Ethical analysis of news issue Essay Example

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  1. Ethical problem

The use of social media has become very important in the operations and success of contemporary business organizations of the world. Social media has grown into an essential tool for doing business on both local and global scales. With social media platforms useful for marketing, providing businesses with important information concerning consumers, and offering mostly free means of contacting consumers, suppliers and various other stakeholders, the use of social media has thus become mandatory for businesses (Looy, 78). Billions of companies that were on the verge of collapse have been resuscitated through rampant social media campaigns. However, despite its myriads of benefits, the use of social media and social networking sites has posed several concerns/ challenges for businesses all over the globe.

According to recent news articles concerning social media use for businesses, issues of employee misuse of allowed access to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have become widespread and a source major concerns for organizations. As noted in Corporate Compliance Insights, some of these arising issues include disclosure of private information, misuse of company resources and time, conflicts of interest, damage to the reputation of the company, and possible breaches of confidentiality (Stelios, 11). Consequently, if not well managed, the use of social media for businesses can pose serious challenges in terms of productivity, competitiveness and survival.

  1. Facts and Key Assumptions

For most businesses and companies, internet access to certain websites is often restricted. However, with the advent of social media use for various business functions, employees and other members of the business have now been allowed access to several social media sites. Due to the increased access to various social networking sites, thousands of employees fall into the trap of misusing the social media platforms for their own leisure and gain every single minute across the world. As per the statistics, over half of the world’s working population uses at least two social media sites (Looy, 83). These employees check their accounts at least on a daily basis, especially during working hours. Even though a majority of these assert that visiting personal social media profiles during working hours help refresh their minds and break the monotony of work, organizations have had to contend with serious losses in the wake. About 70% of Australian, for example, has at least one social media profile in the social networking sites, with hundreds of friends and messages to respond to and contact daily (Stelios, 37).

By the year 2018, the number of social media users across the globe is expected to increase4 to about 3 billion people. 90% of young employees (aged between 18 and 29 years old) use social networking platforms (Cardon and Bryan, 93). As a result of the ease of access and visibility to billions of consumers at the click of a button, companies cannot afford to miss out on the benefits of social media use. However, the use of social media is very addictive and employees, especially those with multiple social media profiles can spend misuse several working hours on social media, hence posing a significant ethical problem for businesses (Stelios, 69).

  1. Utilitarianism and the Problem

Act utilitarianism refers to an ethical theory in which good action is that through which utility is maximized (Looy, 49). Utility basically refers to the wellbeing of an individual or an entity such as a business organization. The theory focuses on whether an action will have positive consequences (improve net utility) or portend negative outcomes (lower the net utility). According to the founder of the act utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham, utility is the positive outcome that is realized from an action that does not cause harm to any other person who is involved in the act. Therefore, an act is ethical if it increases/ maximizes net utility. On the other hand, an act is unethical if it lowers net utility.

Benefits of Social Networking Sites

Numerous studies and surveys continue to underline a host of different benefits of utilizing social media for business. Firstly, employees can utilize social media to attain valuable insight on consumers in real time (Wittwer, 252). Businesses can gain relevant information on consumers via social listening and daily active engagement, such as through Hootsuite Insights, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Moreover, a business can enhance brand awareness and loyalty when employees have a strong presence in social media, hence making it easy for potential consumers to find and connect with the business. In addition, social media use at the workplace enables businesses to retain their consumers through timely customer services and regular interactions (Looy, 95). With a 24/7 client support system and quick response times, social media is useful in providing consumers with rich experiences.

Social media is particularly important in increasing the search ranking and website traffic of a given business. The more social media shares a business enjoys, the better the ranking and ease of access. Sharing content is much easier and faster through social media, even as it enables businesses to monitor the activities of the competitors. Furthermore, through social networking sites, the businesses are aided in team building endeavors and the creation of an environment of collaboration amongst employees. In the end, the businesses, employees and the clients all benefit from the business’ use of social media platforms in the daily operations. This improves net utility.

Risks of Social Networking in Business

Despite the attractive benefits of social media use in business, several challenges yet linger. Reviews of the policies of several businesses concerning social media use point to serious risks that that businesses often face as a result of employee use of social media, for both business-related and personal purposes. As businesses continue to relax their policies on social media use by employees owing to its numerous benefits, employees have become prone to mismanaging work hours by indulging in personal interests and conversations on social media at the expense of their job descriptions (Belleghem, 418). This leads to billions of productive hours getting lost as businesses fail to gain much from their investments on employees and social media.

