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Social media: The US election, and our top tip for navigating large events

Mass manipulation, foreign interference, and fake news, just a few of the allegations that social media networks have had to respond to over the past 4 years. The 2020 election was expected to be the ultimate test of social media networks and the steps they would take to ensure accurate information to its users.

Facebook and Twitter in particular have been diligently reviewing their current processes and working to add a new range of tools and measures to protect the integrity of each individual vote. These measures include ad transparency tools, improved detection systems to stamp out ‘coordinated inauthentic behaviours’, updated response processes, and more.

So how have these new measures done? Here is an assessment of the key points of focus, and action, over the past few weeks…

Accurate updates
Facebook has added ‘prominent banners to feeds’ in an attempt to keep users updated on the latest accurate polling information. This tool has been rolled out across both itself and Instagram and also reminded users that votes were still being counted.

These official updates served as a counter to the speculation online and do seem to have had some initial positive impact in quelling anxiety around the result. However, speculation of voter fraud, as provoked by the US President, seemed to negate the initiative as surges in negative inflammatory comments ensued. Facebook had been measuring this via their own internal insights trackers, and therefore introduced a new strategy: blocked hashtags.

Blocked hashtags
Based on their internal insights, Facebook also took the additional step of blocking certain hashtags that were linked to some of the unsubstantiated claims made by the US President. For example, the rising criticism of the vote-counting process. Further to Trump’s accusations that the voting process was ‘illegal’ and ‘rigged’, groups of Trump supporters gathered at multiple vote counting centres across the US and began demanding poll workers inside to ‘stop the count’. Facebook, again, acted and blocked all hashtags related to ‘Sharpiegate’, ‘stop the steal’ and ‘rigged election’, with TikTok also banning the hashtags.

Twitter on the other hand continued adding warnings to inflammatory posts and flagging where posts included election misinformation – marking both Trump and incoming US Senator Marjorie Taylor Greene as violating this policy.

Finally, Facebook deleted several groups which had been created on the back of questions around the election results, with concerns that they could be used to organise violent protests in response.

Slowing momentum
According to the New York Times, Facebook plans to take even more steps in reducing inflammatory post volume by adding measures: “such as an additional click or two – before people can share posts and other content. The company will also demote content on the News Feed if it contains election-related misinformation, making it less visible, and limit the distribution of election-related Facebook Live streams.”

Although it is clear that social media networks have been working hard to at least reduce the volume of provocative posts, a lot of content still seems to be filtering through. Despite being based in the UK, it has not been difficult to find various videos and posts which raise questions about the voting process. Therefore, despite their best efforts, it does seem there is still a way to go for social media platforms before allegations of spreading mass manipulation and fake news come to an end.

All Response Media viewpoint
Despite the above steps being taken, Facebook’s internal measurement tool shows an increase in the likelihood of posts inciting poor behaviours during high profile controversial events. Therefore, we must ensure our clients are not embroiled or associated with these disputes, which is why we limit social spend for affected clients during these occasions.

On the other hand, having an overview of global or local market events can be used for positive outcomes for clients. In recent times, All Response Media has created social event calendars which detail relevant events that clients can align with. For example, being active on ‘European Internet Privacy Day’ and ‘Safer Internet Day’ would be beneficial for an internet security provider. Aligning to the UK Summertime music festival could prove fruitful for a client attempting to attract US residents to visit the UK.

Campaigns like these have led to an increase in brand awareness with recent results showing increases of up to 12% in ad recall.

In summary, aligning to events can be beneficial for campaign growth and increased awareness. However, due diligence should be undertaken to ensure events are relevant to your brand and will not incite negative connotations that could affect future performance.

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