Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world. With 2.6 billion users, the company’s primary source of revenue (98.5 percent) is generated by selling ad space on mobile and desktop. Recently, it has come under heavy scrutiny for its inability (or reluctance) to police offensive content and misinformation.
Back in 2019, Facebook publicly confirmed that it wouldn’t fact-check uploads from politicians, nor censor content that violates the site’s hate-speech rules if deemed ‘newsworthy’.
Fast-forward to June 17, 2020, and an official Facebook ads boycott is underway, after the liberal social media activism organization, Sleeping Giants, spread the hashtag #StopHateForProfit.
As we enter August, more than 750 companies have taken part in the boycott, including big-name brands like Coca-Cola, Hershey, and Unilever.
However, despite agreeing with the principles behind the boycott, smaller businesses may find that they cannot afford to stop advertising on Facebook – especially in these harsh market conditions due to COVID-19.
Startups and early-stage ventures rely on digital ads to facilitate customer acquisition and brand awareness, and pausing ads could halt company growth. Nonetheless, as consumers turn to brands to promote ethical behavior, companies are realizing they have a responsibility to act.
Here’s how you can participate in the Facebook ads boycott without sacrificing your marketing targets:
First things first, do some research and see how your competitors have pivoted amid the boycott.
Even if your rivals haven’t been able to commit to removing ads completely from Facebook (you can check via the Ad Library), they will have released a statement about the movement and expressed what they’ll be doing in response. If you’re unsure what steps to take, this is the place to start.
Get a feel for how your industry as a whole is reacting – are companies championing the message in other ways? Have some of them stopped using Facebook altogether? Are they refocusing their ad efforts on other platforms?
Try to pinpoint customer sentiments too – scroll through comments on social media and forum boards to ensure your plan of action aligns with what your audiences want.
Once you’ve got a general feel for the conversation in your area, you can begin exploring options that are best-suited to your company’s vision and culture.
Remember, whatever you decide to do has to be genuine – if you simply hop on the bandwagon, any underlying hypocrisies in your business will quickly be exposed and you risk doing more damage to your marketing efforts.
A large portion of small businesses find that pausing Facebook ads for only a short amount of time is the best path for them. And that’s fine!
Corporations have more disposable income that gives them extra flexibility in the boycott, and can therefore withdraw from Facebook for longer.
What matters is that you support the cause and take action for positive change. Whether you boycott for two days or two months, you will have been part of pushing progress.
Whatever you decide, communicate it with your team, stakeholders, and users. Moreover, detail why you have come to that conclusion.
Don’t be afraid to be honest and upfront – some small businesses have shared that they can’t join the boycott for long because of financial constraints, and the response has been positive.
Consumers acknowledge the reality of running a company, and appreciate brands that get involved, as opposed to doing nothing at all.
Pausing ads briefly will prove to consumers that you’re passionate about collective causes, and shouldn’t impact your marketing targets too heavily so long as you have a presence beyond Facebook.
If you want to move forward with boycotting Facebook ads, there are a number of other platforms you can choose for your digital ads strategy.
Google Ads can put your brand name in front of the largest search engine and video-streaming audiences. You can also play with text, image, video, as well as the new TrueView format – where you select how and when to display ads on YouTube.
Additionally, Google Ads caters to a range of budgets, so you can increase and decrease spending based on performance, or stop campaigns at any time.
Another option is Snapchat, which has nearly 200 million daily active users – three-quarters of whom are under 25, meaning the potential to build life-long customer relationships is huge.
Advertising on Snapchat is also noticeably more creative than traditional channels; you can take advantage of augmented reality, filters, face swaps, and other features.
Not to mention, Snapchat is ideal to drive app installations – one brain-training company got 1.7 million downloads in only two months by using Snapchat ads.
Alternatively, you could choose more local advertising platforms. Online regional newspapers or websites for youth organizations, hotels or restaurants are certainly more narrow in reach but are great to support small companies and invest back in your community.
Going local reinforces your stance on ethical business and could give you a strong reputation in niche markets before scaling up.
The main aim of the boycott is for Facebook to impose greater controls around content, and to de-monetize processes that enable the spread of misinformation.
Whether you are in a position to stop, pause or continue running Facebook ads, one way to champion the goal is to devote a portion of the money you use for ads to social impact initiatives.
If you’re really restricted financially, you could volunteer resources or offer your time and expertise to organizations that are directly combating hate speech.
A small sample of worthy organizations include:
Not only does backing these groups work towards the same desired results as the boycott, it demonstrates to your audiences that you really care, and you are socially-conscious.
There’s a business benefit too: studies show that 87 percent of consumers are willing to buy a product or service based on a company’s advocacy concerning a social matter.
The Facebook boycott signals that digital advertising is changing and you as a company, like the platforms, need to adapt to more transparent modes of promotion.
To stay ahead of the curve, now could be the time to experiment with interactive content that boosts your brand visibility and offers users more value.
For instance, quizzes are simple to make and produce powerful marketing results. Quizzes tap into people’s curiosity about themselves – it’s human nature to want to know what category you fit into or what your behavior says about your psychology.
What works with quizzes is that they are user-driven, there’s no invasive advert hidden in your audience’s newsfeed, it’s simply a tactic that calls to people’s inquisitiveness.
Statistics even show that 82 percent of people engage with quizzes shown to them because there is a clear ‘play-and-reward’ structure. Consumers reveal something about themselves, and in turn, learn something new about themselves.
Compared to people passively scrolling past ads on social media, quizzes establish more of a dialogue between your company and people, which is a sturdy foundation for lead capture.
In fact, the average quiz has a 33.6 percent lead capture rate, meaning one-third of people who take your quiz could become customers.
In the digital age, it is possible to actively participate in the Facebook ads boycott without sacrificing your marketing targets. Naturally, Facebook’s market share makes the decision a daunting one for growing companies, however, there are business benefits to being conscientious.
These are tumultuous times; amidst a backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are pushing social, political, and economic change. Businesses that participate in disrupting harmful practices like hate speech and misinformation are poised to be seen more clearly, heard more loudly, and respected more deeply by consumers.
Boris Pfeiffer is the CEO and co-founder of Riddle.com. Boris has deep roots in the global startup space, having created tech businesses in Asia, the U.S., and throughout Europe. He’s a published author of “Facebook Fan Pages” (2011) and “Quizmaster” (2017), married and father of two, and in his rare leisure time, can often be found enthusiastically (if badly) swinging away at the local golf course.
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