Olivia Parker
Aug 19, 2019

Are social-media brands feeling the impact of NZ's criticism?

Under closer-than-usual scrutiny this year in New Zealand for various reasons, few of them good, how are consumers responding to the top tech and social media platforms?

Are social-media brands feeling the impact of NZ's criticism?


Social media and the tech platforms were pushed to front of mind in New Zealand this year after the shocking, unprecedented terrorist attacks in Christchurch in March, in which 51 people died. After it was discovered that the gunman had used Facebook to livestream his attack, New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Adern promised to make social media companies more accountable for the content they host.

Speaking at the ‘Christchurch Call’ summit in Paris in July, Adern called on the tech companies to reconsider how their algorithms channel people towards extremist content, and said that more people should have the power to decide how they evolve. Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube were amoung companies that signed an accord following that summit.

With Google and Facebook two of Adern’s main targets, how did consumers in New Zealand respond to these brands?

Google fell in below local beloved brand Watties into sixth place in the list of New Zealanders’ top 100 brands, a drop of three spots from last year. The search engine has had it particularly bad in New Zealand recently: in December 2018 the company was accused of breaching a court order in a high profile murder case, when its Google Trends feature named a man accused of killing a British backpacker, contrary to a suppression order.

And in March, Google CEO Sundar Pichai was one of three addressees, along with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, of a letter signed by three of New Zealand's largest broadband providers, Vodafone NZ, Spark and 2degrees, asking them to take more responsibility for their content in the wake of the March 15 Christchurch attacks.

Facebook, which received heavy criticism for its lack of response to officials during the attacks, and was the subject of an advertising boycott by brands in the aftermath, also dropped two places in New Zealand’s list of favourite brands, to 22nd position. The brands that reportedly pulled their advertising don’t seem to have notably benefitted from their actions, however: both Burger King and ASB Bank are down in the rankings.

In other social media news Twitter climbed an impressive 59 places, but to 315th position, indicating it doesn’t have huge importance in the minds of New Zealanders. A January 2018 report by Hootsuite, in fact, put Twitter far down the list of social media platforms favoured by New Zealanders, with just 21% using it compared to 74% who use YouTube, 73% who use Facebook and 35% using Instagram.

The latter performed relatively well in 2019, jumping up 42 places, but it remains outside the top 100 in 113th position. New Zealand was one of the test markets for a new strategy Instagram is experimenting with to hide ‘likes’ on the platform, along with Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy and Japan; but given the experiment only started last month, it remains to be seen whether New Zealanders will like or loathe it.

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