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What is Parler? Why Now? Should Your Brand Care?

Nov 24, 2020

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As mainstream social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) take action to combat misinformation, we’ve seen conspiracy theorists and fringe political groups flock to alternative social networks that offer less (or no) oversight. This trend is not new and shows no signs of slowing down…Yonder is monitoring these hard-to-see spaces online so you don’t have to.

Here, we breakdown Parler, what’s behind its recent rise, and why your brand should care. 

Tune into our webinar were CEO Jonathon Morgan and CIO Ryan Fox unpack this topic.

What is Parler? 

Parler is a microblogging and social networking service. The app was founded by John Matze and Jared Thomson and launched in 2018. It was recently reported that Rebekah Mercer is backing the company. The Mercers have backed other conservative causes, including Cambridge Analytica, Breitbart News, and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Parler has an estimated 4.7 million users, but 2 million of those users joined between November 3-9… 880,000 new accounts were created just on November 9 as a direct result of election outcomes and election fraud narratives that were flagged as misinformation by Twitter and Facebook.

The rules of engagement can be summed up by: Nothing criminal, no spam. While the app calls itself an “unbiased, free speech-driven platform,” and anyone over 13 can create an account by providing an email and phone number, its users skew conservative. 

The network feels a lot like Twitter, with some of the same mechanics to interact with other users’ content, and it is set up to amplify its influencers via recommendations to follow them, automated campaigns that greet new members, discover features, hashtags, etc.

Why Parler, why now?

Historically, groups with an agenda try to control their media and information ecosystem. Parler’s promise to let users “curate [their] own experience” and to not engage in “agenda-driven shadowbanning” or “deplatforming” users for their views, attracted some conservatives who have complained about mainstream social networks suppressing their speech and new features designed to flag misinformation being implemented with a liberal bias. 

The sudden spike in new Parler users was a direct result of people migrating away from new moderation and fact-checking policies on mainstream social networks, including a new label by Twitter added under a tweet by President Trump, which falsely claimed he won re-election and that millions of mail-in ballots were fraudulent.

Why Should Your Brand Care

For brands, the ability to understand where a narrative originates and who the instigator(s) and amplifiers of a story are can provide clarity in communications discussions, planning, and decision-making.

Volume vs. Influence

Parler’s user base is a fraction of the number of people on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook has more than 2.7 billion monthly active users. Twitter has 187 million daily users. Traditional social listening and monitoring tools may not tune into what is going on in Parler or 8Kun simply because the low volume/engagement doesn’t justify it. 

However, our work shows that volume does not equate to influence online. Agenda-driven groups have discovered how to harness the power of smaller, hyper-aligned groups of people, and a lower volume of posts in order to make the voice of the group be (or at least seem) louder. These groups are becoming masters of “trading up” where they pass ideas and narratives to larger and higher volume groups that feed them into the mainstream. Yonder also looks at fingerprints of authenticity/inauthenticity to determine if these emerging narratives appear suspect or manipulated, a primary indicator of whether they will go viral and impact a brand, or not. Our brands are starting to use authenticity as part of their criteria for determining when an incident online is one they should respond to, try to contain, or not engage with.

From Fringe to Viral

We see that most viral stories that impact a brand’s reputation and/or operations are started by agenda-driven groups on fringe channels like Parler. Moverover, in times of crisis (e.g. pandemic, election, etc.) these narratives are going from fringe to viral 10x faster (a couple of weeks vs. several months). And yet, brand teams don’t have the ability to see what goes on in hard-to-see spaces online given the capabilities of standard social listening and monitoring tools that weren’t built for this kind of analysis. 

Yonder fills in these intelligence gaps to make brands less vulnerable online. Brands should keep an eye on factions of friends and adversaries online, and monitor brand- and industry-related topics to understand how those narratives are evolving within different platforms and factions, and their likely trajectory.

Agenda-Driven Factions

Earlier this year, Matze offered a $20,000 “bounty” to any progressive pundits with a following of 50,000 or more Twitter followers who switched platforms. Indeed, we’ve seen high-profile conservatives with hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter urging others to join Parler. 

The network’s predominantly conservative user base means the narratives that will originate on Parler will likely reflect a conservative agenda. Brands that choose to build a presence on this platform in order to reach its growing audience should know where they stand on issues and know that any issues stand the chance of being politicized. Factions know that pulling brands into their narratives is a great way to amplify their messages. Early detection is a brand’s best chance at preventing incidents or navigating their way out of social media crises driven by hyper-passionate factions online.

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