While getting consensus on anything involving abortion might seem impossible, people on both sides of the issue probably can agree the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will likely end up being the most impactful Supreme Court ruling in decades. So what do brands need to know about the social media reaction to this court decision?
Here’s how the social media audience is responding to Roe v. Wade being overturned, both in general and around brand messaging specifically.
The Official Ruling Was Far More Impactful Than The Leak
It was widely assumed Roe V. Wade was about to be overturned, as a month earlier a draft of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling was leaked to the press. However, the leak didn’t mute the social media reaction to the decision becoming finalized. In fact, there were 7,235,816 Tweets mentioning either Abortion or Roe V. Wade on June 24, 2022, the day the case was overturned. That is 4.8X as many Tweets mentioning those terms as there were on May 2, 2022, the day Politico published a leaked draft of the decision.
Brands Coming Out On Social As Pro-Choice Aren’t Seeing Significant Negative Impact
Dozens of major companies have pledged to cover their employees expenses if they need healthcare out of state, including abortion services. However, brands have been hesitant to post about this on social media (and in some cases, publicly discuss those policies in general).
For the brands discussing their new healthcare policies on social media, there didn’t appear to be any significant blowback. For example, DICK’S Sporting Goods got 170,259 engagements on Instagram (a 27.78% response rate) and 199,133 engagements on Twitter (a 54.53% response rate) for a post announcing they would reimburse their employees up to $4,000 if they, their spouse, or dependant need to travel out of state to have an abortion. DICK’S had a net gain of 6,330 social media followers on the day.
Similarly, GoPro shared an Instagram post saying “We support women.” and they’re enhancing family benefits for their employees to include abortion, adoption, and IVF treatment. That post got 28,965 engagements and had a 0.15% response rate, with GoPro adding 5,190 followers to their social media accounts on the day it was posted. Meanwhile, Live Nation Entertainment got 20,080 engagements and a 4.03% response rate for an Instagram post saying they stand with women, will pay for employees’ out of state healthcare expenses and are matching Lizzo’s donation to Planned Parenthood and Abortion Rights. Live Nation Entertainment gained 130 social media followers on the day.
Also notewothy, Ben & Jerry shared 7 posts across Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook about fighting for abortion rights between June 24-25, 2020. Those posts got a total of 115,660 engagements and an average response rate of 0.53%. Most engaged of those posts was an Instagram gallery focusing on all the other existing rights Ben & Jerry felt the Supreme Court could potentially take away because they’re not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. The brand gained 3,003 new followers over the two days.
The Reaction Was More Mixed For Video Game Brands Being Pro-Choice
Electronic Arts (EA) committed to expanding the benefits to their U.S. employees around their healthcare in a post that got a combined 13,865 engagements on Instagram and Twitter. However, EA had a net loss of -7 followers on the day, and many of those engagements were negative. For example, the post on Instagram got a comment saying “”EA caring about politics more than of they games [ sic ]” that got 289 Likes and a comment that said “we dont care drop skate 4 [ sic ]” that got 239 Likes. It’s worth noting EA’s post didn’t directly mention either Abortion or Roe V. Wade.
Ubisoft did gain 3,088 social media followers on the day they posted on Facebook that “reproductive rights are human rights” with the post getting 943 engagements. However, the top performing comment on the post with 81 thumbs up and 12 hearts read “Brand out of touch again? Imagine thinking it would be popular to publicly support the killing of babies.“
Brands With A Primarily Female Audience Were Most Likely To Speak Out On Social
By far the most brands posting about Roe v. Wade being overturned were brands with a primarily female audience, especially around Fashion, Beauty, and Home Furnishing brands. The most popular of these was a Lululemon Instagram post that got 137,281 engagements and a 3.30% response rate saying “reproductive rights are human rights” while announcing they’d be making a $500,000 contribution to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Other brands focusing on saying women’s rights are human rights or reproductive rights are human rights include PacSun, Francesca’s, and Parachute Home.
