Topic 4: Reflective Summary

After reading Topic 4’s blog post it has become clear that there is no clear or simple solution to ethical breaches, involved with social media usage in both business and the educational sector. There is no single solution because not only have we learnt over the course of this module that social media can be difficult to monitor, but also because ethics themselves are a ‘grey area’. Whilst researching this topic I found that there were a myriad of possible responses, because ethics are not fixed, they can be influenced by personal opinions.

This week my blog focused on the ethics involved with endorsements. An article commenting on the lack of transparency amongst gamers inspired me, it described  videos on YouTube where gamers were paid to review games favourably. From this I conducted further research and found that there are laws being put into place to increase consumer safety. Olivia and myself focused on similar areas, but she brought up a very valid point – it’s not just the endorsements themselves, but what product is actually being endorsed that may be the biggest ethical issue.  A recent article brings to light the fact that vloggers on YouTube, with a young demographic, are using gambling and junk food ads to fund their sites.

This topic is very diverse – even ethics behind reviews on sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp have come under scrutiny. Tamara’s comment on my post brought to light the argument that consumer apathy plays a major role in the expansion of ethical violations. This was a very interesting point, as it suggests that consumers have the power to stop ethical breaches and that it is not only the responsibility of companies like the Advertising standards agency.


Sarah Kyle

Olivia Handyside


Business Ethics: Endorsements are a Treacherous Path.

“Social-media-ad spending is expected to reach a total of $4.8 billion at the end of 2012 and $9.8 billion by 2016”. Bloomberg

The use of social media by companies to market their brand is one of the most successful ways to receive maximum publicity with a minimal budget. No matter what the business, people want to be in the know and that involves knowing what others think. However, the ethics surrounding online reviews and endorsements can be a grey area. This post is limited to two examples: paying for coverage on YouTube and celebrity endorsements on Twitter. However, the general ethical guidelines apply to all areas of social media reviews/endorsements.

In a recent interview Kelly McBride, the author of The New Ethics of Journalism, discussed the complex ethics surrounding paid endorsements on YouTube. She also discussed the value of transparency and credibility – a business lacking transparency is at risk of losing credibility (similar theme to Topic 3). However, these values do not simply apply to YouTube but to all reviews on social media. As such, the motives behind a product endorsement must be clear, as they will undoubtedly influence how the reader judges the information provided (Rose, 2014). Vloggers in particular often come under fire for breach of ethical codes. A recent article describes an incident whereby Vloggers were said to have broken the law after participating in a sponsored campaign promoting Oreo biscuits.

From previous blog topics, it is clear that legally monitoring social media can be difficult. However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent agency of the U.S. government that fights for the protection of consumers. They have introduced standards to ensure that if an advertiser or a marketer is paying someone to write favourable reviews, they should clearly disclose this information to the viewer (FTC, 2013).

Blog 5 1The same principles apply to celebrities who endorse products on Twitter. The FTC explains that if a celebrity fails to use the #ad or #spon, both the advertiser and endorser may be liable. The Advertising Standards Authority UK has similar guidelines (Gibson, 2014). However, despite these authorities’ guidelines, social media will always be difficult to regulate due to the various ‘grey areas’ surrounding online marketing (Varney, 2013).

Blog 5 2

Blog 5 3

This great Slideshare, discusses the laws regarding social media marketing and provides examples of endorsements conducted in the right and wrong manner.

It’s clear that often viewers are unaware of the nature of endorsements and reviews. If viewers are informed, they may carry out different actions. Nonetheless, it must be noted that this is an exceptionally broad topic with many interesting view points.

FTC (2013) .com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising, Federal Trade Commission.

Gibson, W. (2014) Celebrity spokespersons and the federal trade commission, Social Media Explorer.

Rose, M. (2014) Pay for Play: The ethics of paying for YouTuber coverage, Gamasutra.

Varney, C.  (2013) Celebrity Twitter Ads: Regulations, Allegations and Selling Out, Brandwatch.