Estimated reading time: 2 minutes and 15 seconds
They’re the words that fill every brand’s social-media manager with either joy or dread: “You’re #trending.” If it’s conversation about how great a product is, it’s a massive win. But how about when that hashtag features the dreaded B-word? Social-media boycott calls can bring a ton of unwanted attention to brands of all sectors and sizes. But all is not lost: many a brand has weathered hordes of social users clamoring to put them out of business.
A social boycott is not necessarily a revenue-killer. In fact, it can strike an equilibrium depending on how polarized a company’s customer base is. One example of this parabolic effect comes from Ace Hardware. In April 2018, a group of Twitter users called for a boycott of the retailer because it advertised on Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox News.
The month prior, Ingraham had mocked Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg on Twitter for being rejected by four colleges. The remark caused a frenzy which led to calls for advertisers to pull support from The Ingraham Angle. Hogg began tweeting at advertisers, and the movement gained momentum. While Hogg did not mention Ace, other activists noted it advertised on Ingraham’s show, and a call for a boycott began.
Ace pulled its advertising
The good news for brand managers is that these storms are intense, but short-lived. For the most part, boycotts fade from public memory quickly. The best way to survive them is to face them head on, listen to what customers are saying, and take action. In the case of #boycottstarbucks, the company began by apologizing to those tweeting at the corporate handle. When that proved to not have enough of an impact, CEO Kevin Johnson issued an apology to the men along with suggestions for how the company is going to fix the issue. As part of that plan this week it shut down more than 8,000 U.S. stores for mandatory racial bias training at an estimated $12 million loss. Starbucks also made swift policy changes in the wake of the arrests.
Important takeaways for companies from these social-media boycotts:
- It’s crucial to listen to your customer base when they’re clamoring for your attention. "Having clarity on a situation and a defined brand point of view is valuable to guide decision-making and avoid a boomerang effect between two polarized parts of your customer base, as Ace Hardware learned."
- Information is power, and being armed with the right tools analyze when your brand is trending can make the difference between a few days of a social-media storm and a lifetime of lost business