In this approach, publics are regarded as equal to the organization and an empha sis is placed on the maintenance of relationships (Botan, 1997). Social media allows organizations to continuously respond to audiences and improve relationships by addressing their concerns or providing them with requested information. Of the principles o f dialogue (Kent and Taylor, 2001), risk is perhaps the most significant to social media use and governance. There is risk associated with any form of open communication, but an organization is even more at risk when conversation and feedback are not only acknowledged, but welcomed. Social media policies can encourage dialogic communication because they indicate that the company has opened itself to new forms of conversation despite the potential risk s Social media use and behavior also have a place in the area of advocacy with regard to the behavior of the public relations practitioner. Just as practitioners act as advocates of their organizations via traditional mediums, they are also advocates in online environments. Certain elements of Edgetts (2002) framework for ethical advocacy are relevant to social media use. One of these is validity, which holds that practitioners should expect their contributions to be challenged. This situation is very

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83 common in social media environments, where communicators may be engaged with individuals whose opinions differ from their own or who are simply misinformed. This study found that some policies suggest employees be prepared for this; some companies are committed to correcting misinformation while others encourage employees to demonstrate that their claims about the company are well -supported. The findings of this study are proof of the relationship between confidentiality and respect and of the role of these elements in advocacy. This study found that companies value the confidentiality and privacy of the company and others. It is suggested based on the findings that confidentiality, as it applies to ethical advocacy, casts an even broader net in online communication as compared to traditional settings. From the companys perspective, protection of certain information beyond that which is explicitly private may be morally justified. This study revealed that some policies communicate this by explaining what the company will and will not comment on. As discussed above, respect for others is an element of advocacy that figured prominently into this study. A social media policy allows the organization to communicate that audiences are valued and will be treated as such, as was done by many of the policies in this study Lastly, research has suggested that many practitioners rely on a situational approach to ethical public relations (Ryan and Martinson, 1984). From an internal perspective, a social media policy can help govern the practitioners use of these tools a nd free employees from feeling as if they have no guidelines of what is acceptable. In governing their use, employees will not need to tread so carefully that they limit their conversations with important audiences.

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84 Best Practices of Social Media Policies An important contribution of this study is that its findings provide a framework of some the best practices to adopt when developing a social media policy. The collection of data for this study also allows the researcher to provide some concrete examples of what has been done by some of the companies in the study. In the review of the literature above, some of Dave Fleets remarks on social media policies were discussed. The findings of the study indicate that many companies have developed strong social me dia policies while others could be improved upon. Fleet (2009) stated that policies are important because even if existing company rules are in place, some rules are specific to online tools. Based on the findings, many companies do incorporate social medi a use into an existing policy such as a Code of Ethics. While it is positive that they are using social media, and that behavior is addressed, burying this content in a lengthy document may prevent some users from seeing it or seeking it out. One example o f this is the Internet and cable provider Cablevision. The use of chat rooms, discussion boards, and multimedia sharing is discussed on the second page of the Web sites Terms of Use. Under normal circumstances, it is unlikely a user of these tools would s ee this. The presence and visibility of a policy specific to social media communicates that the company acknowledges the uniqueness of these tools. Just as an ethics code may focus on behavior in the workplace, a social media policy focuses on behavior onl ine. Related to this issue is the visibility of the policy. In some cases, it was difficult for the researcher to locate company social media sites and even more difficult to locate a policy. In the case of the company 3M, a social media policy was menti oned in a few places, but the policy was not available to the general public. While this was the only

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85 example of this specific case, it is possible that some of the other companies in the study also do not make their policies available online. If there are things intended only for internal audiences, companies are encouraged to continue with those policies, but also develop an external policy. Ideally, if the company has a main page for social media, this would be a good place to display (or link to) the policy. Most companies have an About page that may be reached from the home page. This is where ethics policies are typically found; accordingly, it makes sense to present the social media policy this way as well. Fleet (2009) mentioned that policies can protect and enable employees. This study revealed that employee b ehavior is prominently discussed, although it could be more so Particularly in large companies, it is important to address which employees, if any, are allowed to speak on behalf of the c ompany through social media. C ocaColas Online Social Media Principles offer a good example of how a policy might distinguish between professional and personal use The policy includes a section titled Company and Agency Associates Online Social Media A ctivities. This section is further divided into Personal Behavior in Online Social Media, and Expectations for Online Spokespeople. Personal principles include following the existing Code of Conduct, taking responsibility for ones actions, and scout ing positive and negative conversations. When officially speaking for the company, employees must have completed a social media certification program provided by the company, they must disclose their affiliation, keep records of their online behavior, and always give credit to the source of content (The Coca -Cola Company, 2009).

