We Are Social took to the stage at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on Monday 18th June, to explain how brands can do a better job of handling hate on their social channels.

As part of a ‘power hour’ looking at different ways creativity can positively impact culture, our Chief Strategy Officer in London, Mobbie Nazir, and I told an audience why brands should be better prepared to handle hateful comments when they take a stand on progressive issues.

“There has been a lot of conversation to date in the industry on why it's important for brands to take a stand in society and culture, but very little on how brands can prepare themselves for the inevitable backlash,” Nazir said.

The presentation teased some of the findings from a forthcoming white paper by our team in London, entitled Braving the Backlash. We’re creating it as a tool for brands and agencies, to show them how they can produce and publish an anti-hate policy specifically for their social pages. More importantly, we hope it will encourage brands to take the first step towards publicly standing against hate on social.

As part of the research process, we surveyed community managers from major consumer brands to understand how they deal with hateful comments. The results indicated that the majority of brands are deleting, blocking or hiding them, instead of openly responding to them.

In order to hear from those most affected by hate on social, we also organised a series of roundtable discussions with leaders of underrepresented communities, including LGBTQ+, women’s equality and people of colour. Some of the key talking points concerned the need for brands to recognise the duty they have to protect users from harm and why brands should avoid starting a conversation they don't know how to finish.

"If you have created a space, and you've created that conversation, you have a responsibility to the people that come to that platform," explained Sport England’s Kate Dale, one of the team involved in the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign and a participant in our research.

By publishing a clear set of anti-hate guidelines for their social platforms, brands and their agencies can take a more active role in tackling the hate that’s stirred up by their comms – a problem that will continue to grow as branded social content becomes more and more diverse. It also shows the public and vulnerable communities where the brand stands on the issue of hate, and it may improve behaviour of users.

Braving the Backlash is due to be published on the We Are Social website in summer 2018.

Ray Murphy is Senior Editor at We Are Social in London.