More than 100 advertisers, including Coca-Cola and Starbucks, have withdrawn their advertising from Facebook during July as part of the #StopHateForProfit boycott.
While Facebook says it is working to improve detection and removal of racist and other dangerous groups, yesterday’s meeting with campaign leaders didn’t result in a firm commitment by Facebook to implement the measures recommended by the campaign.
The campaign is gaining consumer traction and attention, too. Although Zuckerberg reportedly said he expects advertising to go back to normal after the end of July, there’s no doubt that Facebook is coming under continued pressure to improve the way it deals with issues like hate speech and racist groups.
I would hope that most brands want to see Facebook (and other social media sites) deal with abuse and hate speech effectively. That doesn’t mean the boycott is an easy decision. Bigger brands might be able to take a stand during July without harming their business too much, but a month-long boycott is a tough decision for smaller companies that rely on income from Facebook, and there is the wider impact on the e economy as it struggles to recover from COVID-19 to consider.
Many of our clients have been looking to us for advice and our response has been to suggest first and foremost they consider how any decision will sit with their values as well as, explore different ways to help and support the #StopHateForProfit campaign.
They might consider moving paid funds to different digital platforms , or changing the time of their advertising, or – if it’s feasible – to spending the funds they’d allocated to advertising in support of the cause, for example. Or they might find another way to bring pressure on Facebook.
For those who decide they can’t withdraw their advertising during July – particularly smaller brands, or brands and industries that are just emerging from lockdown – our advice is to monitor conversations closely, to see how customers respond to you. You may find, for example, that you get questions about why you’re not taking part in the boycott, and you should be prepared to respond and consider how to answer questions about your values. And if the pressure really ramps up, don’t be afraid to change tack and halt your paid social media for a time.
Whatever decision you take, ensure it aligns with your values as a brand, and with what your customers will expect from you. This is where social listening (and insight from that listening) is so critical. Falling out of step with your consumers is far harder to weather in the long run than a short term hit.
As always, we’re here to help and advise brands on how to approach this issue.