Should we boycott Facebook?
This question has been on many marketers’ minds lately as a growing number of companies are pulling ads from the social media giant. Over the past few days, big-name brands like Coca-Cola, Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, and Verizon have signed onto Stop Hate for Profit, a new campaign supported by a number of nonprofits including the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, Color of Change, and the League of United Latin American Citizens.
The boycott aims to put pressure on Facebook to weed out hate speech, misinformation, and other harmful content. Advertisers participating in Stop Hate for Profit have pledged to stop running ads on Facebook at least until the end of July.
Facebook is a highly influential source of information. According to Pew Research, nearly half of Americans get their news from Facebook. While Facebook doesn’t have its own reporters, it does control the information its users can see using algorithms. Facebook’s unique algorithms work to promote content that keeps its users more engaged on the platform.
In the case of social issues like racism and police brutality, Facebook’s algorithms may make it difficult for users to access balanced information. People on the left and right of the political aisle tend to see posts that agree with their perspectives — even if the content is not rooted in truth.
While Facebook does have content moderation programs, companies participating in the Stop Hate for Profit campaign feel these programs are not strong enough to address the spread of misinformation and hate speech on the platform.
From a moral perspective, a company may not be comfortable supporting Facebook’s poor content moderation with its advertising dollars. From a practical standpoint, a company may not want its ads to appear in a news feed alongside hateful or misleading content.
Being part of any boycott is inherently political. Taking a strong stand on social justice issues can alienate some customers, so deciding to boycott should be a calculated risk. There could also be a short-term cost associated with stopping Facebook advertising campaigns. Over time, paid Facebook ads will optimize to improve performance, so pausing or stopping a campaign can impact marketing results. As with any protest, it’s important to weigh the consequences and make wise decisions that align with your principles.
Consider your brand’s values and mission. Is boycotting in the spirit of your organization? Does it feel authentic, or is it performative? There is great pressure on brands to back their words with action and support causes in a meaningful way — not just deliver lip service. Be sure you’re ready to communicate your decision to all stakeholders.
Despite its potential drawbacks, Facebook is still an effective and affordable advertising platform. The same algorithm and user experience that may have negative social implications make Facebook one of the most popular advertising mediums. The algorithm quickly learns the best audience for ads when campaign goals are put in place, and ads are front and center in news feeds. Plus, users are trained to click on content, which further helps advertisers engage with potential customers.
Before choosing a different advertising vehicle, understand the strategic importance of Facebook in your media mix. If you want to gain awareness, look into streaming video, streaming audio, or display ads. If you’re looking for qualified audiences to convert quickly, paid search ads, display ads, or native ads may be a better alternative. To reach customers on social media, consider Snapchat, Twitter, or TikTok. Instagram is owned by Facebook, so it’s not an appropriate replacement if you’re participating in the boycott.
If you decide that taking a stand against Facebook is right for your brand, drop us a note. We can help you explore your options and start planning your next steps.