Is it immoral to work for Facebook?

Social media advertising for a good cause: is it morally justifiable?

Facebook ads, Google ads, sponsored tweets, sponsored content on LinkedIn - social media advertising has become an integral part of today's networks. The fact that advertising is and will remain part of the networks for the foreseeable future is not a serious issue. However, the effects of advertisements are hotly debated.

Certainly there are individual ads that are particularly polarizing or simply misjudge in the tone. However, we mean the general debate, characterized by ethical and moral ideas and positions, which culminates in a question:

Is social media advertising justifiable for a good cause?

Social Media Advertising: What's the Problem?

Of course, it seems reasonable to assume that we, as a partner and service provider in the field of social media ads, will answer the question asked at the beginning with a resounding yes. However, we don't make it that easy for ourselves.

Firstly, this is due to the fact that we consciously select our customers according to value-oriented criteria and it is important to us which goals we support with our work. This also comes into play in our mission:

4better.world was founded in 2019 by Lars Müllenhaupt with the aim of making the world sustainable. The 4better.world team uses its experience from online marketing and business to strengthen sustainable organizations (companies as well as NGOs) until we have created a sustainable world together.

For one or the other, this may sound like empty words, but we mean them seriously and we live them too.
The second factor, which does not make the answer so easy for us, consists of two facets: the business model and the behavior of the operating companies of the social media channels.

For the sake of simplicity, and because it is the most criticized, we will focus on Facebook here. The blue giant has had more than one data protection scandal in recent years - the last was just a few days ago at the time of publication.

Hence the hint: You can use tools such as haveibeenpwned to check whether your data was there when the data leaked. If so, you should definitely change your password. And activate the 2-factor authentication.

However, dealing with users is the lax one, and to put it in a friendly way: internal data is not even the main point of criticism in the discussion about social media advertising. The focus of the debate is more on business conduct and the seemingly barely existing scruples.

For example, there are repeated allegations that Facebook is targeting its advertising customers with mentally ailing or insecure users. Facebook itself contradicts this clearly and installs new safety nets after every scandal, but a more than bad aftertaste remains.

The criticism of the use of advertising on social media for a good cause therefore boils down to one core argument:
There is no such thing as good use in the wrong system. All advertisers support the large network providers in continuing their business model and selling their users as data-providing products.

Even if it is pointed, it has a real core. Nevertheless, we say: Social media advertising can and should be used for a good cause. Because there is another side of the discussion.

Social Media Promotion For A Good Cause: What's the Alternative?

A brief thought experiment on this: Let us assume that all NGOs and all value-oriented companies and initiatives will stop their social media advertising and only communicate organically - i.e. without advertising support - on social media. (There are also voices who generally consider the use of Facebook and Co. to be immoral, but that's another discussion.)

The organizations are still present in the networks and operate there. But their reach and visibility will definitely decrease without targeted advertising. The volume of donations will decrease, and sooner or later communication and interaction will primarily only take place with “the hard core”, i.e. the fans and supporters who are already convinced. The visibility outside of this core group decreases.

Purely for-profit companies and commercial providers, who are pretty indifferent to values ​​and “the good thing”, continue to place ads on social media.

The result: Social media advertising continues to exist, advertising income is not noticeably shrinking for Facebook and Co. But the visibility of the important, sustainable and socially relevant topics is decreasing.

Please don't get us wrong. We are not saying that social media advertising is the decisive or only success factor for communication. But it is part of a modern and impact-oriented marketing mix. Not doing this would be more of a symbolic gesture for social media providers, but it would noticeably harm NGOs and value-oriented companies.

Social media advertising for a good cause makes sense

For us, the result of this important and correct discussion is: As things stand today, social media advertising is morally justifiable for a good cause and makes sense and is important from a communication point of view.

However, this only applies if marketing partners ask themselves a few questions and discuss and clarify these with their customers:

  • What exactly are the goal and desired effect of social media advertising?
  • Which thing, which topic, which mission are specifically supported here?
  • How can social media advertising precisely support existing communication and marketing and achieve an effect that is difficult or impossible to achieve in purely organic terms?
  • Are moral aspects taken into account when creating and selecting advertising target groups?
  • Are ads designed effectively, but not unnecessarily manipulated?
  • Are the mechanisms of action made transparent to the user?
  • Are all advertisements compatible with the values ​​and rules of customers and marketing partners?

When these questions are answered accurately, social media advertising is helpful for a good cause. And of course, if you need support and an experienced partner for your social media advertising, please do not hesitate to contact us.