In today’s divisive social and political climate, brands face unprecedented challenges when engaging with consumer audiences on social media. It’s true that speaking out has always been a gamble, but social’s ubiquity, vast reach and viral nature puts brands under a new global microscope. As hot-button issues dominate headlines, many brands have struggled to navigate today’s biggest, and sometimes most controversial, conversations. To unpack today’s complex social media landscape, Sprout Social surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. consumers to better understand how people want brands to communicate their position and engage in conversations on political and social issues. Findings from the Championing Change in the Age of Social Media study create a blueprint for how brands can responsibly and effectively take part in social conversations to become better brands and build lasting relationships with customers.
- Two-thirds of consumers (66%) say it’s important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues, and more than half (58%) are open to this happening on social media – the top channel for consumer receptivity.
- Sixty-six percent 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.
- Seventy-eight percent 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% of conservatives.
- Consumers say brands are most credible when an issue directly impacts their customers (47%), employees (40%) and business operations (31%).
- 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, when consumers’ personal beliefs align with what brands are saying, 28% will publicly praise a company. When individuals disagree with the brand’s stance, 20% will publicly criticize a company.