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86 Based on the findings of this study, companies are also advised to tailor the content of the policy to the tools adopted by the company. Several companies in the study appear to be engaging consumers through sites such as Facebook, but do not have a policy that applies to its use. Just because Facebook has a policy of use, this does not mean the company cannot make its own guidelines available. One company doing this effectively i s Staples. The company has over 92,000 Facebook fans actively conversing about specials, employment opportunities, and social responsibility. Corporate Facebook pages have an Info tab; Staples lists the Terms of Use on this page. This is very easy to locat e and encourages users to become involved in discussion. On the contrary, the wholesaler Costo has over 95,000 Facebook fans and does not address the acceptable behavior of these users. Even if Facebook is the only tool used at this time, establishing stan dards of use early on will ease the transition to additional tools in the future. As for sites that are completely operated by the company, the pol icy should clearly articulate the tools to which the policy applies. For some companies, such as the insurance company United Services Automobile Association, the level of engagement is not reflected in the policy. This company uses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and discussion boards, but these tools are only briefly referenced in the main sites Terms of Use. Sim ilarly, the engagement of the insurance company State Farm is commendable, but a policy governing their use either does not exist or is not made available. Companies that are engaged through multiple social media tools may benefit from creating a page or s ite that allows users to access these tools from one place. This provides the company with a sort of home base where they encourage the use of the

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87 tools, introduce new ones, and feature a policy of use. From a public relations perspective, audiences may be come familiar with these sites and rely on them for information, so they can be used to communicate other company programs or messages. The insurance company Allstate has developed a community outside its Web site, the Allstate Good Hands Community which features discussion boards, blogs, and even online games. A similar effect can be achieved by housing social media tools on the companys Web site, as is done by the grocer Whole Foods Market. The companys blog, Whole Story, is most prominently displayed, but through this blog a user is given easy access to the companys Facebook page, Twitter account, and shared videos. Although the companys policy only applies to their blog, it is easy to find and is distinguished from the terms of the entire site. The companies included in this study demonstrate that while there is not necessarily an established standard of what constitutes a good social media policy, there are certainly companies who might serve as examples and help others get started. Limitations and Future Research There are several limitations of this study. The first of these is the use of the Fortune 500 list as the sampling frame. While this decision was related to the exploratory nature of the topic, it goes without saying that smaller compani es not on the Fortune list are likely also using social media. At this point in time, it would be difficult to compile a sample based on an existing list of companies that was not biased toward the use of social media. Databases of engaged companies are beginning to emerge, but the use of such lists would have shifted the aims of the study to companies who are considered to be leaders in social media. Many of the companies on the Fortune list are

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88 business -to -business companies which may make them less inc lined to use social media and therefore have a policy. Another limitation of the study is the method that was used to collect the policies that were subjected to analysis. The study only included those policies that were made freely available online. Whi le care was taken to ensure that any document addressing social media use was located, it is possible that some companies have developed policies and not posted them online. This also applies to the findings related to employees use; companies may view em ployee behavior as a private, internal issue and may not share such policies. Lastly, there are some limitations related to the content categories used in the study. In retrospect, it would have been beneficial to include a category that i ndicated that a company was using social media but did not discuss it in a policy. This was an oversight because it was not a goal of the study. Although this did not seem to be the case very often, it would be useful to be abl e to quantity the companies in this position. Also, the categories related to the ethical themes in policies each had three categories. This was done to distinguish between the extents to which the values were presented. While these variables were intended to be ordinal, they represent vague concepts. To ensure inter -coder reli ability, they were defined in way s that made them resemble categories; this limited the conclusions that could be drawn about the extent of their presence. This study has revealed many avenues of future research. There is st ill much research to be done on social media use in general and even more to be done on how to govern its use. As suggested above, it would be interesting to compare the results of

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89 this study with the presence of social media among smaller companies, or to compare companies on the Fortune list with those that are considered to be leaders in social media. Future research might also supplement the content analysis methodology used here with another method. For example, a survey of the individuals in these com panies might serve to reveal who is responsible for the development of social media policies, and in particular, how these tools fit into organizations overall communication plans. As social media policie s become more prevalent, it will be interesting to compare the content of these policies with companies existing ethics codes given the close relationship between these documents. Future research might also address the extent to which the common themes articulated by theories of ethical public relations a re present in social media practice and policy. It is the hope of the researcher that future study considers ethical communication in online formats to be equally important as in traditional mediums. Conclusions This study sought to determine the extent to which large companies are discussing social media behavior in a formal policy. While the majority of companies in the study did not have a formal policy, they are present enough to suggest this will be an important area of future research as online comm unication continues to grow. This study contributes to our understanding of how organizations and professional communicators are handling the many decisions that must be made with regard to social media governance. Organizations are not encouraged to devel op a social media policy because it is a growing trend or as a means of controlling the conversation surrounding their company, as this runs counter to the goals of social media.

