Last week saw the news that Unilever and Verizon have pulled their advertising spend on Facebook for the remainder of the year. The news saw Facebook stock tumble and comes amid increasing pressure on CEO Mark Zuckerberg to take action on the proliferation of hate speech, conspiracy theories and fake news on the platform. This is all well and good for the world's blue-chip companies, with large advertising budgets and agency teams. What about for small and medium-sized businesses? How should they respond?
Facebook has an undeniable problem with hate speech on the platform - they removed nearly 10 million posts in the 1st quarter of 2020. There have been many efforts to deal with this problem but none which have had the power to cut out the issue at source.
Fundamentally Facebook is an advertising platform and so there is very little demand to put blocks on content that drives revenue. However as a publicly traded company there is a very easy way to hit Facebook where it hurts and that is their share price. Campaigns such as the #stophateforprofit backed by outdoor brands such as Patagonia & The North Face have started to do just that.
What Can Businesses Do?
Decide whether Facebook is the type of business that you want to support. Sometimes you can feel as an advertiser that there are no options out there and that Facebook is just another place where your budget has to go. But that is not true. Facebook advertising has only been around for the last 10 years, companies found a way before and they will continue to be able to build successful brands and marketing campaigns without relying heavily on the advertising giants.
Believe In The Power Of Small Actions
One thing that is difficult for smaller businesses is to in effect unionize. When a large company pulls spend we all talking about millions of dollars at a time. Potentially thousands of smaller businesses would have to take the same action in order to have the same impact on Facebook. But that is the point of protest. Believing that you can make a difference no matter how small, is part of the battle. Have the belief that your individual choices can form part of something greater.
Diversify Your Strategy
It is important to have a diverse advertising strategy. Think about how much of your marketing time, effort and budget goes into Facebook advertising (across the whole ad platform including Instagram and the Audience Network). The opportunities that can be opened up but changing your budget distribution could have positive effects elsewhere. For instance can you put more time into creating great sharable content rather than paying for exposure? Diversification is common sense as it is a bad idea to heavily rely on a single source marketing for your revenue.
Join discussions with people in your industry and network to challenge the way that people think about Facebook and modern digital advertising. What are the concerns that other advertisers have? One common theme we hear is that brands do not want their name appearing next to content that doesn’t represent their ethos for fear of the association. But what about the association with Facebook itself? There is a legitimate argument to be made that people seeing a brand advertising on Facebook and knowing they are funding a company that demonstrates such wilful inaction on one of the major problems of our time is a negative association in itself.
Pressure Your Ad Reps
Put vocal pressure on your advertising representatives. Be they your account managers at Facebook or your agency partners. At my agency, Get Wise, I would welcome any client coming to speak about their concerns. The more pressure that is applied and the more people are aware of and talking about the issues at hand then the more likely changes at the top level will happen. Facebook is continually rolling out new tools to deal with ‘bad-actors’ on the platform, but do they make a difference to the way advertisers feel? If they don’t then tell the people in charge.
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