Tag Archives: Business Ethics

Is it Ethical to Buy Followers?

BizComBuzz Note to Instructors: This real-life case speaks directly to students and is a great way to get them thinking about ethical behavior early in the semester. You can link this classroom exercise to readings in Essentials of Business Communication, 9e Chapter 11 or Business Communication: Process and Product, 8e Chapter 1.


Politicians from Arizona Senate hopeful Wil Cardon to former Governor Mitt Romney to President Obama have been accused of buying Facebook likes or Twitter followers. So it wasn’t too surprising to learn that an Arizona State University student government senator had fudged her Twitter followers.

In fact, Jordan Hibbs’ impressive social media presence—she has 16,800 Twitter followers—bought her quite a bit of renown. She was invited to live tweet the State of the Union at the White House twice due to her notable social media numbers.

Except that it turns out that 14,300 of those followers were fakes.

A Twitter audit showed the accounts that followed Hibbs had fewer than ten people following them and that tweets on those accounts were posted on two days nearly two years apart. Clearly that was fishy enough. Things got worse when Hibbs was interviewed by Fox News and is quoted as saying, “I’m committed to social media, and I’m really interested in politics. It’s a great way to be involved in something that I care a lot about.” She went on to explain that the secret to having a large following is asking questions to involve people in the conversation.

But this nervy coed went even further. In several feature articles Hibbs wrote for the ASU newspaper, she talked about her desire to increase “accountability” and “transparency” among campus politicians.

Your Task: Ethics are moral codes that often hold us to a higher standard than the law, guide our behavior, and help us separate right from wrong. Using the following questions, discuss with your team how the above scenario violates principles of ethical conduct or write a memo to your instructor.

1. Was the use of buying Twitter followers legal?

2. Would you do it if you were in the same situation?

3. Can you rule out a better alternative?

4. Would a trusted advisor agree with the action?

5. Would family, friends, employer, or coworkers approve?