Social media and activism have been inextricably linked since the Arab Spring demonstrations in 2010 and since 2013, when the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was first used. In both cases, social media and hashtags played an important role in mobilizing the human rights movement offline. They inspired the rise of social activism, including #LoveWins, #TimesUp, and #FridaysForFuture.
Until recently, social media activism was rather optional for brands. It was only in 2018 that Nike made headlines for taking a stand with Colin Kaepernick. The recent death of George Floyd by the police has been a catalyst for many people and companies to test their neutrality in the face of police brutality and systemic racism – and consequently to turn to social media to express their support.
Participation in social activism is primarily the right thing. But doing the right thing also has business benefits. Nearly two-thirds of consumers believe it is important that companies take a stand on social issues. And for many it is only the beginning to take a position. Consumers increasingly want businesses to act and reward those who do three times faster Growth than their competitors.
Regardless of whether you want to support Black Lives Matter, climate activism, or any other social justice issue, here are some tips on how to take your social media activism beyond the hashtag.
Bonus: Get the step-by-step guide to social media strategies with professional tips on how to increase your social media presence.
What is social media activism?
Social media activism is a form of protest or advocacy for something that uses social media channels. Since hashtags play a central role in mobilizing movements, the term is often used synonymously with hashtag activism.
This includes raising awareness and solidarity through the use of hashtags, posts and campaigns. Real social media activism is supported by concrete measures, donations and measurable commitments to change.
Without offline action, gestures like using a hashtag or posting a black square appear performative, opportunistic and lazy. Critics often quickly refer to this minimal effort as "slacktivism". In this sense, a company that participates in social media activities that are inconsistent with its past or present actions can lead to setbacks and damage. There is also a word for this: "woke up wash. ”
Can a company unsubscribe from social media activism? For sure. But consumers notice, employees notice, and competitors notice. A recent poll According to Morning Consult, the majority of people would see a brand that refuses to make a statement in a less favorable light.
10 tips for using social media to show real support for one thing
1. Stop and check your social calendar
The first thing to do before engaging in social media activism is to take a break.
Check your social calendar. If you're using a social media planner, you want to unschedule upcoming posts. Trust that all the hard work put into your perfect contribution has not been wasted. It's just postponed for the moment. Take the time to learn about the movement you want to join.
Fenty Beauty, Glossier, Kotn, Nike and Nickelodeon are just a few examples of brands that stopped advertising at the beginning of the # BlackLivesMatter movement. During the climate strike last September, brands like Patagonia, Lush and Seventh generation closed shops, became “dark” in the social area and donated advertising space to the movement. Before returning to regular programming, consider how your campaigns and content will resonate in a broader context.
Tomorrow, we're closing our U.S. retail and e-commerce stores to join global #ClimateStrikes and draw attention to the state of the planet. Further information can be found at ➡️ https://t.co/d3vjtqig3e#StrikeWithUs #climatestrikeUSA pic.twitter.com/X5I3htIPDp
– Lush North America (@lushcosmetics) September 19, 2019
- Try to benefit from your support. Social movements are not marketing opportunities. And customers will quickly call up all of your brand's actions that appear motivated by something other than altruism and good faith.
2. Listen to what your customers need and feel
It is normal for emotions to be high in social protests and human rights movements.
Use social listening to better understand how your audience feels. For example with BrandwatchTwitter found that the most common feelings regarding Black Lives Matter (as of June 7) were sadness, joy, disgust, anger, fear, and surprise.
Brands should express empathy and solidarity with negative feelings and then gather their audience around positive feelings with strong calls for action. This could include gathering followers to exchange messages, sign petitions, and collect game donations. Or, in the case of Aerie's Mental Health Awareness Month, remind people not to be afraid to ask for help.
The brand's effective response to the Black Lives Matter movement came from Peloton. The fitness brand recognized the damage to the Black Community, expressed collective pain and solidarity. Then it supported this message by sharing four ways to conduct the conversation.
- Reject emotions or police tone. People usually have legitimate reasons to feel what they feel.
3. Be honest and transparent
Think about your company's history and culture before you publish something to support a cause. This can mean looking at the diversity of your teams, re-evaluating non-environmental practices, evaluating the accessibility of your marketing, and much more. While this is difficult, it is important to have honest internal conversations about company values and changes that you may need to make.
Admitting past mistakes is the first way to show that your company means what it says. Be open about anything that violates your current position. Without doing so, your social activism will sound hollow – or worse, hypocritical. It could also make people call you.
Like my tweet, if a boss / former employer of yours who denied you higher wages, the possibility of a safer job, or publicly reprimanded you for calling our institutional racism published BLM this week.
– kimberly rose moved (@museummammy) June 6, 2020
The clothing retailer Reformation was put under pressure to reckon with its racist corporate culture Ticketing to support Black Lives Matter. In response, the company released a seven-page letter admit that in the future it has not been possible to practice diversity and action plans.
