Why business use of social media can be problematic.

Business use of social media has been on the rise ever since marketers and recruiters realised just how useful it could be for them (Copp, 2016). There are a number of reasons why businesses choose to utilise social media, as demonstrated below.

Why do businesses use social media-
Figure 1: Why businesses use social media, self-produced.

However, there are increasing problems arising from business use of social media. These include, the struggle to maintain integrity, controlling employee and customer posts about your company and the one I will focus on this week: ethical problems surrounding recruitment practices. In Topic 3, I began to investigate the rate at which social media is becoming a part of recruitment practices, as shown in the recap below.

what we already know.png
Figure 2: Recap of Topic 3, self-produced.

I argue that sometimes recruiters can be unethical when utilising social media. Put simply, ethics are a set of moral principles; to be unethical is to typically do what is seen as the wrong thing to do (Bbc.co.uk, 2014). However, many have already discussed the difficulty in establishing social media ethics (Podger, 2009).

The most significant ethical issue with social recruiting is the privacy imposition it involves. In previous blog comments I have discussed how the increase in recruiters and employers looking at social media profiles imposes on one’s freedom of speech. This is something that Glenn Greenwald discusses in his TED Talk. (TED, 2014). He argues that by knowing our privacy is being invaded, people automatically become more compliant and conformist. In previous topics we have discussed whether multiple identities are better than one. When baring in mind the increasing number of recruiters and employers looking at social media profiles, it is important more than ever that employees ensure their personal profiles are on high security settings. The issue that stems from this, is that if an employee or candidate posts something that their company disagrees with, this could lead to serious consequences. For example, Justine Sacco was fired from the IAC after she published a racist tweet (Ronson, 2015). The video below outlines the ethical issues that arise from employers looking at social media profiles in more depth.

An increase in social media use has also led to an increase in online identity theft cases like the Leah Palmer/Ruth Palmer case. If an employee has unknowingly had their pictures used elsewhere online alongside undesirable content, is it possible that an employer could confuse the two and punish the employee for risking the company’s online integrity?

Word Count: 395


Bbc.co.uk. (2014). Introduction to Ethics. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/introduction/intro_1.shtml [Accessed 26 Mar. 2017].

Copp, E. (2016). 10 Benefits of Social Media for Business. [Blog] Hootsuite. Available at: https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-for-business/ [Accessed 26 Mar. 2017].

Hessah, A. (2015). Employers Monitoring Your Social Media. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQWx1P3_E9o [Accessed 26 Mar. 2017].

Institute of Business Ethics, (2011). The Ethical Challenges of Social Media. Business Ethics Briefing. [online] Available at: https://www.ibe.org.uk/userassets/briefings/ibe_briefing_22_the_ethical_challenges_of_social_media.pdf [Accessed 26 Mar. 2017].

Jobvite, (2014). Social Recruiting Survey. [online] Available at: https://www.jobvite.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Jobvite_SocialRecruiting_Survey2014.pdf [Accessed 26 Mar. 2017].

Kleinman, Z. (2015). Who’s that girl? The curious case of Leah Palmer. [online] BBC News. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-31710738 [Accessed 26 Mar. 2017].

Podger, P. (2009). The limits of control: with journalists and their employers increasingly active on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, news organizations are struggling to respond to a host of new ethics challenges. American Journalism Review, [online] 31(4), p.32. Available at: http://go.galegroup.com/ps/anonymous?p=AONE&sw=w&issn=10678654&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA208288476&sid=googleScholar&linkaccess=fulltext&authCount=1&isAnonymousEntry=true [Accessed 26 Mar. 2017].

Ronson, J. (2015). How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life. The New York Times Magazine. [online] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Magazine&action=keypress&region=FixedLeft&pgtype=article&_r=3 [Accessed 26 Mar. 2017].

TED, (2014). Glenn Greenwald: Why Privacy Matters. [image] Available at: http://www.ted.com/talks/glenn_greenwald_why_privacy_matters/transcript?language=en#t-599263 [Accessed 26 Mar. 2017].


6 thoughts on “Why business use of social media can be problematic.

  1. Hi Caiti
    A great blog post, thank you! I particularly like the balance you provide between the positives and negatives of business use of social media; I think they are equally important to recognise when approaching this topic. I also think the question you present at the end is a really interesting one. I wonder how many potential employees have been dismissed under these assumptions. Perhaps this provides evidence to support the case for a single identity, along with those suggested by Cover (2012). According to Abril (2012), some employers in the US have been found to access private user content by obtaining access to users’ passwords. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think it should be written in the law that business must not access private content under any circumstances? Clearly it poses a huge privacy and legal issue if this is indeed true.


    1. Hi Brad,

      Thanks for the lovely comment. I am totally shocked to learn that some employers have privately accessed user content! I think this is completely out of order and there absolutely must be some law in place to stop this from happening. I can’t even begin to understand the logic in doing that, even if someone is divulging in undesirable (to the employer) content, this shouldn’t affect how they do their job etc. If an employee is being publicly racist (for example) on social media then it’s fair enough to dismiss them but their private content has nothing to do with the company! Do you agree?



      1. Hi Caiti
        I completely agree. I think there are natural (moral) boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed, and this is definitely one example of crossing that boundary!


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  3. Hi Caiti,

    A fantastic read. The use of infographics made it much easier to see why firms and companies use social media so much as well as how many focus on this during recruitment.

    The use of social media has gained tremendous momentum with over 2.34 billion people using social networking sites as of 2016, shown here: https://www.statista.com/topics/1164/social-networks/

    In your post you describe how many recruiters utilise social media to check what potential candidates or even current employees are posting online. Sadly, there are many cases where the content people have posted have come under fire from a number of other users on social media platforms, also referred to as ‘lynch mobs’. My question to you is; what do you think can be done to help prevent businesses being able to look into your social media profile; both during recruitment and once you have been accepted?


    Word Count: 147


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