At The Craftsman Agency, we guide our clients to where their customers are, but we also safeguard their brands. So when we heard about the “Stop Hate for Profit” Facebook boycott, we immediately reached out to our clients to discuss the issue and help them come to the best decision for their brands.
After all, many brands include the platform in their paid social strategies. With 1.73 billion daily active users, it’s the largest social media platform in the world. There’s no denying that it’s a key way to reach many brands’ target audiences.
Yet the issue at hand is critical to brands and people at large.
Social media should be about building human connections, not degrading them with hate, racism, and misinformation. And Facebook has undoubtedly allowed this type of negative behavior with its lack of proactive protective measures. Four hundred of its employees even walked out due to the lack of action against President Trump’s inflammatory posts on the platform.
So what happened with the boycott?
This boycott has been the strongest movement I’ve seen thus far to push the behemoth platform to stand for something good, to protect all members no matter what.
Before July kicked off, a few major brands committed to the boycott. In early July, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg met with the boycott’s leaders in an attempt to appease them. When these leaders were disappointed with what they heard, feeling that the meeting was more about attendance and dialogue than action for Facebook, the boycott picked up steam.
More than 1,100 businesses joined the boycott. Many of our clients stepped away from ads on the social media goliath, even if they didn’t officially join the boycott. They were not alone. According to a recent Digiday study, 56% of agency buyers said their clients stopped their Facebook ad spend in July in response to the boycott.
What will the boycott’s financial impact be? We won’t know for a couple of months. Facebook has said the boycott will affect their third-quarter outlook, but some analysts say the impact will be minimal, CNBC reported. I expect the ad revenue loss will be a drop in the bucket when compared to the company’s current cash position of $60.29 billion. But I also think the boycott’s intent isn’t about making Facebook lose money. It’s about trust and reputation. It’s about shining a light on the need for more regulations to protect people, something that I predicted in my talk at SXSW 2019.
What will the future look like on Facebook? Zuckerberg and Sandberg talking about how the platform needs to be free of hate is a step in the right direction. However, actions are more important than words. Policy changes and enforcement are what we need to see—and finally that’s what we have started to see, even against the current US president, who is one of the most prolific spewers of hate on the platform. (I’m not making a political statement; it’s just a fact.) The boycott was a huge part of making this happen, regardless of what the company says in press statements.
But now the July boycott is over. What should you do with your paid media strategy in the coming months?
Social media is a constantly evolving amoeba, and so your strategy should also constantly evolve. Today, you definitely need to think about changing your Facebook strategy.
Here are three questions to ask yourself, along with a few insights and tips gleaned from my experience.
1. Should you go back? I think most brands will return to Facebook, given that they have customers active on the platform. We’re not afraid of steering our clients to places where positive engagement is happening with their customer base. (We also have to remember that Instagram is part of Facebook, and it’s a completely different type of platform.) Some brands are returning as soon as July is over. Others will wait longer. According to a Search Engine Journal article based on the Digiday study, 41% of the 56% who stopped ad spend stated they’d return to the platform at the end of July. However, 17% plan to hold off until Facebook makes “meaningful changes.”
2. How should you show up on the platform when you return? We’re seeing audiences respond more to interactive, fun content with a positive tone. Basically, you should make your content feel less like an ad. I also recommend testing three to four ad variations so you can see what your audience likes. If it fits your brand, you may want to talk about the positive changes made by Facebook over the last month that have made your brand feel comfortable about returning to the platform.
3. When should you reassess your strategy? As things remain in flux, it’s important to keep your strategy agile. Your strategy may also vary from region to region. Pay attention to what’s going on and how your audience is responding, and be willing to make changes—especially for Facebook.
I expect we’ll continue to see improvements made by Facebook. It might be slower than we hope, but I look forward to continued momentum and real change on the world’s largest platform.
Maybe we’ll even see some of the things we loved about Facebook originally. It once gave us a way to connect with our family and friends from all over the world in a way no other platform had ever done. As a person, I’d love that. As a creative shop and marketing consultancy, we’d love that even more. It’s all about enabling meaningful connections.
Please reach out if you’d like strategic guidance on your next steps on Facebook or just to share your thoughts.