by John Harrison (Group Strategy Director) & Aarohi Dhir (Senior Strategist)
It seems pretty clear to us that the current boycott of social media platforms makes no sense on any level:
- Responsibly – For a charity we used to work on we defined our target audience as “those that hate the Daily Mail and everything it stands for”. Guess which newspaper was read by the majority of the new donors we attracted? (clue: it was The Daily Mail). We’d made the arrogant assumption that our audience weren’t able to separate their own views with that of the media they engaged with.
- Ethically – For an industry that prides itself on meeting our consumer’s needs, we are actually very bad at understanding what they really want. The recent Aspiration Window report (Reach Solutions & house51) reveals how we in the industry significantly overestimate how much consumers care about a brand’s position on social issues or political affiliations. Even Millennials, the feted generation of conscious consumers don’t care that much. An IPSOS report showed that only 12% of Millennials would choose a product or service because of a company’s responsible behaviour – lower than the 17% of Gen Xers when they were asked at the same age.
- Financially – Facebook made more than $17 billion in advertising revenue in the first quarter of 2020 alone. Whilst losing a few big brands obviously isn’t ideal, the bulk of the company’s ad revenue comes from millions of smaller businesses that rely heavily on the platform to survive. Mark Zuckerberg is reported to have told an internal meeting of Facebook staff “My guess is that all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough…We’re not gonna change our policies or approach on anything because of a threat to a small percent of our revenue…”. Whilst Facebook have made tweaks to their hate speech policy, these have been cosmetic rather than the deeper algorithmic change required to fully fix the platform.
- Morally – It’s a slippery slope for brands to start deciding what media channels are and aren’t acceptable. Where does it end, and who decides what is an acceptable point of view for a media channel to promote? Facebook has around 2.6 billion monthly active users – it’s somewhat arrogant to treat over a third of the world’s population as having no moral compass.
Of course, the fact that people will staunchly defend such an absolute and definitive point of view is one reason why social media platforms become a breeding ground for intolerance. So if you’d like a more nuanced point of view, you may want to read why it’s pretty clear to us that the current boycott of social media platforms makes complete sense on a number of levels.