Gucci got 81,348 engagements and a 0.17% response rate for a “My body, my choice” post on Instagram that also talked about their CHIME FOR CHANGE campaign which since 2013 has been fighting for gender equality. A number of other brands shared “Your Body, Your Choice” or “My Body, My Choice” focused messages, such as Rituel de Fille, Chloé, Tatcha, Madewell, and The Body Shop.
Athleta got 36,292 engagements and a response rate of 4.50% on an Instagram post saying employees on GAP Inc. healthcare can travel to other states to get healthcare. Dove, Benefit Cosmetics, and Hanna Andersson were other brands talking about giving their employees out of state health care options.
A number of other brands talked about who they were donating money to, or who they wanted you to donate money to. Companies that said they were donating to pro-choice organazations or other organazations focusing on women’s rights included Peach & Lily, Prose Hair and Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare.
In some cases, brands got more in the weeds discussing what the Supreme Court actually wrote. For example, Pacifica Beauty, shared a quote from Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer’s dissent while Boy Smells analyzed Clarence Thomas’s additional opinion to see what other protections might be at risk.
In other cases, CEOs just used brand channels to share personal feelings of frustration. Tory Burch wrote a note to her employees on Instagram expressing her outrage at Roe v. Wade being overturned which got 13,201 engagements, while Jeffree Star Cosmetics got 6,013 engagements on a Tweet where Jeffree said he’s in utter shock.
Pro-Life Brands Were Silent On Social Media
ListenFirst looked extensively for examples of brands commenting on social media about Roe v. Wade being overturned with Pro-Life messaging, and almost without exception those posts just didn’t existed (excluding politicians and news brands). That includes brands that had publicly discussed their religious rights in the context of the First Amendment in the past. The one place where Pro-Life brands did speak up on social was around very specific films.
BREAKING: Supreme Court OVERTURNS Roe v Wade— UnplannedMovie (@UnplannedMovie) June 24, 2022
We’re thankful for the bravery of SCOTUS to render this decision in a volatile political climate. We pray for their safety, and for our nation in the aftermath this decision will bring.https://t.co/Rtsr2kEpzg
Unplanned, a drama about a Planned Parenthood employee who becomes an anti-abortion activist had 584 engagmeents on a Tweet thanking the Supreme Court of their bravery and praying for their safety in a volatile political climate. Meanwhile, the movie Persecuted, a 2014 Christian drama got 25 engagements on a Facebook post saying “Glory to God!!” and “The lord cares for the unborn!!” linking to a news story about Roe v. Wade getting overturned.
Given that polling shows 60% of US adults disapprove of overturning Roe v. Wade, combined with the verdict having already gone their way, brands with pro-life leadership likely didn’t see much to gain by posting about the decision on social media.
‘We Will Adopt Your Baby’ Goes Viral
Between June 26 – June 28, there were 285,797 Tweets using the exact phrase “We will adopt your baby”. The trend started because a Twitter user took a picture of an anti-abortion couple outside the Supreme Court, holding up a sign with the message. It turns out the couple aren’t U.S. citizens and can’t legally adopt children in America, but regardless, the image went viral in a cyberbullying context.
from the director of Get Out and Us comes his most audacious horror yet… pic.twitter.com/kHM7nzef0g— Matt Oswalt (@MattOswaltVA) June 26, 2022
People shared the “We will adopt your baby” text with various pictures of sinister looking couples. A second strain of the meme, focused on a picture of a different couple holding up a sign saying “Please don’t abort, we will adopt your baby!”. That photo it turns out was actually from a 2019 Facebook post, and not directly related to the current Supreme Court decision.
For a subject touching on people’s religious beliefs, their sense of autonomy about their own bodies, and existential questions on when life begins, it’s unlikely brands would or should have their messaging shaped by what others are saying on social media. That said, given most people in America get their healthcare through their employer, it is an issue companies are thinking about which has potentially long-term consequences.
Brands have to factor in the personal beliefs of their leadership, the divided preferences of their own employees, and how transparent they are about their policies with consumers. In weighing all those factors, it’s important to review social media analytics from a brand marketing point of view. Understand how your audience is responding to these hot-topic conversations, before you post about the issue. A principled stand is a principled stand, but brands should not fly blind when joining the conversation in the very public arena of social media.