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Four reasons why your company should get political on social media

By Julia Gabel
Thu 11 Jan 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

In today’s politically diverse culture, it’s now an expectation of consumers that brands will weigh in current events and politics, and share their values.

For companies, this is seen as a way of better engaging audiences.

However, many brands have hesitated to get involved over a fear of backlash on social media.

Meanwhile, those that have seized the opportunity are rewarded.

These are the main findings of a new report by Sprout Social, entitled Championing Change in the Age of Social Media.

The report, released earlier this week, finds that two-thirds of consumers feel it’s important for brands to take a public stance on leading social and political issues like immigration, civil rights, and race relations.

And more than half, 58%, are receptive to this happening on social media.

More than 1000 people in the U.S. were surveyed, with the findings creating a blueprint for how brands can responsibly and effectively take part in these conversations to build lasting relationships with customers.

The report's most interesting findings and four key reasons why brands should weigh in on current events on social media include:

1. Brands face more reward than risk

Consumers’ most common emotional reactions to brands taking a stand on social were positive, with “intrigued”, “impressed” and “engaged” emerging as the top three consumer reactions.

Likewise, what's surprising, the report finds, is that consumers will spread the word when they agree, but won’t take action when they disagree.

When consumers’ personal beliefs align with what brands are saying, 28% will publicly praise a company.

When individuals disagree with a brand’s stance, only 20% will publicly criticise the company.

2. Liberals are galvanised by brands that take stands, while conservatives are indifferent

78% of respondents who self-identify as liberal want brands to take a stand, while just about half (52%) of respondents who self-identify as conservative feel the same.

Likewise, 82% of liberals feel brands are credible when taking stands, compared to just 46 percent of conservatives.

3. Brands can’t change minds, but they can effect change

66% of respondents say posts from brands rarely or never influence their opinions on social issues.

Rather, respondents believe brands are more effective on social media when they announce donations to specific causes (39%) and encourage followers to take specific steps to support causes (37%), such as participating in events or making their own donations.

4. Consumers want to hear from company leadership

Although respondents are almost twice as likely to say they’d rather hear about social and political issues from a company than a CEO on social media (22% versus 13%, respectively), people still feel C-suite members have a duty to speak up.

59% of respondents say it’s important for CEOs to engage with consumers and followers on social and political issues on social media.

Sprout Social’s VP of strategy and brand engagement, Andrew Caravella, comments on the findings, “Brands that effectively navigate strategic decisions around when to take a stand on social have more opportunity than ever to turn potential risks into business opportunities.”

He says consumers not only want brands to speak out on social, but they want authenticity and values communicated cohesively by company leadership as well.

“People want to feel socially and politically connected to the brands they support - and while vocalising opinions may drive away some customers, it will ultimately engender greater loyalty and enthusiasm from people who agree.”

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