"Don't think that your company's history will not be discovered and shared, or pretend that hostile or harmful employee experiences have passed, or that corporate decisions don't exist." says Twitter's global culture and community director, God-is Rivera, and Twitter Next brand strategist Nicole Godreau.
Brands can either be held accountable themselves or be held accountable.
- Hide problems and hope that nobody will find out about them. Talk to them directly.
- I'm afraid to be honest. Customers value honesty.
4. Be human
Humanize your communication efforts. People can and see through improper behavior.
For example, overused phrases and carefully calibrated language tend to make corporate statements appear as templates. Think and think about what you want to say, but throw away company jargon and canned content. Be honest.
Don't be this template below.
An explanation from (Brand) ® pic.twitter.com/XT9tXF9hvz
– Chris Franklin (@Campster), May 31, 2020
Companies are run by people for people. A recent survey by Consult tomorrow notes that messages sent by executives to employees tend to be better received than messages sent by faceless speakers and accounts.
Slack released a message that its CEO sent to employees, along with the thought process behind his decision to share it. This showed that while the company didn't have all the answers, at least people behind the scenes were asking difficult questions.
But now is not the time to be silent. We value empathy and solidarity. We condemn senseless violence against blacks and we condemn white supremacy. Our CEO @stewart posted the following last week: pic.twitter.com/oZfs2cESiw
– Slack (@SlackHQ) June 2, 2020
- Just say what everyone else is saying. It has to come from your company.
- Worry about keywords, irrelevant hashtags, or algorithms. Say the right thing, not the highest thing.
5. Make your posture clear and firm
When you release a message to support a cause, make sure that the message leaves no room for ambiguity. Don't let people ask questions or fill in the blanks for you.
The gold standard for clear brand positioning comes from the ice cream brands Ben and Jerry. The company's message in support of the Black Lives Matter movement sums it up: "We have to reduce the predominance of the whites."
A commentator commented, "Ben and Jerry called it exactly what it is … they didn't add sugar to it. They served it ice cold like their ice cream."
The company also issued a long statement, "Silence Is Not an Option," calling for changes after George Floyd's death. People want brands Names names. The Morning Consult survey found 69% Many people want brands to mention Floyd's murder when they talk about Black Lives Matter. Among Gen Z members surveyed, this was number 1 that brands should highlight.
The Patagonia outerwear brand is pursuing a similar tactic with its climate justice activism by directly calling President Trump and his government.
"Our climate crisis is here and now, and we need global, urgent, and transformative measures to tackle what is increasingly destructive and deadly." pic.twitter.com/0E9KVGqjOl
– Patagonia (@patagonia), June 19, 2019
On the other hand, a vague language can look sketchy. Influencer marketing agency Fohr reported a diversity breakdown of their last $ 9 million payouts. However, the commentators pointed out that the categories were confusing and the numbers did not reveal much without further details. "Nothing makes things worse than an empty statement," said marketer and fashion influencer Kelly Augustine. Fohr later housed a town hall and shared more details.
6. Tell them how to take action
People want to hear how brands help, give something back and address problems – beyond social media.
Show that your company is go to the conversation. To which organizations do you donate and how much? Will you be making regular contributions? How does your brand use this moment as an opportunity to do good in communities? Be precise. Share receipts.
Some brands have taken action on Black Lives Matter:
- Lego announced that it would donate $ 4 million to "organizations dedicated to supporting black children and educating all children about racial equality."
- Colourpop promised multiple donations and encouraged followers to apply for change, call representatives, and learn more about the black experience.
- Chain of restaurants &Pizza will give employees paid free time for activism "so that those who are not seen by this country will be seen, so that those who are not heard by this government will be heard."
- advertising agency 72undSunny gave employees the Ta-Nehisi Coates bestseller book Between the world and me to discuss books, films and podcasts about the "vastness of the black experience" as part of a new internal practice.
- HBO made Watchmen, a show dealing with systemic racism in America, free for the weekend after June 19. HBO Max pulled the civil war episode Gone With the wind.
Other forms of social activism:
- In support of #EndGunViolenceTogether, shoe brand TOMS Customers could send postcards to representatives directly from their website.
- For #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth, Headspace offered a live mediation session and raised $ 200,000 for Mind Charity.
- Assistance with local problems such as poverty, homelessness and domestic violence #Unignorable, Pantone created a new color for United Way.
- MaisonCléo has broken down the price of a blouse to show how the company practices sustainability.
- Make empty promises. A recent survey by Cone Communications found this 65% Americans will examine a company when it takes a stand to see if it is authentic.
7. Make sure that your actions reflect your work culture
Practice what you preach similarly to point 3. If your brand promotes diversity on social media, your workplace should be diverse. If you promote environmental protection, you should use sustainable practices. Otherwise, it's not social activism. It is performative alliance or greenwashing.
That doesn't mean you can't show your support for one thing until your brand is 100% perfect. If your brand isn't where it needs to be, Share how it is planned to get there.
