People are outraged on social media, but it doesn't matter

Consumer outrage on social media is completely meaningless, which is good news for brands, since not a day seems to go by without some poor social media manager provoking the ire of Twitter users.

There’s no question sensitivities are rising. Social media users are becoming watchdogs, quick to point the finger at any brand coming across as racist, sexist, or tone deaf.

For most situations, the type of outrage takes a familiar shape, complete with a trending hashtag whether an issue is insignificant or truly warranted. People are easier to piss off.

Among the incidents that have made the internet burst into flames in recent years: Uber changing its logo; Starbucks’ pre-election "unity" cups; and United Airlines’ #LeggingsGate scandal.

Social media might make it seem like everyone and their mom hates a brand with every fiber of their being, depending on the situation, but recent studies have shown that’s not a reflection of reality.

Pepsi’s disastrous Kendall Jenner ad was mocked into oblivion on social in April. A month later, Dove released an ad offending women by showcasing different shapes of its shampoo bottles to reflect different body types. However, Morning Consult found many people actually loved the ads in two separate studies.

The research company found 41% of people came away with a more favorable view of Dove after seeing the campaign and 71% said they were likely to purchase Dove products, up three points from before the push. For Pepsi, 40% saw it in a more positive light after watching the Jenner spot, according to Morning Consult.

The night-and-day difference could come down to a difference in demographics between social media and those surveyed by Morning Consult. In the poll about the Pepsi ad, 80% surveyed were white, and a similar portion were age 30 or older. Or it could be another indication that social media is an echo chamber, steering users toward articles that reflect their own ideological preferences. Or maybe people just like to complain on Twitter, or join a conversation.

Either way, these findings should give brands pause about the true value of social media outrages.

Diana Bradley is senior reporter at PRWeek.

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