6 Social Media Insights On Audiences Unfollowing Brands During The Pandemic 

If Billy Joel wanted to write another We Didn’t Start The Fire type song he’d probably have enough headlines from the last five months alone. 2020 has been pretty dramatic and from the pandemic to record unemployment to the George Floyd protests; there’s plenty going on in people’s lives which is causing them to reevaluate their priorities, including as they relate to social media. 

We’ve previously documented the huge spike in conversation around Cancel Culture (which often leads to unfollows), and there’s at least anecdotal evidence that the social media audience is looking to hold brands to a higher standard around social justice issues, and will unfollow brands that don’t reflect their values. For example, people saying they’ll unfollow brands on Instagram because they’re drowning out the voices of other small artists in their feed; not wanting to hear about brand promotions at a time like this; and talk about joining a TIkTok trend of unfollowing people who Like Donald Trump on Instagram. 

To better quantify the trend of people unfollowing brands, we dug into our social media analytics and here’s what we found. 

Insight #1:  The Social Audience Is Talking About Unfollowing Brands More 

There were 302% more Tweets mentioning both the words Unfollow and Brand during March – July 2020,  compared to March – July in 2019. That outpaces the grow in the general conversation around unfollowing on social media, for example there were 147,993 Tweets mentioning both Unfollow and Instagram between March – July 2020, a 93% increase from March – July 2019 when there were 76,696 Tweets that mentioned both Unfollow and Instagram. 

While it doesn’t answer the question of if people are unfollowing specific brands more during the pandemic, they’re certainly thinking more in general terms about unfollowing brands on social media.  

Insight #2: There’s No Evidence Of Instagram Followers Abandoning Entire Industries 

On August 1, 2020; there were 1,280,891,295 total Instagram followers around 1,847 Fashion brands that ListenFirst tracks, up 6% from the volume of Instagram followers those brands had on March 1, 2020.  The Fashion Industry may be hurting right now, but the pandemic isn’t causing fans to unfollow their favorite brands. 

Similarly, it doesn’t appear that the movie industry is significantly losing Instagram followers, even with most major movie releases being delayed for a year or more. For example,The Fast & Furious sequel, F9 had 3,866,836 Instagram Followers on August 1, 2020; a -2% decrease from the volume of Instagram followers the movie had on March 1, 2020. Additionally the James Bond sequel, No TIme To Die had 1,250,528 Instagram Followers on August 1, 2020; a 9% increase from the number of Instagram followers the movie had on March 1, 2020.

The increase in Instagram followers can be even more dramatic with non-franchise movies. For example, the thrice delayed film Tenet had 51,858 Instagram followers on August 1, a 132% increase from the number of Instagram followers Tenet had on March 1, 2020. 

While it remains to be seen how and when fans can view these films, they’re definitely still interested.   

Even around airlines, there’s no evidence of losing fans; as 78 airline brands had a cumulative total of 44,598,916 Followers on Instagram on August 1, 2020, up  +3% from March 1, 2020.  

Insight #3: Promotional Posts Not Costing Celebrity Influencers Followers 


It’s not unheard of for there to be individual complaints about too many promotional posts by celebrities, for instance the Tweet above about a fan unfollowed Dwayne The Rock Johnson on Instagram because of too many promotional posts about his tequila brand. However, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of scale around that sentiment. For instance on August 3, 2020; Dwayne Johnson shared three posts on Instagram promoting Teremana Tequila. He still generated 137,963 new Instagram followers on the day. Likewise, Ryan Reynolds posted an ad for Mint Mobile on May 4, 2020 on his social media accounts and generated 7,824 new fans or followers on Facebook and Twitter.  As long as there’s nothing offensive in the ad, and the content is consistent with the infleuncer’s persona, promotional ads aren’t going to result in lost followers.  

Insight #4: Black Lives Matter Protests Aren’t Damaging Brands On Social Media – But They Are Amplifying Self Inflicted Wounds  

Generally speaking brands managed to either post about Black Lives Matter protests with empathy or chose to not talk about the protests at all, with neither strategy leading to brands losing fans on social media. However there were a couple of exceptions, where brands either through their posts or their actions managed to make insensitive decisions that led to losing followers. 

On March 31, Shoddy Lynn, the founder of the fashion brand Dolls Kill posted on her personal Instagram account, a picture of over 15 police officers protecting a Dolls Kill store with the caption “Direct Action in its glory #blacklivesmatter”. Widely viewed as a statement endorsing police brutality, there were immediate calls on social media for a boycott of Dolls Kill. The brand issued a series of apologies, including offering to commit $1 million dollars to buying clothing from black-owned fashion brands in a post that generated 80,032 responses on Instagram, and an Instagram video apology from Shoddy Lynn. However, neither apology was seen as forceful enough and between June 1 – July 7, 2020; Dolls Kill lost -247,918 Fans, Followers or Subscribers across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and primarily Instagram.   