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90 Organizations should embrace this conversation, and consider how a formal pol icy can further the goals of ethical com munication.

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91 APPENDIX A INDUSTRY CATEGORY CL ASSIFICATIONS Industries as listed by Fortune 500 List Number for Coding Industry Category: Travel 01 Aerospace and Defense 01 Airlines 01 Automotive Retailing Servi ces 01 Motor Vehicles and Parts 01 Transportation and Logistics 01 Transportation Equipment 01 Trucking, Truck Leasing 01 Railroads 01 Hotels, Casinos, Resorts 01 Industry Category: Services and Retail Entertainment 02 Diversified Outsourcing Services 02 General Merchandisers 02 Utilities: Gas and Electric 02 Real Estate 02 Household and Personal Products 02 Specialty Retailers 02 Temporary Help 02 Health Care: Medical Facilities 02 Health Care: Pharmacy and Other Services 02 Medical P roducts and Equipment 02 Pharmaceuticals 02 Wholesalers: Health Care 02 Industry Category: Construction, Chemical and Electric Building Materials, Glass 03 Construction and Farm Machinery 03 Engineering, Construction 03 Homebuilders 03 Industri al Machinery 03 Electronics, Electrical Equipment 03 Semiconductors and Other Electronic Components 03 Wholesalers: Electronics and Office Equipment 03 Energy 03 Metals 03 Mining, Crude Oil Production 03 Oil and Gas Equipment, Services 03 Petroleum Refining 03 Chemicals 03 Pipelines 03 Industry Category: Financial Services Commercial Banks 04 Financial Data Services 04 Savings Institutions 04 Securities 04

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92 Diversified Financials 04 Industry Category: Information Technology 05 Comput er Peripherals 05 Computer Software 05 Computers, Office Equipment 05 Information Technology Services 05 Internet Services and Retailing 05 Network and Other Communications Equipment 05 Telecommunications 05 Industry Category: Food and Beverage Food and Drug Stores 06 Food Consumer Products 06 Food Production 06 Food Services 06 Beverages 06 Wholesalers: Food and Grocery 06 Industry Category: Insurance Insurance: Life, Health (mutual) 07 Insurance: Life, Health (stock) 07 Insurance : Property and Casualty (mutual) 07 Insurance: Property and Casualty (stock) 07 Industry Category: Other Miscellaneous 08 Packaging, Containers 08 Publishing, Printing 08 Scientific, Photographic, and Control Equipment 08 Tobacco 08 Wholesalers : Diversified 08 Forest and Paper Products 08

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93 APPENDIX B CODEBOOK: ANALYSIS O F CORPORATE SOCIAL M EDIA POLICIES Variable Definition Coding 1 Company Number This number will serve to identify the company and represents its rank on the Fortune 500 list Numeric 2 Company Name String 3 URL Enter URL of the companys home page. String 4 Revenues Enter companys revenues in millions of dollars based on Fortune data. Numeric 5 Industry Enter companys industry based on the number assigned to each indust ry. Numeric Variables 6 9 are concerned with the proportion of companies who address acceptable social media use in any way on the companys Web site. 6 Policy Name Enter the name of the policy (if any) in which social media use is discussed. String 7 Web site Mention Determine whether or not the companys Web site discusses policy related to social media. If social media behavior is discussed in any manner, that is considered Presence. This may be referred to as social media or social networking sites or may be a list of specific tools or platforms such as: blogs, comments or message boards, chat rooms, multimedia sharing (photos, videos, links), Facebook, Twitter, and/or YouTube. Presence is only coded if these items are mentioned in the context of acceptable or advisable use, guidelines, or policy. It is not necessary for social media behavior to be discussed on the companys homepage; presence is also coded if social media behavior is addressed on outside sites as long as they are officially associated with the company. 0 Absence 1 Presence 8 Social Media Policy Determine whether or not the Web site features a policy that is specific to the use of social media. If the document pertains to the use and content of the Web site in general that is co ded as Absence. Policies specific to social media may refer to individual platforms, such as a company blog, or to all social media with which the company is involved. 0 Absence 1 Presence 9 Existing Policy Mention Determine whether or not social media use is addressed as part of an existing corporate document other than one that is specific to social media. This may include the companys general code of conduct or the companys policy related to general Web site usage and content. 0 Absence 1 Presence Variab les 10 12 refer to the companys discussion of employees use of social media. 10 Employee General Use Note whether or not employees use of social media is discussed in the policy. 0 Absence 1 Presence 11 Employee Professional Use Note whether or not emplo yees behavior is addressed in terms of social media use for professional purposes. This refers to behavior that is considered within the scope of an individuals employment, such as contributing content on behalf of the company. 0 Absence 1 Presence 12 Emplo yee Personal Use Note whether or not employees behavior is addressed in terms of social media use for personal purposes. It must be stated that these behaviors are those in which the individual is using social media outside of his or her responsibilities as an employee. 0 Absence 1 Presence Variables 13 17 refer to the mentioning of specific social media tools.

