There’s currently a growing movement to boycott advertising on Facebook’s platforms (including Instagram) for the month of July, supported by a coalition of nonprofits, including the Anti Defamation League, NAACP, and Color of Change. The campaign is using the hashtag #stophateforprofit, and the organizers are the Stop Hate for Profit Coalition.
According to the website for the initiative, “We are asking all businesses to stand in solidarity with our most deeply held American values of freedom, equality and justice and not advertise on Facebook’s services in July.”
Brands participating in the boycott include:
Does this matter? Yes. Will it make a difference? We’ll see.
So far, the drop in advertising has already caused the stock to drop by 10% over the course of the week. This is a sign that investors are losing confidence in the company’s ability to meet revenue expectations.
However, as Axios reported, Facebook has more than 8 million active advertisers and relies mostly on a very large number of small and medium-sized businesses. The boycott is unlikely to sink the company financially, but it’s a PR nightmare and is impacting its stock.
The coalition is recommending specific actions they’d like Facebook to take, so hopefully some (or all) will be enacted to satisfy the group’s demands. Already, the coalition noted “Facebook representatives have been calling advertisers. Mark Zuckerberg held a town hall on Friday. The company sent out a note to some of their top advertisers Friday night with some updates.”
Is this just a fleeting trend? Maybe not – especially if these brands have it their way.
Many brands participating are indicating this is not just a temporary threat. These brands want to see action, and some are willing to hold out for much longer than July. For example, Clorox said it will stop all advertising on Facebook through December because “we feel compelled to take action against hate speech.”
7 Considerations for Socially-Conscious Brands Considering Joining the Facebook Boycott:
1. Technically they are asking for businesses to take part.
The organizations haven’t explicitly asked for nonprofits to participate. This is likely because they want to put as much pressure as possible on Facebook, and they know that losing large advertisers will have the most impact. It’s also important not to quiet the voices against hate. So if your organization is actively involved in the antidote to this problem, then stopping advertising may be counterproductive. Some nonprofits may still choose to participate, such as The Carbon Literacy Project and The Jewish Board, which are listed on the campaign’s website.
2. Not advertising will mean limited reach on Facebook & Instagram.
Facebook and Instagram are largely pay-to-play platforms, which means that unless you spend money on advertising, your messages will likely reach a tiny fraction of your audience. According to M&R’s 2020 Benchmarking Study, “The overall Earned Reach Average (the number of Facebook users reached by a given post relative to their audience size) for an organic post was 0.091. That means that a nonprofit with 100,000 followers could expect to reach just 9,100 users with a given post.” Nonprofits (just like everyone else) need paid advertising for their content to be seen.
3. If your organization is a purpose-driven brand (such as a B-Corp) relying heavily on social media advertising to support product sales, you’ll want to carefully weigh the cost/benefit of engaging in this particular campaign.
If for example, eliminating social advertising during the month of July may have such a negative impact on product sales that your organization could struggle to stay afloat (amidst an already challenging global pandemic and financial crisis), then the net good of participating may not be worth the cost.
4. If you’re a brand that aspires to be (or claims to be) socially-conscious, you need to weigh the potential performance loss with the need to be true to your values.
More than ever, consumers are savvy to what businesses say, and will compare it to actions taken. If your organization has been preaching about the need for equality and justice, but then you turn a blind eye to the hate on Facebook, then people may question your dedication to social good. Be ready to explain your organization’s stance, either way.
5. Organizations may benefit from goodwill generated by supporting this campaign and the commitment to stop hate.
People are becoming increasingly aware of how businesses impact society, and they may have a positive association with your brand’s commitment to this cause.
6. Your organization may also help to increase overall awareness for the campaign.
Joining this boycott has the potential to reach more than just your existing audience and new people who are interested in the campaign. You may also influence partners and/or vendors that you work with as well.
7. It’s possible some people will be angry with your organization, whether you do or don’t participate.
This may be especially true if you have people in your audience who are not in support of the organizations leading this call for change, such as the ADL, NAACP, and Color of Change. The unfortunate truth is that there are people on social media, including well-known public figures, who are not afraid to project messages of anti-semitism, racism, and other messages of hate. This is the reason for the boycott. People may also express frustration with you if you don’t participate and they’re expecting you to. Your organization should be ready to take the heat from angry individuals, whether it’s by negatively commenting on posts, sharing on their own timelines, or even contacting management. You may want to discuss with colleagues ahead of time how you want to respond, and craft a response together in advance.
Who Should Participate?
If You’re A Nonprofit – Probably Not
The general approach of this campaign is to target businesses with large advertising budgets, who make the news when they announce their participation and put public pressure on Facebook. The purpose of doing this is to campaign Facebook to make changes to its policy to reduce hate. Not only do most nonprofits not have anywhere near the kind of media spend needed to move the needle, but they’re also often actively engaged in messaging that’s against hate. Nonprofits are doing incredibly important work right now in their communities, and stopping advertising could hinder this, and is not the intention of the campaign. A few organizations may feel the need to support the cause, especially if it aligns closely with their mission and values.
If You’re a Small Socially-Conscious Brand – Maybe
If social media is a lifeline for sales you need to stay afloat for the month of July, and stopping advertising would put your business in jeopardy, then the net effect may not be positive for your business, or society. If your organization is willing and able to take a short-term hit to stand up for what you believe in, then you may want to join in. For socially-conscious brands who are actively engaged in ongoing conversations about justice and equality, it may be expected of you. Explore whether this is the right campaign for your organization, or whether you should stay focused on commitments you may have already made to social justice – these efforts likely require monetary investment as well.
If You’re a Medium to Large Brand – If It Aligns with Your Values
If your business is healthy enough to abstain from one month of social advertising without long-term effects, and especially if you’ve been posting about how Black Lives Matter, then this is an opportunity for you to put your money where your mouth is. Consumers are looking for you to “walk the walk” and this is one (of many) ways to do so. Again, companies will need to decide how this factors into other commitments and what your priorities are for where you can make the most impact.
If you’re going to do it, do it right
If you do decide to participate, make sure it’s not because you’re simply wanting to partake in the latest trend. Your organization should discuss what it means to participate in it, why it matters, and what action you are going to take now and possibly in the future. There needs to be executive buy-in and a commitment at all levels of the organization.
The reality: we all need to think about what we’re willing to let Facebook and other social networks do
This issue is unlikely to go away after July. It could easily build steam as we head into the next presidential election, given the attention Facebook and other networks have received in the past for political advertising. All marketers should be thinking about the role of social media in their marketing strategies, our level of dependence on these platforms, and what we are willing to implicitly endorse by engaging and advertising on these platforms. Our participation means we’re ultimately supporting their ability to continue operations as is. For mission-driven organizations, this has the potential to put the authenticity and credibility of our missions at risk.
While these social networks have tremendous potential to change the world for the better – they’ve also proven time and again to be problematic. For many, this is an uneasy truth to reckon with. We need to be thinking about what we’re willing to put up with – and where we may draw the line – before we’re forced to make decisions under pressure.
The good news: this campaign is working (so far). We’re excited about what future possibilities exist for coalitions of like-minded nonprofits, and businesses who want to flex their muscles for good.