How The “Stop Hate For Profit” Campaign Is Dramatically Impacting Social Media

As brands have become more vocal about speaking out on Black Lives Matter related conversations and with many of them pausing their Facebook related ad spends for the month of July, as part of the “Stop Hate For Profit” boycott, ListenFirst continues to monitor how these efforts are affecting the social media ecosystem.

Here are our top findings for the week of July 6-12, 2020:

1. Advertisers Continue to Stay Away from Facebook Platforms for Paid Ads

Between July 6-12, 2020 there were -76% less new Facebook and Instagram ads compared to the average amount of new Facebook and Instagram ads during those 7 days between 2018-2019. That’s pretty consistent with what happened during the first 5 days of the month, when there were -83% less new Facebook and Instagram ads compared to the average amount of new Facebook and Instagram ads during July 1-5 between 2018-2019. (Source: ListenFirst Data Co-op)

2. Boycott is Being Talked About Less on Social

There were 62K Tweets mentioning the hashtag #StopHateForProfit between July 1-12, 2020. That’s -57% less than the 146K Tweets that mentioned the #StopHateForProfit hashtag in the previous time period of June 19-30, 2020. That said, while people are talking about it less, the boycott campaign continues with ads down significantly year over year proving that actions speak louder than words.

3. Advertisers’ Organic Posting Is Down Significantly

So far in July compared to the last two years, 485 Top Advertisers brands are posting significantly less organically on all major social networks compared to the past two years. Looking at July 1-12, 2020 compared to the average amount of posts shared on those days during 2018-2019, Top Advertisers posted -41% less Tweets, -25% less posts on Instagram, and -11% less posts on Facebook. That’s consistent with a long term trend that predates the pandemic. 

For instance, during every month between January – June 2020, the volume of posts that Top Advertisers brands shared on social media was down -4.47% to -27.83% compared to the corresponding month in 2019. That’s also true in 2019 when between January – June, the volume of posts Top Advertiser brands shared was down between -5.35% to -18.64% from the amount of posts they shared during the same month in 2018.   

As top brands become more purposeful and targeted in their social media strategy, they’re shifting away from the mentality where posting more of everything is thought of as the only way to improve performance.

4. Black Lives Matter Protests Made a Bigger Impact on Volume of Posts than the Coronavirus

The biggest decrease in the number of new posts Top Advertisers have shared this year occurred in June when, during the height of Black Lives Matter protests, Top Advertiser brands shared 45K new posts on social media, a decrease of -28% from June 2019. By comparison, in March 2020 when the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic and brands were still unsure how to respond, they shared 59K new posts on social media, -14% less than the number of new posts they shared in March 2019. July appears to be a continuation of the Black Lives Matter related slowdown of new posts, as between July 1-12, Top Advertisers shared 19K new posts on social media; a -22% decrease from the number of new posts they shared during July 1-12, 2019.     

5. Advertisers See Success While Cutting Back Organic Posting on Twitter

Though Twitter may be the platform where Top Advertisers have cut back the most in terms of sharing new posts in July, engagement is actually up. From July 1-12, 2020, Top Advertiser brands generated +12% more social engagement on Twitter than they averaged during those days during 2018-2019. In the same time period, Top Advertisers saw a -9% decrease in the amount of social engagement on Instagram, and -3% less engagement on Facebook.

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What The Pandemic Changed AND Reinforces About The Need For Social Media Analytics

This is a guest post by Jason Klein, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, ListenFirst

So far, 2020 has been one of the most challenging years we’ve seen in many of our lifetimes. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, economic downturn, and the social justice crisis, the world at large has been forced to take a step back to truly focus on what matters—professionally, personally, and societally.

Since March, we have seen brands hunker down on highlighting, celebrating, and supporting their communities, using these unprecedented times to foster and build brand equity by showing their human side. As consumer behaviors have shifted, so too has the need for brands to adjust their strategies to reach these audiences.

Additionally, now more than ever, brand marketers’ budgets are being scrutinized and picked apart to truly hone in on data-driven strategies that drive ROI and foster brand loyalty. With that all in mind, here are three key areas that are vital for brand marketers to shift their focus to as they adjust to this new, fragile world we live in.

Digital Transformation

Quarantine and stay-at-home orders have driven consumers to behave in ways the markets have never seen before. While “digital transformation” has been a buzzword and consumer-facing brands’ end goal for decades, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the transition to e-commerce and other digital and social tactics for many brands in a matter of months, if not weeks.

The silver lining is that it has led to more efficient and better positioned companies. For brands, the goal of digital transformation, which had been put off or dragged out for years, has now become mission critical forcing brands to change their business forever. For example, traditional grocery stores like Kroger have turned some of their locations into ‘dark stores’, only allowing customers to place their order online and pick up curbside. With the absence of bars, alcoholic beverage brands have also had to shift over to a digital-first approach to keep and grow their audiences, employing tactics like by partnering with delivery brands like Drizzly or hosting virtual events ranging from wine and beer tastings to happy hours to concerts and more.

