An ethical question about content

Ethics spelled out in scrabble letters
By Orietta.sberla (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Google “get more Facebook likes”, “more retweets” or “increase traffic to my blog” and you will receive a deluge of suggestions about content. You will be encouraged to get to know your audience, find out their interests and then provide content that chimes with this.

So … just deliver the content they want and bask in the success.

Sounds fairly straightforward but look at the bigger picture and things quickly get complicated.

The bigger picture goes beyond getting traffic, likes, favourites and shares, it includes your overall organisational goals and of course your personal ethics.

So let’s ask the awkward question: what if your audience just doesn’t care about people and issues that you think they should care about?

They may, for example, be uninterested in poorer communities or the welfare of people who find themselves in Police custody.

If you’re good at what you do, you get to know your audience and you know that posts about certain important issues just won’t play. They’ll get little engagement and, on Facebook, this lack of engagement will lead to them not even showing up in 90% of your fans’ newsfeeds.

If this was all you posted you would, over time, lose your audience and, eventually, your job.

So what’s a community manager to do? How do you balance the drive for engagement with raising awareness of the things people should care about but don’t?

I’m not sure about the answer to this but as a starting point I’m going to suggest one principle.

This is, of course, a spin on the usual 80/20 private sector principle that you should spend 80-90% of your time entertaining and only 10-20% of the time selling. That’s a good principle and so I’d like to build on it to suggest a similar one for non-profits.

The Want/Need Principle

Spend 80-90% of your time on stuff you know will drive engagement and traffic.

Spend 10-20% of your time on things that your audience don’t care about but you think should.

The want content gets and keeps their attention for the 10-20% of important, but perhaps unexciting to some, messages.

If you want a real head scratcher of a dilemma consider the major charity who tested a fundraising campaign for skin colour and found that the pictures of lighter skinned people pulled in more donations.

Would you refuse to switch to the lighter skinned ad when you knew that the darker skinned people who the audience discriminates against are the ones who would benefit from higher donations?

What would you do?

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