While virtually all church leaders strive to be honest in the daily lives, some struggle with extending their personal integrity online.

Whether it is because of ignorance or something more insidious, some Christians display a lack of integrity on social medial.

But the same rules apply on social media as they do in real life. Plagiarism, sharing false information, misleading others are still wrong when you do them on Facebook instead of face-to-face.

In a desire to grow their “brand” and broaden their influence—or possibly because they don’t know any better—some church leaders have become known for taking the work of others and passing it off as their own. Others have frequently shared information or news stories that are false.

Here are some general rules to help maintain your integrity online.

Check stories before you share them. — If you see a story on social media and you want to share it, click the link and read it first.

Make sure it is a legitimate news site. Do some additional research on the story. Most of the time, a simple Google search will give you all the information you need.

Your reputation is worth too much to damage it by sharing questionable stories.

If you get fooled, apologize and correct it. — It happens to all of us. We may even do all the right steps, but we share something that’s fake. We can still act with integrity in how we respond.

Don’t try to excuse it or argue about how the idea behind the story is still true. Don’t ignore your mistake either.

Be honest and follow up with an apology and correction wherever you shared the false story.

Don’t write clickbait. — Write creative, interesting headlines, but don’t share clickbait on social media.

If you manage a website, make sure the headlines and tweets you share are an honest reflection of the content you’re linking.

Share don’t copy. – If you see someone share a compelling thought or an interesting image, retweet them or share it from their page. Give them credit. Don’t copy it and pass it off as your own.

If it is something you want to share, do so while pointing others to the one with whom it originated.

Link to others. – If an article or blog post inspired you to write something, link to it. Point others to the resources that benefit you.

By linking on social media or in your own article, you are not only giving credit where it is due, you are giving the writer and website additional traffic, which they’ll definitely appreciate.

When in doubt, give credit. – Always look to give credit. When 20 people are sharing the same link on Facebook or Twitter, there’s no need to mention them all if you share the story. But if one person has an interesting link that no one else has noticed, make note of it.

Go the extra mile in crediting others for what they do on social media. Thank them. Retweet them. Link them.

Reverse the normal way of doing things. Instead of giving credit to others only when it is absolutely necessary, do it at every possible moment.

Rather than sharing attention with someone else only when you are forced to do so, share it freely and frequently. Look for ways to give others credit, not take it for yourself.

Be it online or off, build relationships and trust by being generous with attention and credit. You will not be perfect at it, but when your name is synonymous with integrity, mistakes will often be quickly forgotten.

If, however, you continually take undeserved credit, mistakes will only serve to further cement your negative reputation.

Practice integrity and honesty everywhere, even (especially) on social media.

Aaron Earls
Aaron Earls is online editor of Facts & Trends. He is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared at numerous sites, including The Washington Post, World Magazine, and Think Christian.