Consolidation of Tools

In an uncertain environment, it is critical for brand marketers to make their spend more efficient, and tech-stacks are often the first budget line items to be scrutinized. In Gartner’s Marketing Technology 2019 Survey, marketing leaders reported utilizing only 58% of their martech stack’s potential. At a time like this, that is not going to cut it, as brands are moving away from having several various point solutions and consolidating down to less tools that do more.

Beyond the obvious benefit of cost-savings, by consolidating down to more comprehensive analytics and insights tools, they are also fulfilling their need of consistent reporting, data sources, and nomenclature. As we’ve seen in the past, some of the greatest innovation comes from having resources constrained and cross-company teams rallying behind centralized reporting and insights. 

Social Media Data Is More Valuable Than Ever

Social media analytics and insights has gone from nice-to-have to need-to-have in marketers’ arsenals. Social media is the most active channel of consumer engagement and feedback across all sectors, and marketers who have not tapped into this treasure trove of data are falling behind.

While many of the traditional ways that brands were getting insights have been disrupted (i.e. Nielsen ratings, ad sales, in-store sales, POS purchases, market research, etc.), social media has remained consistent. And, there are more people on social media than ever before—Kantar found that 61% of people are spending more time on social media during the pandemic. Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn have all also reported significant usage increases during the pandemic. Furthermore, consumers are turning to social media en masse to make their shopping decisions—an Absolunet study found that 87% of e-commerce shoppers believe social media helps them make a shopping decision. 

When enterprises truly embrace social data, the applications can be valuable well beyond just the marketing suite. Social media insights can be utilized to justify and power product development and innovation, supply chain insights, communications and community strategies, sales, and more.

Closing Thoughts – Data in Action

At a time when marketers need to demonstrate clear ROI from their efforts to retain budgets and keep their brand afloat, social media offers one of the only environment-proof data sources that brands can rely on. Here are some ways we’ve seen social analytics quantifiably improve performance: 

  • Saving creative budgets: a luxury fashion brand that typically created 6 tiles for their Instagram Stories, saw that audiences were consistently dropping off after the third tile, allowing them to adjust their strategy and save half of their creative budget for that initiative.
  • Understanding audience intent: If an Instagram user saves a post, it signifies that they find the content engaging enough to return to—a far stronger indicator of purchase intent for a product than say impressions or likes. Michael Kors honed in on this metric and found that their most-saved posts had clear messaging showing a single product, providing them with a content template optimized to drive sales. 
  • Gauging viewer interest: As TV and film audiences exhausted their must-watch lists during quarantine, they went on the hunt for new series and movies to discover. By focusing on a metric like organic search (measured by Wikipedia Page Views), media brands can understand which of their content offerings (whether new or catalog) are spiking early consumer interest ahead of larger trends.

5 Social Media Takeaways Around Brands Posting About #BlackLivesMatter

If talking about systemic racism was easy it wouldn’t be so necessary, and unfortunately what the murder of George Floyd illustrated, is that these problems will remain life and death for people of color if they continue to be swept under the rug. For brands, that creates a balancing act. It’s imperative that brands speak up about social injustice, but there’s still apprehension about not adequately being able to convey empathy, often because brands have fallen short in the past.  

This is not a topic that lends itself to easy answers but that said, two weeks after the tragic death of Floyd, ListenFirst has dug into both the brand response around the protests and insights about what’s connecting most with the audience.  

Here’s what we found. 

S&P 500 Brands That Generated The Most Social Media Responses Around Their #BlackLivesMatter Related Posts 

RankBrandAverage Responses# Of Posts
3Franklin Templeton Investments74,8996
7Ulta Beauty39,6166
10The Walt Disney Company27,9421
Methodology: Looks at the average numbers of social media content responses on posts by S&P 500 Brands that discussed #BlackLivesMatter, George Floyd, or racism in general between March 25 – June 7, 2020. ListenFirst Content Responses measure the Likes, Shares, Comments, and Retweets a post gets on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and YouTube.

Insight #1. Brand Equity Around Social Justice Is Something Built Over Time  

Looking at the last two weeks, Nike shared 3 posts relating to #BlackLivesMatter on social, which averaged 1,924,537 responses, which by far was the highest average for any S&P 500 brand of their #BlackLivesMatter related social media posts during that time period. Their messaging emphasized that you shouldn’t turn your back on racism, and it was far from a coincidence their brand messaging is what resonated most on the topic. Nike had already had a campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, who is the athlete most associated with the fight against police brutality back in 2018, and has long been a brand that has publicly advocated for social justice issues.