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94 13 Blogs Note whether or not the policy applies to the use of company blogs or employees contributions to blogs on behalf of the company. Blogs are defined as online journals of content. 0 Absence 1 Presence 14 Comments Note whether or not the policy applies to the submission of comments in text format, including discussion and review boards. This includes users responses to company blog posts. This does not refer to a general email address that is provided to users. This also does not refer to company policies that allow for user feedback or comments submitted to the company regarding use of the site. Presence is only coded when it is clear that comments are welcomed and encouraged by the company and that those comments will allow for interaction. 0 Absence 1 Presence 15 Chat Rooms Note whether or not the policy applies to the use of chat rooms. Chat rooms must be listed as such and are defined as online discussions that take place in real time. 0 Absence 1 Presence 16 Multimedia Sharing Note whether or not the policy applies to the submission of multimedia, including photos, videos, and links to articles or outside Web sites. 2 Absence 3 Presence 17 Soc ial networking sites Note whether or not the policy applies to the use of social networking sites. Presence is coded if there is general reference to these tools or if specific sites are listed. 0 Absence 1 Presence Variables 18 20 refer to specific social media platforms which may be addressed in policies. 18 Facebook Note whether or not the policy specifically addresses the use of Facebook. 0 Absence 1 Presence 19 Twitter Note whether or not the policy specifically addresses the use of Twitter. 0 Absence 1 Pre sence 20 YouTube Note whether or not the policy specifically addresses the use of YouTube. 0 Absence 1 Presence Variables 21 23 refer to the enforcement of the policy. 21 Subject to Review Note whether or not it is stated that any or all user generated cont ent is subject to review or edits prior to or following submission, that content is moderated, or that moderators have the right to remove content. 0 Absence 1 Presence 22 Individual Action Note whether or not it is stated that action will be taken against an individual if policy guidelines are violated. This refers to action that may be taken beyond the review or removal of content, such as revoking an individuals access to certain sites or termination of employment. 0 Absence 1 Presence 23 Reference to other P olicies Note whether or not the policy in question makes any reference to other existing company policies or the policies of an outside party which are to be upheld. If social media behavior is only addressed within an existing policies, that is coded as Absence. 0 Absence 1 Presence Variables 24 2 6 refer to the most prominent ethical values discussed in policies. 24 Transparency Note whether or not the policy advises users to reveal their identities and be honest in their communication. Disclosure of iden tity, open dialogue, revealing conflicts of interest, and advising against the use of false, inaccurate, unreliable, or misleading information are considered to be presence. If the policy communicates this in a single statement, even if multiple items are listed, such as open and honest, that is considered Some Presence. If the policy 0 Absence 1 Some Presence 2 Detailed Presence

