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Social Responsibility in the Age of Social Media

Twitter has not only given brands the ability to participate in social commentary, but it’s also encouraged an environment of humanitarian activists among CEOs, employees, and even companies themselves. Check Twitter during Pride Month and you’ll see rainbows strewn all over corporate brands. Displays like this allow companies to convey their values in a way that enhances its current brand. In today’s political environment, though, these humanitarian stances have become increasingly politicized, making these statements and branding choices political statements. Social consciousness of brands is growing, but along with this growth is the calculated risk brands must also be aware of.

Brands are certainly feeling the pressure from consumers to portray themselves as socially conscious, but they are also recognizing the opportunity to seize an attentive online audience of consumers to promote their brand. With every social issue comes another opportunity to capture consumer attention. One area where brands have been weighing in recently is immigration.

In 2015, when President Trump announced his candidacy he said his infamous “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime” quote describing Mexican immigrants. Shortly after, Macy’s cut ties with Trump saying, “We are disappointed and distressed by recent remarks about immigrants from Mexico.” NBC was also quick to announce that they would no longer air Miss USA or Miss Universe pageants due to Donald Trump’s statement saying NBC has “respect and dignity for all people”.

Talk of immigrant children being separated from their families flooded the news a few weeks ago sparking outrage among social media users. Yet again, brands wasted no time positioning themselves on the issue. Corporate response was equally as loud as in 2015 and is sure to get louder. One industry that surprisingly spoke up was the tech industry. Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg donated to an organization working to reunite migrant children with their parents. Co-founder of Airbnb Brian Chesky took to Twitter writing, “Ripping children from the arms of their parents is heartless, cruel, immoral, and counter to the American values of belonging.” Airbnb is a seasoned veteran going up against Trump’s immigration policies. In fact, during the Super Bowl, right after Trump temporarily closed America’s border to refugees, Airbnb aired a commercial called “We Accept” which promoted acceptance of immigrants saying, “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.”

One tech company that seemed to lose its voice on the issue was Microsoft, which has a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Because of this connection, both consumers and employees have called for Microsoft to cut ties with ICE. Microsoft has since made remarks conveying their distaste for the situation, but still defended the partnership. After Trump announced his executive order declaring that the U.S. will be “keeping families together,” it’s looking like Microsoft may have dodged a bullet. Regardless of how this heated issue plays out policy-wise, though, consumers can expect to hear their favorite brands weighing in.

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