The audience isn’t looking for brand tourists around causes, and if you want your brand to connect on social media around social justice advocacy, that equity needs to be built up over time, and can’t be earned by a standalone Tweet or Facebook update.

Insight #2: Advertisers Were Participating In #BlackOutTuesday More Than You Might Think 

There’s been a robust debate over if  #BlackOutTuesday — where people and brands in solidarity with black people posted a black square on their social media accounts — was helpful or counter productive. ListenFirst data can confirm that brands were more involved with the initiative than just sharing black squares. Of 1,821 brands with Facebook ad accounts, only 1.4% ran a Facebook or Instagram ad on June 2, 2020 for a total of 240 ads on #BlackOutTuesday. That’s a decrease of -76.92%, compared to the average volume of Facebook and Instagram ads that have run during the previous Tuesdays in 2020. Additionally, there were 703 social media posts shared by S&P 500 brands on June 2, 2020; which is -51.52% less posts than S&P 500 shared on the previous 10 Tuesdays when S&P 500 brands shared on average 1,450 posts.

Both around paid and owned posts, most brands made a concerted effort to sit out June 2 on social media. 

Insight #3: The Audience Responds Positively To More Specific And Forceful Messaging 

While many brands shared messaging that had a general call to end racism, Ben & Jerry’s not only called out what had happened, but also what needed to be done in much more specific terms. The brand’s post about police brutality and dismantling white supremacy generated 355,246 responses across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. To put that in perspective, of all the social media posts that CPG food brands posted between May 25–Jun 3, the three posts that generated the most responses during that time period were the George Floyd related posts by Ben & Jerry.

Ben & Jerry’s, which like Nike has built a multi-decade reputation as a leader on social justice issues, shows us that the audience wants brands to go beyond joining the conversation. They want brands to participate in what it will actually take to fix systemic racism. 

Insight #4: The Audience Wants Brands To Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is 

The most popular Black Lives Matter related Tweet posted on #BlackOutTuesday (including non-brand Tweets) came from Ubisoft, who announced that it was donating $100,000 to the NAACP and Black Lives Matter. That Tweet generated 30,713 responses. Similarly, Glossier donated $500K across organizations focusing on racial injustice and the Instagram post announcing that generated 160,729 responses, making it the most popular Black Lives Matter related social media post by a beauty brand between Mar 25 –Jun 3.

Donating money to social justice organizations doesn’t make brands immune from criticism if they’ve historically made mistakes, but it does show your brand’s commitment to building a better future and is quantifiably appreciated by the audience.  

Insight #5: Representation Matters And Brands Need To Show That’s Occurring At The Leadership Level 

Ulta Beauty averaged 39,616 responses around its 6 social media posts touching on Black Lives Matter related topics between Mar 25–Jun 7, and one of the big reasons they stood is because of how directly they spoke to representation. In one Instagram post, Ulta Beauty itemized, by percentage, how many Black board members and executives it has, along with the number of black corporate associates, people of color and women employed by the company. Meanwhile in another Instagram post, Ulta Beauty shared its list of black owned Beauty brands.

How minorities are treated is directly related to the extent that they have a seat at the table, and the social media audience wants to hear both about how your brand is doing about representation and what the plans are to improve those numbers. 

How Is Ralph Lauren Increasing Engagement While Consumers #StayHome?

Ralph Lauren Home’s Instagram engagement is up 300% from March compared to April with May showing promising results as well. With many other industries experiencing a decrease in engagements and post volume during quarantine, Home Furnishings and Ralph Lauren Home are the opposite. This is how they did it: 

The home furnishings industry collectively experienced a 6% increase in engagements in April compared to March, driven by a 2% increase in new posts. Even with these small increases occurring industry-wide, Ralph Lauren Home’s increases exponentially exceeded this trend. Ralph Lauren Home saw a 300% uptick in engagements in April 2020 compared to March 2020, primarily driven by a 600% increase in new posts. 

The brand’s decision to increase posts 7X more than the previous month came when many brands were just beginning to slowly increase post volume after recovering from March’s social shakeup. The #RLatHome campaign showcasing highly branded gallery creative alongside things to do at home–ranging from cooking and baking to reading and board games.

As Ralph Lauren Home pivoted from the #RLatHome content that drove engagements in April, the brand has largely shifted back to business-as-usual content in May thus far. Average engagements per post in this month through May 14 are 63% higher than that in April for the home furnishings brand, indicating that fans are highly engaged with more traditional Ralph Lauren posts, as opposed to just getting spikes of interest from content directly mentioning COVID-19. 

