Ethical Social Media

Social Media vs Social Good

We’re not big on social media. Or at the very least, we’re not big on social media being the first runner off the mark for your marketing strategy, and we’re not big on throwing your hard-earned marketing dollars at it for no good reason. Thing is, we’re more of the anti-social social media mind: we believe in focusing our marketing efforts less on social media and more on social good.

Let’s explain. 

In today's digital landmine, social media has become an easy marketing tick-box for big corps and small businesses alike, even as the chunky ethical issues of social media marketing and its place in our society continue to grow. What started as an authentic desire to stay connected with humans across the globe has morphed into a beautifully ironic example of extreme consumerism and commercialisation. There are pretty much ads in your porridge, at this point. Not to mention the wily ways of the algorithm - it seems ethics and social media don’t gel very well these days.

Don’t get us wrong: we’re not here to preach a doom-and-gloom digital dystopia, and we won’t be waving our pitchforks or picket signs just yet. But we are here to challenge both the good and bad of the platforms that have become a staple in society, and help put those tappy-happy thumbs to good use. And by good use, we mean local, ethical and independent media platforms.

In short, we believe your content should be created for people first, planet second, and algorithms somewhere much further down the line. Think about what you’re putting out there, and where you’re putting it. We’re big on organic growth rather than paid follows, especially organic growth that uses the best of digital channels to deliver genuinely helpful and inspiring content to your audience. Dish that up alongside a paid digital marketing strategy that genuinely considers the platforms you’re investing in, and chef’s kiss. But first, let’s dig into the why.

What are the ethical issues related to social media marketing?

It’d be rude not to lead with the silver linings of social media. Because despite the doom and gloom, social media advertising does provide a global reach that can blow traditional advertising methods out of the park. For companies using social media, the ability to engage directly with your audience is a great way to strengthen brand-customer relationships and build a loyal following. Not to mention it’s been the hugely helpful hand pulling small businesses back to their feet after the shit-show that was COVID-19.

Yessir, In the right hands, social media can serve as a powerful tool for spreading positive messages, raising awareness about critical issues, and being a genuinely useful tool in the everyday lives of its people. It can be a force for good - but, if you’re sitting there asking yourself ‘is social media marketing ethical’, the answer gets a little slippery.

The real question you should be asking is, are social media algorithms ethical. Ever heard of algorithmic manipulation? It might not pop up over dinner all that often, but algorithmic manipulation is when social media apps use data-driven algorithms to dish up content based on what you’re most likely to engage with. It learns from your activity, so the more you use it, the smarter it gets.

By now, we’re all probably a little too familiar with this trick. There’s nothing like clicking an ad for the latest and greatest vacuum cleaner (we used to be fun, promise) and suddenly your entire feed is saturated with all things vacuums because Instagram knows you’ve hit middle age and is judging you for it. That’s algorithmic manipulation, baby. It’s weird.

But more than weird, or helpful, or clever, it can also be deeply problematic. The thing is, algorithms prioritise content with high engagement no matter what, paying no mind as to whether or not that content is doing social good or social harm to the viewer. Vacuum cleaners are one thing, but when it’s young girls with low self-esteem having eating disorders pushed down their throats, it’s less fun. With minimal regulations, this opens up a whole realm of moral hairiness, including the potential for misinformation, polarising narratives, extremism, negativity and hateful content. And Meta’s not doing much to change this metrics-over-people approach, either, turning their gold-plated eyes anywhere except to the ethical considerations of social media marketing.

User privacy and safeguarding data is another big concern, especially given recent data leaks that turned the lamp on shady behind-the-scenes dealings by not-so ethical social media platforms. Add that to the list, right there next to promoting transparency around content dissemination, ensuring responsible influencer collaborations, addressing the potential impacts on mental health (especially among the younger generation), considering environmental implications, and promoting inclusivity and diversity. The point is, social media is a barely regulated, grey area stomping ground for ethical dilemmas, and we don’t rate it.

