Political Content on Social Media 2021

Lessons for Commercial Marketers from the 2020 US Election Cycle

Executive Summary

Last year’s US presidential election played out on social platforms as much as it did in the streets and polling booths. This report discusses how politics shapes both the user and brand experiences on social media.

Are people spending less time on social media because of politics?

No. People say they are exhausted by politics on social media, but political content, particularly divisive discourse, continues to generate a lot of engagement for the platforms. At the same time, however, those feelings of exhaustion are driving some users to spend more time on platforms and content that are fun and entertaining, rather than serious or negative.

How is politics redefining the concept of brand safety?

Social media’s struggles with misinformation, fake news, and “echo chambers” (online communities of like-minded individuals) are making brands rethink their reliance on those platforms. As consumers increasingly expect the companies they engage with to stand for and do good, brands are becoming increasingly skeptical of social media.

How are political ad regulations affecting commercial advertisers?

Commercial advertisers stand to benefit. The game of political ad whack-a-mole is sending political campaign dollars off of social media and onto other platforms, like connected TV and OTT services, and forcing political campaigns to redirect their social efforts to organic and influencer marketing.

Should brands participate in political discourse on social media?

It’s down to brand values. Companies risk alienating a significant portion of their customers no matter what they do. Marketers also need to be prepared for backlash whether they take a stand on political issues or not.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report discusses consumer attitudes toward and engagement with politics on social media, and how marketers can navigate the increasingly divisive social media environment.

KEY STAT: In a January 2021 Ipsos survey, 63% of US adult internet users supported the social networks’ decisions to suspend or delete then-President Donald Trump’s accounts, but there were significant differences based on political party affiliation.

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    Table of Contents

    1. Executive Summary
    2. 5 Lessons for Commercial Marketers
    3. Politics Didn’t Make People Spend Less Time on Social
    4. But Users Want to “Make Social Media Fun Again”
    1. The Definition of Brand Safety Has Broadened
    2. Facebook’s Political Ad Whack-A-Mole Benefits Commercial Advertisers
    3. Brand Values Should Lead When Deciding Whether or Not to Play Politics
    4. Key Takeaways
    1. Insider Intelligence Interviews
    2. Read Next
    3. Sources
    4. Media Gallery

    Interviewed for This Report

    Mike Addonizio
    Vice President, Paid Media
    Interviewed January 28, 2021
    Grace Briscoe
    Vice President, Candidates and Causes
    Interviewed January 21, 2021
    Jen Capstraw
    Women of Email
    Co-Founder and President
    Interviewed January 28, 2021
    Mary Keane-Dawson
    Group CEO
    Interviewed January 13, 2021
    Vikram Sharma
    Interviewed February 8, 2021
    Harman Sodhi
    Senior Director, Political and Enterprise Sales
    Interviewed January 27, 2021
    Richard Tomasco Jr.
    Vice President, Caravan Surveys, Engine Insights
    Interviewed January 27, 2021
    Amy Worley
    Chief Connections Officer
    Interviewed October 20, 2021

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    Jasmine Enberg


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    Nicole Perrin
    Principal Analyst
    Chuck Rawlings
    Senior Researcher
    Debra Aho Williamson
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    Yoram Wurmser
    Principal Analyst

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