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95 contains more than one statement related to this value, if it is referenced in more than one place in the policy, or if users are explicitly told how to be transparent (su ch as employees use of a disclaimer), that is coded as Detailed Presence. 25 Confidentiality Note whether or not the policy advises users against the posting or distribution of material that is confidential to themselves, the company, or third parties. This item aims to determine whether the company advises users to be cognizant of sharing material that would otherwise be kept private. If the policy contains a single statement that confidential, private, or personally identifiable information shall not be posted or shared, that is considered Some Presence. If the policy includes such a statement in addition to an explanation of the specific content that should not be shared, such as names, phone numbers, postal or email addresses, or company financial information, that is coded as Detailed Presence. Thus, Detailed Presence is coded when the company has made a clear effort to explain exactly what is meant by private or confidential information. This item does not refer to the manner in which the company and its Web site collect or use private information in terms of general Web site usage; confidential material must be discussed in the context of social media practices. 0 Absence 1 Some Presence 2 Detail ed Presence 26 Respect Note whether or not the policy lists respect for others as an advisable practice. This includes advising users or employees to be respectful of others and the company. If the policy offers a general statement that users should be r espectful, courteous, open to the views of others, or a similar statement, that is considered Some Presence. If the policy lists the type of behavior that would not align with this value, that is coded as Detailed Presence. This may include advisi ng against the use of language that is: harmful, threatening, hateful, racially or ethnically objectionable, obscene, controversial, offensive, or intervening with others use of the sites. If the policy states that users must not contribute content that i s unlawful, in violation of a law, defamatory, libelous, slanderous, or any combination of these terms, that is not considered presence, as these indicate attention to legal issues. This item is intended to determine the extent to which users sho uld be guided by principles that are not necessarily covered by the law. 0 Absence 1 Some Presence 2 Detailed Presence Var iables 27 30 refer to legal issues that may be addressed by social media policies. 2 7 Liability Note whether or not the policy holds user s liable in any way. This may include a listing of the types of behavior for which users are liable, or a general statement that users are held to applicable laws. This also refers to a statement that the company or its employees are not liable or responsi ble for any losses suffered by users as a result of using company sites. 0 Absence 1 Presence 28 Acceptable Use Note whether or not the policy discusses the users rights regarding content made available through the companys social media platforms. This incl udes a reference to contexts in which users may use the material (ie personal or non commercial use) or may be listed as activities that are permitted (or not) regarding users rights (ie republishing or distribution of content) 0 Absence 1 Presence 29 Copyri ght Note whether or not the policy states that content is subject to copyright laws. This may include a statement that the company will not post copyrighted material, that the company has the right to remove material which is believed to be in violation of copyright law, or that the intellectual property rights of the company or users are to be 0 Absence 1 Presence

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96 protected. Any reference that the company upholds Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is counted as Presence. 30 Children Note whether or not the policy mentions protection of children or lists a minimum age for acceptable use. 0 Absence 1 Presence

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97 APPENDIX C CODING SHEET Variable Name Descriptive Variable Label Value NUMBER Company number 1 500 NAME Company name String URL URL of comp any homepage String REVENUE Company revenues in millions of dollars Numeric INDUSTRY Industry Category 1=Travel 2=Services and Retail 3=Construction, Chemical, and Electric 4=Financial Services 5=Information Technology 6=Food and Beverage 7=Insurance 8 =Other NAMEPOL Policy name in which social media is discussed String WEBMENT Web Site mention 0=Absence 1=Presence SMPOLICY Social media policy 0=Absence 1=Presence EXPOLICY Existing policy mention 0=Absence 1=Presence EMPMENT Employee use mention 0=A bsence 1=Presence EMPPROF Employee professional use mention 0=Absence 1=Presence EMPPERS Employee personal use mention 0=Absence 1=Presence BLOGS Blogs mention 0=Absence 1=Presence COMMENTS Comments mention 0=Absence 1=Presence CHAT Chat rooms mention 0=Absence 1=Presence MULTMED Multimedia mention 0=Absence 1=Presence SOCNET Social networking mention 0=Absence 1=Presence FACEBOOK Facebook mention 0=Absence 1=Presence TWITTER Twitter mention 0=Absence 1=Presence YOUTUBE YouTube mention 0=Absence 1 =Presence REVIEW Review content mention 0=Absence 1=Presence INDACT Individual action mention 0=Absence 1=Presence REFPOL Reference to other policies 0=Absence 1=Presence TRANS Transparency presence 0=Absence

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98 1=Some Presence 2=Detailed Presence CONF C onfidentiality presence 0=Absence 1=Some Presence 2=Detailed Presence RESPECT Respect presence 0=Absence 1=Some Presence 2=Detailed Presence LIABLE Liability mention 0=Absence 1=Presence ACCEPT Acceptable use mention 0=Absence 1=Presence COPY Copyright mention 0=Absence 1=Presence CHILDREN Children mention 0=Absence 1=Presence

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105 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Sarah Prawer is originally from St. Petersburg, Florida. She earned a Bachelor of Science in c ommunication from t he University of Miami in 2008, where she majored in public relat ions. She decided to pursue this interest and enrolled at the University of Florida to earn a Master of Arts in Mass Communication with a specialization in public relations. She has participated in the internship programs of several public relations agencies as well as those in other communication fields. Following completion of her masters degree in 2010, she has plans to utilize her educational background through a career in public relations or corporate communication.