Is A Social Media Boycott or Protest Right For Your Brand?

This post was written by Juliana Meirelles

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With the recent EUEFA and English Football’s social media boycott, I couldn’t help but wonder… is this an effective approach to making an impact?

From April 30th to May 3rd, a large part of the football (soccer) world took part in a social media boycott by going completely silent on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. According to NPR, “the silence- from players, coaches at the highest level, owners, journalists and even the Premier League itself- is part of a boycott aimed at protesting a steady and growing stream of racist online harassment and abuse aimed at Black and brown soccer plays in the UK.” Soon after, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) joined in on the blackout, urging the public, legislative authorities, and tech giants to make real change by way of formal complaints and consequences for online abusers. 

Racism and sexism have long been dark clouds looming over football culture. Boycotts in general are also not an uncommon tactic used throughout the sport. In 1973, for example, the Soviet Union refused to play Chile in a World Cup match in opposition to the recent overthrow of the Chilean president.  But what has been changing in the past decade or so is how the fans, teams, and federations alike chose to challenge social, internal, and political issues. As we saw in summer of 2020 in America, online protests are the new wave. And with social media only on the rise, this form of activism will most likely be around for a long time. 

So, a particular topic is circulating your newsfeed, and you’re wondering if your brand should be participating in the conversation. I asked our very own social media expert April Campos to weigh in on the topic, and below are some questions she’d like you to consider before making the decision. 

1. Are You Being Genuine? 

Ask yourself hard and honest questions. Are you trying to enter into this conversation because it means something to you and you firmly believe in the message? Or do you just want to look like you care? If your answer is the latter, you should probably reconsider joining the cause. One survey found that 90% of consumers say that authenticity is important when deciding which brands to support and follow. With this in mind, you should never underestimate your audience. Always assume they are smart enough to sniff out when you’re not being real. 

2. Is your company prepared to walk the walk? 

After you determine you and your brand are entering the good fight by taking to social media, are you prepared to manage possible aftermaths? As we have all seen recently with Coke™, there are always going to be those that do not share your convictions and will not support your cause. While most of the time the boycott falls short, what about the times that it comes crashing down on your company and your bottom line? Are you prepared to stick to your beliefs?

3. Have you thought about the long-term?

What are your long-term goals as a company within this conversation? Are you planning to make more of an investment financially? Will you be changing your business model to support the cause? Will you lose employees? Will you lose buyers/users of your product or service? Do you have plans in place to build new relationships? Don’t forget that people love to come ready with receipts. Anyone can take a screenshot of your long-winded Instagram post and follow up with you about it down the line. If you’re going to take a stand, make sure it won’t be an afterthought months later. Show your loyal customers that you stayed true to your word. 

4. Are you in a position to receive negative feedback?

Be prepared. No matter how common sense your response may be to the conversation to which you’re contributing, there will always be those that do not share your view nor your opinion. Do you have a plan on how to respond? Keep in mind that even no response is a response in and of itself. Consider hiring a crisis management expert *cough* Juda Engelmayer from Herald PR *cough* for a contingency plan. This way, you won’t have to go into panic mode when the Karens come for you, and your team can rest easy knowing you planned ahead. 

To online protest or not to online protest? IDK! I don’t own a business and am in no position to tell you what to do with yours. But I do know that April gives great advice, so do yourself a favor: sit down with your team, discuss all of these questions, no matter how uncomfortable, and draw up a plan for your brand

Juliana Meirelles

Juliana In 2020 works as Emerald Digital's project manager, acting as a liaison between Emerald Digital’s senior management and digital teams, and overseeing internal processes.

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