Secondly, the issue of misusing the resources of the business has become ubiquitous for companies. Such include using the business’ computers and internet to access improper sites, use excessive bandwidth, and even use the company’s email, copyrighted data/ intellectual property, trademarks, logo, and name, without permission (Cardon and Bryan, 273). Improper conduct on social media by employees also tarnishes the reputation of businesses thus hurting the existing and potential consumer base.

The business’ computer data, network and systems are also put at risk through the potential introduction of malicious software and viruses through social media platforms. Also, issues arise when employees post content on social media that disparages or harasses other employees, the employer, the company and the industry, hence straining workplace relations. Conflicts of interest, disclosure of non-public (confidential) information, possibility of fraud/ espionage (such as false reviews) and diminished privacy are other risks that have since been frequently associated with the use of social media by employees at the workplace (Oh and Stephanie, 242). Such actions and risks posed by employees on social media reduce the net utility and have been shown to cripple even giant corporations.

  1. Kant’s Categorical Imperative

A categorical imperative refers to an unconditional and absolute requirement which must be adhered to in all situations and is itself argued as an end. Kant’s categorical imperative therefore outlines that an individual ought to behave by a maxim which they are willing to accept as universal. In order to solve the problem of social media misuse at the workplace, businesses need to come up with internal regulations and policies that govern social media use (Belleghem, 348). Such include prohibiting and punishing cases of social media misuse in order to prevent the risks that are associated with social media use in businesses.

According to Kant’s categorical imperative, employees in this case need to act in a manner that they would accept and tolerate if they were the owners of the business. Misusing company resources and time via social media is unethical and hurts businesses (Looy, 62). Any employer in any part of the world would thus welcome measures that are aimed at discouraging such deviant behavior in employees which lead to both short- and long-term losses for businesses (Root and Sandra, 202). Employees world over generally understand the need to respect the employer’s business and their roles in the improvement of the business. Such rules on social media use amongst employees can thus be applied universally.

  1. Conclusion

The benefits of social media use for a company can be immense, as discussed above. If properly utilized, social media has the potential to generate substantial and unrivalled profits for businesses. In order to achieve this, however, it is important to deal with the various risks that are associated with the unethical misuse of social media by employees. The risks can lead to the closure, failure, bankruptcy and legal issues for businesses, and thus call for measures that are aimed at curbing personal use of social media at the workplace even as misuse of company name on social profiles is prohibited and punished appropriately (Looy, 97). Such an action is a conscientious one since the duty of the employer is to ensure safe working conditions and proper remunerations in exchange for utmost dedication and loyalty to the goals, visions and objectives of the business from the employees. It is therefore proper that each side satisfies their roles (Root and Sandra, 206).

Works Cited

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Belleghem, Steven Van. The Conversation Company: Boost your Business Through Culture, People and Social Media. London: Kogan Page, 2012; 348, 418. Print.

Cardon, Peter W., and Bryan Marshall. «The Hype and Reality of Social Media Use for Work Collaboration and Team Communication.» International Journal of Business Communication 52.3 (2015): 273-93. Web.

Looy, Amy Van. «Social Media Management.» Springer Texts in Business and Economics (2016): 78-97. Web.

Looy, Amy Van. «Social Media Strategy and Return on Investment.» Social Media Management Springer Texts in Business and Economics (2016): 49-62. Web.

Oh, Chong, and Stephanie Yergeau. «Social Capital, Social Media, and TV Ratings.» International Journal of Business Information Systems 24.2 (2017): 242. Web.

Root, Teri, and Sandra Mckay. «Student Awareness of the Use of Social Media Screening by Prospective Employers.» Journal of Education for Business 89.4 (2014): 202-06. Web.

Stelios, Spyridon. «Business Ethics and Social Media.» Proceedings of The 3rd Human and Social Sciences at the Common Conference (2015): 11, 37, 69. Web.

Wittwer, Matthias, Olaf Reinhold, Rainer Alt, Finn Jessen, and Richard Stüber. «Social Media Analytics Using Business Intelligence and Social Media Tools – Differences and Implications.» Business Information Systems Workshops Lecture Notes in Business Information Processing (2017): 252-59. Web.