As states and cities slowly begin to reopen, consumers are likely eager to begin to resume a state of normalcy after being quarantined for the last two months. That said, even as the audience starts to venture out more, the foreseeable future is still going to involve much more time at home than before the coronavirus pandemic started; which means that social media content from Home Furnishing brands will continue being consumed at a higher level of engagement.  

How 5 Home Furnishing Brands Are Increasing Engagement During the Coronavirus

As has been the case with every industry, Home Furnishing brands have been dramatically impacted by the pandemic, and with people staying home more around social distancing, Home Furnishing products are even more front and center in people’s lives. 

In that context, many Home Furnishing have actually increased the amount of posts they’re sharing, for instance in April 2020, 11 Home Furnishing Brands shared at least 75% more posts on social media compared to March 2020. That includes Ralph Lauren Home sharing in 21 social media posts in April and Beautyrest shared 7 posts, which in both cases was a +600% increase from the volume of posts they shared in March. Sleep Country Canada, LoveSac, Zara Home, Walmart, Burrow, Arhuas, The Container Store, AptDeco, and Feather are the other Home Furnishing brands that increased the volume of their social media posts by at least 75% in April. 

However, since an uptick in New Posts is generally met with an increase in Engagement, looking at Overall Engagement is not going to be an effective KPI to understanding which Home Furnishing brands are having the most success with their social strategy. Instead, we’re going to measure success on Average Response per post and answer the question, “What creative sparked more interest among users?”

Looking at the 157 Home Furnishing brands ListenFirst is tracking, only 5 of these brands saw an increase in Average Responses per post in April compared to March. 

Home Furnishing Brands That Saw The Biggest Increase In Responses Per Post I April 2020 compared to March 2020       

RankBrandAverage Responses/Post% Change
5Zara Home9,725+4%
6The Container Store679-16%
10Ralph Lauren Home4,291-41%
11Sleep Country Canada222-69%
Methodology: Average Responses per Post divides the volume of responses (likes, reactions, comments, shares, retweets, replies) on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram by the total number of New Posts across those social platforms during April 2020 compared to March 2020 across 157 Home Furnishing brands

With that in mind, there what each of those 5 brands did to increase the amount of engagement around their social media posts: 


Ready to upgrade the way you sleep? Here’s your chance to experience Beautyrest and Sleep First Class. Join our First…

Posted by Beautyrest on Monday, April 20, 2020

Especially in an environment with so much economic uncertainty, offering the chance to win free stuff proved a winning formula for Beautyrest. They stood out around a campaign asking people to join their “First Class Sleepers sampling program” where in exchange for posting honest reviews, that would enter you into the chance to win free products including a mattress.


Proving there’s more than one way to run a Home Furnishing promotion, Burrow saw an uptick in engagement with a slightly different strategy than Beautyrest where they offered users a chance to win $600 worth of goods. In a post that generated 591 responses on Instagram, Burrow asked users to keep the conversation on social by commenting and mentioning a friend as opposed to signing up for a program linked out to their website. Burrow also turned to man’s best friend to showcase the upside of being stuck at home, generating 379 responses around two Instagram posts reminding people that sheltering in place means quality time with your dogs. 


Given everyone’s hope for this temporary way of living in quarantine paired with FEATHER’s business model of renting furniture, FEATHER saw an uptick in responses this month. The brand focused on Instagram, sharing nearly quadruple the amount of posts to this channel and halted posts published to Facebook – driving their +66% uptick in average responses. FEATHER oftentimes referenced the current public health crisis in the copy of some of their most engaging posts like, “Working from home? Get a setup that supports you.” and “This is not your office


The world outside might not be funny right now but AptDeco still is. The brand earned their engagement lift in April with a more irrelevant take, for instance they received 761 responses on an Instagram post referencing Tiger King, asking if Carol Baskin killed her husband or not.  Meanwhile a cartoon drawing, joking about how working from home is slowly driving people nuts earned 288 responses for AptDeco. If your brand’s tone was more comedic before pandemic started, that’s the tone that self selecting social media followers will still be expecting going forward. 


With the audience not allowed to visit people in person because of social distancing, Zara Home got an engagement lift by letting people be virtual house guests. They generated 38,535 responses around an invitation on Instagram to view a breakfast with the Campbell-Rey design team on Instagram Live. The audience still craves group events and in the short term, using social media to create virtual events is in many cases the best option available for the audience to scratch that itch. 


If it’s through creating contests, directly addressing ways to get through working from home, using humor as a way to release stress or creating virtual events, there are a number of ways that Home Furnishing brands are successfully connecting with the social media audience during the age of the coronavirus. By working with a social media analytics platform able to provide insights across the entire Home Furnishing ecosystem, brands will gain a better understanding of what social tactics are working, and what will be most effective for your brand specifically around outreach. 

To learn more, download ListenFirst’s Home Furnishings Industry Special Report: Social Media in the Time of Coronavirus