Meanwhile, even though there’s no evidence that staying silent on George Floyd’s death was a problem for brands, getting caught explaining why you’re staying silent could be. That’s what happened to CrossFit, when audio was leaked to Buzzfeed of CrossFit’s then CEO Greg Glassman saying about George Floyd on a Zoom call,  “Can you tell me why I should mourn for him? Other than that it’s the white thing to do?” That article was posted on June 9 and Fan Growth for CrossFit was down -584% during June 10-21, 2020 compared to May 29 -June 9, 2020.

The other problematic approach around bringing up Black Lives Matter is using it as a form of deflection. For example, Jeffree Star, the beauty vlogger and founder of Jeffree Star Cosmetics, has a long history of being accused of racism, and has lost -2,248,748 followers on social media between June 9 – August 9, 2020; primarily on Instagram and YouTube. In a video seemingly meant to apologize to rival beauty vlogger James Charles, he switched focus to talking about Black Lives Matter and the injustices against the black trans community, which many people on social media saw as him refusing to accept accountability for his own actions. 

In all of these examples, when brands or influencers are talking about Black Lives Matter related topics and coming from an inauthentic place; they’re getting in trouble because the social media audience judges your words against your actions.    

Insight #5: Controversy Doesn’t Inherently Means Losing Fans On Social Media 

When Robert Unanue, the CEO of Goya Foods went on the White House lawn saying the nation was “blessed to have a leader” like President Trump, it might have been a divisive statement but it wasn’t inherently a social media problem for Goya. At first, there was a significant backlash; for instance, on July 9, 2020 there were 50,741 Tweets that mentioned either Goya and the phrase Boycott or the hashtag #Goyaway. However, there was a subsequent backlash to the backlash where supporters of President Trump voiced their support through following. During the week of July 10-16, 2020; Goya generated 317,979 new fans, followers or subscribers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; an increase of 314,075% from the previous week.

While it’s not yet clear if the controversy helped or hurt Goya in terms of sales; on social media it resulted in Goya’s Fan Footprint on social media increasing by 46% in a single week. 

Insight #6: Kneeling Is Not Hurting The NBA On Social Media

On August 5, President Trump stated in an interview that it’s disgraceful that the NBA is kneeling during the National Anthem and that he turned off the game when he saw it. The NBA generated 32,432 new Fans, Followers or Subscribers on social media during August 5, 2020 an increase of 26% compared to August 4, 2020. Since the NBA bubble games began, looking at July 30 – August 10, 2020 and with their players kneeling the whole time, the league generated 452,967 New Fans on social media, a 6% increase from the previous time period.

Similarly, NASCAR banned the Confederate Flag on June 10, 2020 and if that was a controversial decision, it isn’t reflected in the social media data. On June 10, NASCAR received 4,769 new Fans, Followers, or Subscribers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube; which was an increase of 4,520% compared to the previous day.  


As much as it might sometimes seem that social media can be a cesspool of negativity; all the social media data indicates that the audience is much more likely to take the positive action of following a brand than taking the negative action of unfollowing a brand. Even as the audience is talking more about unfollowing brands in general terms, short of an outright PR crisis, brands should not be concerned that a large percentage of their audience will stop following them on social media during the pandemic. 

Want more social media insights around how brands are being affected during the pandemic? Request a Demo Today! 

5 Takeaways From How Brands Celebrated Juneteenth On Social Media

Juneteenth was first celebrated as a holiday in Austin in 1867, and was first officially recognized as a state holiday by Texas in 1980. However, the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent protests advocating for social justice have raised multicultural awareness of Juneteenth to an unprecedented extent this year. 

This sea change is quantifiable at a brand level. For instance on June 19, 2020, 352 of 1,100 social media posts shared by S&P 500 brands were Juneteenth related. In comparison on June 19, 2019 only 4 out of 1,551 posts shared by S&P 500 brands on social media mentioned Juneteenth. There were also noticeably less posts this year than last, as brands have pulled back on sharing their usual content to dedicate space for supporting racial justice.

While there’s no pre-existing playbook for what type of messaging around the holiday resonates with audiences we were able to identify 5 key takeaways from what Juneteenth brand content connected the best this year. 

Brands That Averaged The Most Responses To Their Juneteenth Social Media Posts

RankBrandAverage Volume Of Responses To Juneteenth Related Posts# of Juneteenth Related PostsExamples
1NFL52,8016Sample Post
2NBA34,90650Sample Post
3Facebook30,0428Sample Post
4Sephora22,1851Sample Post
5Netflix17,9151Sample Post
6Ulta Beauty14,9712Sample Post
7Old Navy12,8442Sample Post
8US Navy10,8303Sample Post
9Delta Air Lines8,3141Sample Post
10Twitter6,2151Sample Post

Methodology: Looks at the average numbers of social media content responses on posts by either S&P 500 Brands or Top Advertisers (485 brands) mentioning Juneteenth on June 19, 2020. ListenFirst Content Responses measure the Likes, Shares, Comments, and Retweets a post gets on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and YouTube.

