Social Media Business Ethics

Can the rules of business ethics be changed?

The article I reviewing is by David J. Gunkel, a teaching professor with the NIU Department of Communication. The article was written in 2015, so is fairly recent, and it details some of the issues facing businesses when they use (or misuse) social media, as well as a discussion regarding modifications to FTC guidelines regarding endorsements and testimonial usage on social media forums. The author states that the main ethical concern at this time is “… truthful communications, public relations spin, and brand integrity” (Gunkel, 2015, para 2). He goes on to discuss the problems Wal Mart faced in 2006 when it was found that two retirees who drove across the United States and parked in Wal Mart parking lots, blogging along the way about their positive experience, was found to have been sponsored by Wal Mart rather than being an authentic review. BusinessWeek blew the whistle on this deception, and this prompted a FTC investigation and their subsequent modifications regarding the guidelines of company or product endorsements and testimonials. No longer are there simply producers and consumers, but social media has produced a new category the author terms the “prosumer,” is described as a consumer who produces (generates) reviews, posts comments, and shares content about the products they use. This in turn affects how others view the product, especially within the prosumer’s field of influence, their network of friends and followers (Gunkel, 2015). Gunkel describes a point in time when people took to social media to condemn Nestle’s use of palm oil, a movement that was led by Greenpeace. People took to Nestle’s Facebook page, posting overwhelmingly negative comments, until the administrator for the page responded, which seemed to make matters worse for Nestle as there was continued backlash. The author discussed the ethical issues of using prospective employee’s social media accounts as a screening tool for employment, as well as businesses monitoring their employees’ social media accounts, and came to the conclusion that it is important for people seeking employment to keep their social media accounts as professional or neutral as possible so as not to throw off potential employers.

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Reference

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Gunkel, D. J. (March 17, 2015). Social media: Changing the rules of business ethics. NIU Newsroom, Northern Illinois University. Retrieved from https://newsroom.niu.edu/2015/03/17/social-media-changing-the-rules-of-business-ethics/

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Daniel Fortune

Daniel Fortune is a successful business professional, entrepreneur, father, and lover of travel.

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