Topic 4: Social Media, Businesses and Ethics

Social media is a great tool for businesses.  Not only can they communicate with customers on an accessible (and increasingly popular) platform, but they can promote products and services to a massive audience – Twitter alone has over 270 million active users.[1]

When it comes to advertising, Twitter is also key to a successful campaign.  There’s now even the term ‘reactervising’: when businesses react to live events with adverts.  A famous example of this was the Super Bowl blackout.  You can read more about that here. [2] 

But when does advertising on social media become unethical? When does ‘hijacking’ of hashtags go wrong?

Though I won’t be focusing on privacy in this post, this also raises the question of whether advertising on social media is ever ethical (specifically with regards to targeted advertisements). If you’re interested in digital privacy, watch this TED Talk.

This week, I looked to see which companies would ‘hijack’ the #eclipse2015 on Twitter to promote their brand, rather than contribute to the discussion of the eclipse. Below is a handful that stood out (with BMW’s perhaps being the least subtle).



Kopparberg UK:


Oreo Cookie, however, launched their own hashtag: #oreoeclipse.  This was also successful, and arguably more ‘ethical’ since it didn’t ‘piggyback’ an existing hashtag trend:

Though the above examples are not offensive, John Oliver collects a number of inappropriate and unethical uses of corporations ‘hijacking’ hashtags.  In fact, he argues that corporations on Twitter are entirely inappropriate, comparing them to uninvited guests at a cocktail party.  This raises an interesting point on whether businesses abuse Twitter’s status as ‘a platform of communication’.[3]

Click image to view the video

Click image to view video

John Oliver shames corporations for their unethical approach to meaningful hashtags. However,  a recent BBC podcast argues  big corporations ‘can’t feel guilt’ when they publicly shamed online.  Instead, they have a ‘soft underbelly’ to shame, purely because they care about their ‘reputation’. [4]  This makes them different to individuals like Jamie Stone, who as a result of being publicly shamed online became ‘racked by PTSD, depression and insomnia’.[5]

Twitter has ‘given a megaphone to people who enjoy shouting’ [3] but this megaphone has also been given to businesses and corporations, who don’t feel the same effects of shame. It would be harmful for businesses to avoid social media altogether, as I explained in the introduction, but they tread a thin line between ethical and unethical when hijacking hashtags.




[1] Team Caffeine, ’10 Remarkable Twitter Statistics for 2015′,

[2] Nat Ives and Rupal Parekh, ‘Marketers Jump on Super Bowl Blackout with Real-Time Twitter Campaigns’,

[3] ‘Twitter Abuse: Easy on the Messenger’,

[4] ‘Shame with Jon Ronson’, BBC,

[5] Jon Ronson, ‘How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life’,

[383 words, excluding quotes and references]


Topic 3: Reflective Summary

This week’s blog post took me a little longer than usual to gather my thoughts – I got distracted by wanting to read more facts and articles, whilst being attracted to articles about graduate jobs (behaviour typical of a final year university student, unfortunately!).

However, my additional research did lead me to two insightful videos, which I finally discovered how to embed within the body of my text.  This allowed me to rely less on images for visual content and try something new, whilst supporting my argument.  I was similarly pleased to follow up on my reflective summary from Topic 1:  opening a blog post with a quote outside from the set reading.

Tamara’s blog post stood out to me this week because of its clarity and creativity.   I liked the tone and structure of her blog.  I thought it was interesting how we raised the same point on consistency, but with slightly contrasting angles.  My point encouraged consistency with blogging, and a consistent ‘brand’ image, whereas Tamara raised a valid point on consistency with content and social media accounts.  Tamara also provided a great answer in response to my question about people going ‘offline’ in their job hunt.

Aliyu’s blog post was also really engaging, and I loved the inclusion of the Seth Godin quote.  Although I didn’t initially understand her closing point (the #DearMe hashtag), I understood its relevance later throughout the week when I saw it on Twitter.  I thought this was a really interesting way to relate our UOSM2008 blog posts to current internet stories.

Though I didn’t have enough words to relate my personal experience within this week’s blog, I did find this week’s topic really relevant as a student in my final year approaching the world of work.  I particularly enjoyed being able to read how recruitment is affected by the internet, and reflect on how this tied in with Topic 2.

Topic 3: Discuss the ways in which an authentic online professional profile can be developed

Your personal online branding is very important. Employers will look at what groups you’re part of, the photographs you’ve been tagged in, and comments you’ve made on other people’s blogs; negative feedback you’ve left can really go against you.” – Julie Bishop [1]

The above quote does not intend to discourage anyone commenting on this blog but instead introduce the idea of a ‘personal online brand’.  You can read more here on how this differs from corporate branding.  A BBC video mentions how, increasingly, people and brands are blending together, which supports Nyman’s view that ‘nowadays you need to market yourself, not just apply for the job’.[2]  By treating our online personas like a brand, we can start developing an authentic online professional profile.

This video has 5 great tips on developing your personal brand, and marketing yourself using social media:

Marketing ourselves professionally online echoes back to the idea of managing our online presentation and reputation in Topic 2.  In terms of professionalism and employability, we have to place ourselves in our employer’s shoes. Some recruiters, like Ashley Hever, don’t believe in checking candidate’s social media, arguing it is invasive and is ‘a bit like rifling through someone’s drawers’. [3]  However, social recruiting is now considered to be the norm, and ‘55% of recruiters have reconsidered a candidate based on their social profile with 61% of those reconsiderations being negative’.[4]

Nyman argues this can be avoided if we ‘do an audit of [our] online presence’. [5] The first step is to ‘Google’ ourselves (we’d be idiots not to, according to this article), and from here assess our online professionalism and privacy settings.  Alternatively, websites like Reppler can do all the hard work for you.

However, a personal online brand is more than just privacy settings or having a LinkedIn account.  It’s about using social media to your advantage.  By finding the right voice for your intended audience and engaging with the right people online, you can improve and develop your professional profile in a positive and authentic way. Blogging, for example, is a great way to show your passion and commitment, whether related to the industry you intend to enter, or a hobby. Being consistent is also key – with blog posts, and your ‘brand image’.  Your photo, for example, should be of a high quality and the same across social media accounts in order to increase authenticity.

This slideshare explores how to ‘brand yourself’ with a professional, ‘external’ audience in mind:

Ultimately, social media can either support your personal online brand and your professional identity, or it can hinder it. If you are managing your personal ‘branding’ on the internet correctly, and managing your privacy settings properly, in theory you have nothing to worry about when people Google your name.  You might even welcome it.


[1]             Josie Gurney – Read, ‘ Students – Use This Summer for a Social Media Clean – Up’,The Telegraph <>

[2]               Nik Nyman, ‘Using Social Media in Your Job Search, <;

[3]              Ashley Hever, ‘How to use Social Media to get a Graduate Job’, The Telegraph <>

[4]               Jobvite, ‘2014 Social Recruiting Survey’, <; ,(p. 2)

[5]               Nik Nyman, ‘Curating your online profile’, (2013) <>