Topic 4: Ethics – Businesses & Social Media

As discussed in my comments and reflection for last weeks topic, the ethical implications of social media use within businesses are far-reaching (Gunkel, 2015), and as the web continues to evolve, so do the associated moral challenges.

The line between personal and professional is becoming increasingly blurred, and alongside the many benefits, there are shortcomings associated with the use of social media within businesses.

What are the ethical implications?

The predominant ethical challenges can be grouped into 3 categories:

topic 4 image
Piktochart image created by the author (IBE, 2011).


Integrity Risk

One of the main issues linked to social media use within business is integrity risk (IBE, 2011). What this means is; if an employee was to use social media irresponsibly on behalf of their company or on their own personal platforms, they can undermine the integrity, professionalism, and values of the company as a whole. This was seen in the case of Justine Sacco – she posted a racist and offensive tweet that went against the image the company wanted to portray, and she was in fact fired (Ronson, 2015).

Powtoon created by author to represent the Justine Sacco situation.

This also applies to ‘Twitter abuse’, which when classed as too far removed from ‘free speech’, can result in prosecution, on top of the violation of your role as a particular employee (The Guardian, 2014)… and a criminal record doesn’t look too good on anyone, or any business for that matter.

Advertising and Marketing Practices

Businesses and companies have a particular duty to advertise/market responsibly and honestly (IBE, 2011). With the frequent and easy use of social media to promote business, it can be easy to slip up with advertising standards and mislead consumers. The Kardashian family are paid to promote a multitude of products on Instagram, but have gotten in trouble before for failing to declare which posts were sponsored .. thus, representing the businesses but not in a professional manner (Roettgers, 2016).

Image created by the author to show an example of poor advertising practices on social media.


Recruitment Practices

As discussed last week, social recruiting is now the norm — 93% of recruiters use or plan to use social media to support their recruiting efforts (Jobvite, 2014).

SilkRoadTechnology (2010)

…but this process and the resulting situation can have severe ethical implications:


This brings us back full circle to the fact that the line between the personal and the professional is becoming increasingly blurred. Bringing social media into business is inviting the personal into the professional, which directly challenges the classic notion of

Never mixing business with personal matters

…thus, it’s no surprise there are so many ethical obstacles businesses have to work their way around.


Greenwald, G. (2014). Why Privacy Matters. [podcast] TED. Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Gunkel, D. (2015). Social Media: Changing the rules of business ethics. Northern Illinois University (NIU) Newsroom. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Institue of Business Ethics, (2011). The Ethical Challenges of Social Media. 22nd ed. [ebook] London. Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Jobvite, (2014). Social Recruiting Survey 2014. [online] Available at:

Kelion, L. (2013). UK jumps up internet scoreboard as digital divide grows – BBC News. [online] BBC News. Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Ronson, J. (2017). How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life. The New York Times. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Roettgers, J. (2016). Kardashians in Trouble Over Paid Product Endorsements on Instagram. [online] Variety. Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

SilkRoadTechnology, (2010). Social Recruiting: Is Your Company Using the Power That Is Social Media? | SilkRoad Video. Available at: [Accessed 26 Mar. 2017].

The Guardian, (2014). Twitter abuse: easy on the messenger. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].


8 thoughts on “Topic 4: Ethics – Businesses & Social Media

  1. Hi Madeleine,

    Thank you for a thought-provoking post this week. The focus on the business perspective was intriguing to read, for example, how institutions monitor their employees’ social media for safeguarding.

    I thought your use of articles and applying them to real life examples added to your argument. For instance, it is interesting how celebrity endorsements link back to authenticity. According to Zipporah and Mberia (2014), celebrity endorsements are ethical for companies due to ensured attention; celebrities make the advertisement and brand more noticeable. In contrast, Varalakshmi (2011) indicates that celebrity endorsements encourage consumers to buy unnecessary products. Thus, misleading information arises, which can tarnish both the celebrity and organisation’s reputation.

    Due to discrepancies in the literature, it is necessary for enterprises to consider ethical issues before asking celebrities to support a product. What are your thoughts on bridging the ethical gap between advertisers and consumers?


