Commentary

Despite Foreign Ad Influence Social Media Thrives

During the week of October 30, 2017, three major online platforms, Facebook, Twitter, and Google, testified before representatives of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, discussing the quantity and nature of ads purchased and published on their platforms by operatives in Russia and other foreign states.

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Because those were the three companies present for the testimony, the questions asked of survey responses focused only on them, despite the possible involvement of other social media networks in ongoing election interference investigations.

According to the HubSpot research team, led by research manager Mimi An, conducting a consumer study to gather sentiment data from 1,000 U.S. adults about this situation, found that ads originating from Russia have changed consumer perception of Social Media.

The language used to phrase the survey questions, says the report, describes what has taken place so far in a continuously developing situation as factually as possible, within such constraints of online surveys as character limits and anonymity permit.

On average, close to half of all respondents would describe ads these platforms as "very untrustworthy," compared to an average of 5.5% who find them to be either somewhat or very trustworthy. “Note that this is the sentiment around the ads appearing on these platforms, and not the platforms themselves.”

Twitter's Response Generated The Least Satisfaction, But The Sentiment Is Low Across The Board.  While respondents were generally unsatisfied with network responses to political ad purchases on their respective platforms, it seems as though they have the least faith in Twitter. (The score for "somewhat satisfied," for instance, was three percentage points lower than those for Facebook and Google.)

A significant portion of Russia-bought ads during the 2016 presidential electionconcerned such highly-contested and somewhat divisive issues as gun control and immigration.Twitter, meanwhile, did file comments, but had little to say other than a request for the FEC to maintain awareness of the network's character limits when establishing rules.

Trust in Social Media Networks Eroded by Political Ads

Consider Social Media Trustworthy

% of Respondents

Facebook

42%

Twitter

37

Google

30

None of above

49

Source: Hubspot, November 2017

Trust In Social Media Networks Has Been Eroded By The Political Ads Controversy. In addition to ad content appearing on content-sharing and discovery platforms, it would appear that trust has fallen in the platforms themselves. Facebook was particularly hard hit here, with just shy of half of respondents saying that they find this channel to be less trustworthy. However, an even higher amount of respondents answered with "none of the above," signaling the possibility of no less trust in any of these channels.

77% Of Americans Believe Platforms Need To Vet The Ads They Sell And Display.  Across the board, respondents stated a strong belief that it's the responsibility of the platforms themselves to vet ad content purchased and displayed on their channels, says the report. An average of 77% of survey participants agreed with this sentiment, regardless of age, indicating that most social media users expect to see proactive changes in ad policies and best practices.

Though Americans Are Angry About The Ads Controversy, Few Plan On Using The Affected Platforms Less.   Despite the general sentiment that these platforms are untrustworthy (as are the ads displayed on them) and need to do better about vetting paid or promoted content, the same respondents have indicated that, for the most part, they don't plan to reduce their use of Facebook, Twitter, or Google. In fact, says the report, despite being the least satisfied with Twitter's response to the political ad crisis, less than a quarter of respondents plan to use it less. That number is even lower for Google, and only slightly higher for Facebook.

The Takeaways.   If nothing else, these numbers illustrate a dependence on these contested channels.Despite the overwhelming distrust in them, as well as the ad content published on them, survey respondents have no plans to curtail or cease using them, which speaks to the power and influence they hold over users day-to-day, says the report.

The main message to marketers, says the report, is that these platforms are extremely useful and effective, which is why people are highly concerned over the presence of Russian ads. But with that effectiveness comes great responsibility, concludes the report, and that growth must be built with a commitment to transparency and truth.

For additional information from the report, please visit here.

 

 

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