Big brands can spot a sinking ship. Advertisers who have flocked to Social Media over the past decade are joining the StopHateforProfit movement and announcing suspension of advertising on social media. Starbucks, CocaCola, Unilever, North Face, REI, and Lululemon among many others are taking a ‘temporary’ step back from social media advertising.
StopHateforProfit is primarily focussed on boycotting Facebook in response to their lackluster to non-existent response to the hate speech, racism and political mis-information being spread there. Mark Zuckerberg has been on the hot seat for months as Facebook has repeatedly refused to block any political mis-information on their platform even if it is blatantly false.
Twitter and other platforms like Reddit have taken a stronger stand against political advertising yet when announcing the boycott of social media advertising they are often included in the list of social media being boycotted. It is clear that social media has an image problem and big brands are taking notice of how it could affect their bottom line to continue to be associated with these platforms.
Why Boycott Now?
The COVID pandemic always had the potential to change social media but combine it with #BlackLivesMatter protests and counter-protests and the standard daily Trump campaign fountain of lies and misinformation and this may be the end for Facebook and social media as we know it.
For me this would be a welcome outcome but it’s not going to happen.
Big brands only account for 6% of Facebook’s overall advertising revenue. The boycotts are only temporary, 30 days, and omit significant parts of the Facebook Ad machine like Audience Network. The boycotts are more of an effort to put social media on notice that they are going to need to do a better job policing their platforms, thereby shielding their advertisers from public scrutiny.
Facebook is Not a Safe Space for Advertisers
Brands need a place to build a community. They also need to make sure that the community is not divisive in any racist, sexist or exclusionary ways. After all, selling a product to the masses should be the opposite of exclusionary.
Therefore, the boycotts are not really a surprise. Yet the long term effects of StopHateorProfit remain to be seen. Real change in social media will probably depend more on who wins the 2020 US Presidential election and what lasting effects this round of #BlackLivesMatter protests hopefully have.
It is easy to get discouraged and start to believe that no one will really benefit from StopHateforProfit, but that would be a mistake. There is one guaranteed winner from this social media ad boycott and that is you, if you let it change your mind.
StopHateforProfit is forcing brands to show a conscience. Recalcitrant Silicon Valley CEOS like Mark Zuckerberg have been put on notice. The message is clear: stop hate or stop revenue streams.
If we keep up the pressure on brands and social media we can force them to make these changes stick rather than just slipping back into familiar old habits the moment we are not paying attention.
Real change is upon us but real change takes time and that time is now!