What Marketers Should Know.
QAnon, a loosely organized network and community of believers who embrace a wide range of unsubstantiated theories, is front and center in the current news cycle and will likely stay there as the US election season heats up. This week, Facebook removed 790 QAnon groups and suspended more than 10,000 accounts in an effort to reduce the presence on the platform. Last week, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a public QAnon supporter from Georgia, won her Republican congressional primary.
QAnon has spread from fringe message boards to mainstream platforms over the past 4 years. Politicians, celebrities, and brands are being attacked for either helping or harming the cause. It is crucial that brand managers stay up to speed on this developing topic and monitor their social communication accordingly.
What is QAnon?
At its heart, QAnon is a loosely connected community around a wide-ranging conspiracy theory. QAnon activity is rooted in the belief that many people in positions of power or influence are linked to a global child sex trafficking operation. QAnon has been focused on “outing” these figures for their “crimes”.
Adherents draw in news events, historical facts, and numerology to develop their own conclusions, often not based on scientific or historical fact. This yields many offshoots, detours, and internal debates. As a result, the total list of QAnon claims is enormous – and often contradictory.
A few QAnon theories/starting points:
- Pizzagate is an early example of a QAnon related conspiracy theory in the mainstream media that falsely linked Democratic politicians, child sex trafficking, and a Washington DC Pizza restaurant
- There is a group of elite Satan-worshipping pedophiles in government, business and the media
- COVID-19 is a hoax, and the “Plandemic” video alleging 5G mobile networks being connected to the spread of the virus
- President Trump, JFK Jr (secretly alive), or another yet unknown person is “Q” – the mysterious leader responsible for the “breadcrumbs” leading the group to find out the truth and save children being trafficked
What is QAnon doing right now?
QAnon uses social media to spread content related to the movement. Facebook has been the primary vehicle for QAnon information since followers do not trust traditional mainstream media sources. QAnon is now a global conspiracy theory.
QAnon is using #SaveTheChildren to aggregate content, along with #SaveOurChildren, #EndHumanTrafficking, #pedogate2020, #qanon, and more coded hashtags like #WWG1WGA (where we go one, we go all), and #cabal. When new information is being spread, these hashtags show what the latest developments in the community are.
QAnon and brands:
Celebrities have become a common target for QAnon, but brands are also not immune, especially as they collaborate with high-profile influencers. Wayfair was recently in the headlines after being the subject of a QAnon conspiracy:
The fact: Many Wayfair high end items have female names, which also match the name of some missing children. Wayfair uses an algorithm to name its products.
What went viral: In July, many social media users saw posts alleging that when someone buys a product listed for thousands of dollars and bearing the name of a missing child, they are indicating a desire to purchase that child.
The damage: On Facebook alone, in the month of July, the word “Wayfair” was mentioned in thousands of posts, and there were millions of social media interactions with that content. QAnon supporters coordinated a campaign to short Wayfair’s stock, doxxed employees, and went after CEO Niraj Shah’s philanthropic work.
Our recommendation for brands
- Monitor, monitor, monitor – Monitor your social channels for posts that are related to QAnon. Be aware of possible connections with endorsements and especially if you have partnerships with influencers. Vetting your partnerships for connections to QAnon should be a high priority. Set up social listening for your brand + QAnon dog whistles and hashtags.
- Have a crisis plan in place – If your brand does get targeted by QAnon, it is important to be prepared so you can act fast. Set a threshold for what your brand will tolerate before putting an emergency pivot in place. Because each situation is unique, scenario planning is key to prepare for the unknown: use what happened to Wayfair or celebrities like Chrissy Teigen as examples. Some brands will choose to go dark, others will increase moderation and comment removal, and some brands may also have a contact at Facebook or Twitter who should be looped in. It is crucial that brands have these discussions with stakeholders now to minimize damage to your brand reputation if you do become a target.
- Report QAnon content to the platform – All the major platforms have taken stands against the proliferation of conspiracy theory content and have begun removing it. Connecting with your contacts at the major platforms to help remove content is something to consider, particularly on Twitter.