    Word count: 148


    Varalakshmi, T. (2011). Is celebrity endorsement ethical or unethical in brand building. Indian Journal of Applied Research, 3(12), 288–291. doi: 10.15373/2249555x/dec2013/86

    Zipporah, M. M., & Mberia, H. K. (2014). The effect of celebrity endorsement in advertisements. International Journal of Academic Research in Economics and Management Sciences, 3(5). doi:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Wei,

      Thank you for your comments! As you’ve noted, there are many different ways to view the ethical side of the relationship between celebrity endorsements and marketing. As a result of this, I think each case would be different, and the nature of the brand, product, celebrity and the advertising post all have to be considered.

      For instance, in accordance with Zipporah and Mberia’s (2014) ideas, it could be considered ethical to use Prince William and Kate Middleton to advertise a charity on a TV advert, as they will ensure attention across most demographics to a worthy cause, and the nature of this endorsement would not be considered to be ‘sinister’ or sly etc. However, if a company were to use somebody like Justin Bieber to advertise, say, a jewellery brand on Instagram, they’d be targeting a younger audience who use Instagram, who could be considered more impressionable and thus more likely to purchase a product they do not need. This would most likely be considered unethical for various reasons, so it can be seen why each situation would have to be considered separately.

      Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Madeleine,

        Thank you for a thought-provoking reply. I agree with you that each case needs to be examined independently, especially with the examples that you have listed. After all, celebrity endorsement can drive fans to purchase a product they might not otherwise purchase. However, what happens when there is a conflict of interest? According to Varalakshmi (2011), if a celebrity is driven by monetary incentives and the ad conflicts with their image, serious ethical implications occur.

        Therefore, do you think celebrities and organisations should recognise these issues and try to combat against it? This brings me back to my suggesting that both the firm and celebrity take into account the ethical issues, before publicly endorsing a product.



        Varalakshmi, T. (2011). Is celebrity endorsement ethical or unethical in brand building. Indian Journal of Applied Research, 3(12), 288 – 291. doi: 10.15373/2249555X/DEC2013/86


  2. Some very interesting points Madeleine!

    I would also agree with your argument that the line between personal and professional is becoming increasingly blurred and how it’s extremely hard to balance both. I would argue I am a lot more personal on social media at the moment, rather than professional, but I could definitely see this changing once looking for a career.

    What is your own personal opinion on the Justine Sacco story? I came across an article, where the author really got to know Justine on a personal level and he believes that Justine was wrongly viewed by the public and you shouldn’t rush to judge one statement unless you actually know them (Ronson, 2015).

    I couldn’t manage to get your Powtoon to work, but besides that a very good blog!

    Regards, Alex

    Wordcount: 136

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Alex,

      Thanks for your comments! I’d agree with your point as well – in that my social media accounts are probably more personal than professional at the moment.

      In regards to the Justine Sacco case, I’d probably say it was a (severe) case of bad luck. She made a distasteful joke, among thousands more on Twitter, but unfortunately for her, hers was the one that went viral. I think her case was the one to teach the world that you have to be careful what you post online… in this new digital age we’re learning new things each day, and something or someone has to teach us right?

      I do agree that you shouldn’t rush to judge one’s statement unless you actually know them, but some might say that for her to make a nasty joke like that, it sort of gives an insight into what kind of person she is? – all in all, I believe it depends on what is said to judge whether or not the reaction is deserved. Loads more can be said on this though!

      Thanks again,


  3. Hi Madeleine,

    I really enjoyed your post on this topic! Definitely agree on the blurred boundaries between personal and professional social media uses.

    When speaking of advertising, you mentioned how they pay celebrities to promote their products, and the issues surrounding clarity from those celebrities on when they are being sponsored. This reminds me of when there was a backlash against vloggers on YouTube who had sponsored videos but didn’t clarify:

    As a result, most, if not all, videos that have sponsored products in them now have AD somewhere in the title! Do you think that this helps to solve any ethical problem there may be in advertising products that have been provided to them? These vloggers may say that their opinions are genuine, but who could be certain that they weren’t paid to say it! What’s your opinion on these sponsored videos?


    (Word Count: 145)


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