The ethical marketing pioneers: aka, brands doing a great job both on and off social media

A few of our heroes just so happen to feel the same. A standout example of a brand giving the bird to conventional social media advertising is Lush Cosmetics. As well as ditching social media, they’ve recently decided to cut their ad spend on Google, saying sayonara to the tech giants and hello to ethical practices, community engagement, and a healthy conscience.

Patagonia is another brand doing good things in the marketing world. While they’re still active on social media, the outdoor apparel company stands as a beacon of ethical marketing with its emphasis on sustainability and environmental stewardship. In the past, they’ve boycotted Facebook in a bid to ‘prioritise people and planet over profit’, and more recently gave their entire business back to the planet to ensure all their profits, some $100 million a year, were used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe. 

Locally, Off-Piste Provisions is a plant-based jerky brand making waves in New Zealand, Australia and now the USA. With sustainability as the standard and ethical social media practices as their bar, Off-Piste Provisions said no to throwing money at Meta right from day dot. Instead, they’ve focused on building their following organically, creating genuinely insightful content and using authentic brand influencers that rate the product to champion their cause. They supported local print media rather than feeding the giants, and have seen it all pay off with a following as equally obsessed with their vegan meat snacks as they are with the brand. Oh yeah, and we might have had a hand to play in all this. More on that here.

All in all, it’s fair to say these brands have more than proved that a commitment to ethical marketing can be a powerful driver of success. By prioritising authentic engagement and community-building over traditional advertising methods, they’ve not only gained brand loyalty - they’ve also positively contributed to society. Our heroes.

The nitty gritty: How to use your marketing dollar for good - and growth

Unless there’s a genuine need or direct benefit to your company using social media, we’ll likely tell you to steer clear. And by genuine need or direct benefit, we mean that’s exactly where your audience is and it’s how they’re engaging with you. But if that’s not where your marketing dollar is best spent, all is not lost. Here’s our guide to mindful social media marketing and effective alternatives:

  1. Prioritise your audience’s needs and foster real communities

Forget your product-first approach, and let’s go back to people-first. Your audience decides your success as a business, so dedicate your marketing to providing a genuine, authentic service. Nail your target audience and then create a page they’ll seek out, share, and engage with. Whether that’s hiking tips, mindfulness exercises, how-to videos, informative articles or (actually entertaining) entertainment, make the humans you’re interacting with your new priority.

  1. Collaborate with relevant influencers

Using good humans to support good brands in healthy ways is a great way to prioritise authenticity and community engagement. Emphasis on relevance, here - when influencers have a genuine connection with your audience and share your values, their thumbs up becomes a powerful force for good.

  1. Prioritise positive cultural influence

No matter your M.O., we prioritise strategic and creative campaign platforms that drive positive cultural influence. People-first, remember? Be a force for good in the world, and let karma (and some clever, ethical marketing) do the rest.

  1. Optimise your organics

Before you look at paid advertising, make sure you’re nailing all the bits that don’t require spend. Opt for optimised SEO websites and blogs, local (and relevant) partnerships, and fostering physical and authentic engagement with your community.

  1. Shop local

When it comes to growing your reach through paid advertising, opt for investing your marketing dollar in local, ethical and independently owned media platforms before sending it into the Metaverse. Whether it’s radio, print or digital, we believe we have the ability to keep local, independent news and platforms alive through our advertising spend.

  1. Consider your environmental impact

This one, we can help with. Prioritise your environmental impact first with ethical processes, and watch it spill all over your marketing strategies, too. Consider the impact of your advertising campaigns, the platforms you’re using, your website development and hosting, your web design and content, and your production and distribution process.


In this heavily commodified age we live in, we believe it’s more important than ever to take a considered approach in everything we do, and in every part of our business. We’ve drawn lines in the sand for our own business, but in short, our real emphasis boils down to creating a little bit of social good in the world. We want to be part of the change, making better choices that protect our planet and the people in it for generations to come. And leave the people to their damn porridge. 

If that’s ringing bells for you, get in touch to see how we can help you and your business thrive in all the right ways.