Insight #1: Sports Leagues Generated The Most Responses To Their Juneteenth Posts 

On June 19, 2020, the NFL was the brand that generated the most response to its Juneteenth related social media posts, with those 6 posts receiving on average 52,801 responses.  Meanwhile the NBA had the second highest total, with its amazing 50 Juneteenth related social media posts shared on the day averaging 34,906 responses. 


The NFL announced that it would be shutting down league offices in commemoration of Juneteenth while the NBA highlighted the social justice protesting efforts of its players, among its many other Juneteenth related posts. Athletes like Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James, and Stephen Jackson have been at the forefront of speaking out against police brutality, and their activism lends authority to the leagues they’re associated with. 


Any brand can speak to Juneteenth and events that speak to social justice in general, but for the audience to pay attention at any scale, that needs to be part of a longer term conversation. 

Insight #2: It’s Okay To Explain What Juneteenth Is 

When brands post about Independence Day, there’s no need to explain what the Declaration of Independence was. Similarly, posting about Thanksgiving doesn’t require a historic recap about Pilgrims. However, when a lesser known holiday becomes more prominent, it’s okay for brands to help fill in the blanks because much of the audience is hearing these facts for the first time.

This year many brands stood out in talking about Juneteenth just by explaining the basics. For instance, Facebook received 291,566 responses on a post explaining how the holiday commemorates how enslaved people in Galveston, Texas first learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865, while also offering 19 ways to celebrate. Meanwhile Microsoft received 4,652 responses on a Twitter thread fleshing out the history of the holiday while also offering resource ideas for further learning.    

While it’s a serious subject, comedy can still be deployed in those explanations. For example, Netflix generated 17,915 responses on a Tweet that started a thread explaining Juneteenth that used The Office’s Michael Scott’s to illustrate how many white Americans think slavery ended with Abraham Lincoln before explaining the more complicated actual answer.

Insight #3:  Use Your Platform to Amplify Black Voices

Due to what it’s commemorating, Juneteenth is a holiday where the social media audience needs to hear from Black voices not allies, and some of the most successful brands in posting about Juneteenth made sure that’s exactly what the messaging was. Social media platforms themselves understood that point as Twitter shared a Twitter Voice Note from Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi on why Juneteenth is especially meaningful this year which generated 6,215 responses. Meanwhile Facebook received 5,342 responses on a video of the cast of Black-ish being interviewed about their musical Juneteenth themed episode.

Other notable examples include Sephora using Instagram Live for a conversation with Black activists, scholars, and partners; the announcement of which generated 22,185 responses, while Maybelline received 18,453 responses on a post announcing a Instagram Live event where a makeup artist would be offering up makeup tips for deeper skin tones.


Insight #4: Real Holidays Mean Time Off 

Did you know National Hot Dog Day is July 22? You probably would if you were getting the day off for it. There are plenty of fun and frivolous holidays that don’t merit getting a paid vacation day, but the ending of slavery in this country was an immeasurably important moment in our nation’s history that deserves more reflection than just sharing a GIF.

Many brands reaffirmed the importance of Juneteenth by sharing on social media how they’re giving their employees the day off for the holiday. For example, Adobe received 380 responses to a Tweet announcing its employees would be out of the office for Juneteenth to take time for reflection and advocacy while BB&T Bank announced it was closing at 2pm on Juneteenth in a Facebook post that received 10,382 responses. U.S. Bancorp and Fifth Third Bank are other financial institutions that closed early for the holiday.


ListenFirst also gave our employees Juneteenth off so our team could commemorate Black history and culture through celebration, education, and reflection.

Insight #5: Brands Used The Opportunity To Share Additional Relevant Resources


The abolition of slavery didn’t magically erase racial inequlity in this country and many brands used the occasion of Juneteenth to share additional content and resources that spoke either to that struggle and/or provided a better understanding of the Black experience in America. For example, Amazon received 9,024 responses on a Facebook post that shared online learning tools and resources, including Black employee recommendations on films, TV shows, and books. Similarly, Hulu generated 5,389 responses on its Juneteenth watchlist while Gerber got 1,128 responses on a Facebook post showcasing amazing accounts featuring Black educators, mothers, and creators.



While Juneteenth might be a new topic for brands, it is a subject that the social media audience was receptive to talking about. For example on June 19, 2020 S&P 500 brands averaged 2,473 responses to their Juneteenth related posts compared to an average of 2,208 responses per post so far this year. Hopefully this enthusiasm will lead to even more brand engagement around Juneteenth next year.