The social “slacktivism” prompted the founder of UOMA Beauty Sharon Chuter start #PullUpOrShutUp. The initiative encourages brands to share detailed breakdowns of the number of black people they employ at management, company, or management level. It also urges consumers not to shop at brands that refuse to "pull up."
Likewise the designer Aurora James # 15PercentPledge encourages retailers to consider diversity in their supplier network. The promise calls on major retailers to allocate 15% of their inventory to black-owned companies in the United States US. and Canada. Similarly, # TimesUpX2 asked studios and companies to take the 4% Challenge and increase the number of women who make major studio films.
Peter Cramer from Universal Pictures, Peter Kujawski from Focus Features and Margie Cohn from DreamWorks Animation together with their colleagues across the industry accept the #TIMESUP # 4PercentChallenge. https://t.co/llVyB2W8Rn @TIMESUPNOW
– Universal Pictures (@UniversalPics) January 29, 2019
Brands shouldn't have to stick to diversity commitments. Various companies are more profitable. Make various teams better decisions. And Prefer consumers Companies that treat their people, the environment and the communities well.
NOT: Take too much time to meet your commitments. Your customers and accounts like @silent_brands watch and wait.
8. Plan good and bad answers
Prepare for feedback before your brand takes a stand on social media.
The goal of social activism is often to disrupt the status quo. Not everyone will agree with your position. Customers can greet your brand while others will be critical. Many will be emotional. And unfortunately, some commentators can be abusive or hateful.
I take action. I research every Proctor & Gamble product, throw everything I have in the trash, and never buy one again until everyone involved in this ad is dismissed from top to bottom and the company makes a public apology.
– Joe (@ JoeS3678), January 14, 2019
Expect an influx of news and equip your social media managers with the tools they need to deal with it. This includes support for mental health – especially for those directly affected by the movement that you support.
Note the following advantages and disadvantages:
- Please check your Social media guidelines and update as needed.
- Define clearly what constitutes abusive language and how you should deal with it.
- Develop an answer plan for frequently asked questions or general statements.
- Be human. You can personalize responses while following the script.
- Hold relevant training.
- If necessary, apologize for previous actions.
- Customize your strategy for different target groups on different platforms.
- Disappear. Stay present with your audience, even if they are upset about you.
- Delete comments unless they are abusive or harmful. Do not tolerate hate.
- Are you afraid to admit that you don't have all the answers?
- Make it up to your followers to defend their basic human rights.
- Take too long a time to answer. Use tools like Mentionlytics to track messages.
Nordstrom dealt with followers in the comment section of his Instagram. The retailer discussed everything from homophobia to why #AllLivesMatter is harmful and apologized for past mistakes.
9. Diversify and represent
Diversity shouldn't just be a box that checks your brand during the Pride Month, International Women's Day, or when #DisabledPeopleAreHot or #BlackLivesMatter is trending. If you support LGBTQ rights, gender equality, disability rights and anti-racism, show that you do the same in your marketing.
Make your marketing inclusive. Build representation in your Social media style guide and overall Content strategy. Source from including images from websites like TONL, Vice’s Gender Spectrum Collection, and The Disabled Collection. Hire different models and creatives. Remember that almost every movement overlaps.
Open your takeover platform. Enhance unique voices. Build meaningful relationships with a wider group of influencers and creators. This will likely increase your audience and customer base.
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There are moments that I have heard that will help you forget when the world said "never" to you !!! . . There are moments I have heard that will help you heal when society has tried to knock you down over and over again. . . There are these very real moments that I've heard you feel confirmed about even when you don't see yourself. . . I've been looking for these moments all my life, I'm tired of looking for those moments. . . So I decided to create it. Not for me, but for the next dreamer, outcast, queer, trans, handicapped, fat, beautiful black, a piece of starlight waiting for your moment to shine. . . It was a great honor and joy to sit in my most authentic self and present pictures of a body that was demonized, harassed, ugly and unworthy, and even killed, far too often. . . I present this image, myself and everything my body stands for, my community and my chosen family, in the hope that they will see each other more clearly than before and further realize that they are worth celebrating, showing compassion , Love and gratitude. . . – Many thanks to @ryanmcginleystudios and the @ calvinklein family for the collaboration, which will hopefully be a symbol of hope and love in these moments. BLACK TRANS LIVES MATER !! . . . . #calvinklein #blacklivesmatter #blacktranslivesmatter #transisbeautiful #queer #celebratemysize #actress #honormycurves #pride ???? #bodydiversity #soho #effyourbeautystandards #curvygirl #curvemodel #influencer #billboard #plussize #plusmodel #influencer #plussizemodel #bodypositive #swimwear #campaign #newyork #melanin #model #ad #sponsored
- Stereotype. Do not cast roles that maintain negative or biased stereotypes. As Google’s Chief Marketing Officer, Lorraine Twohill writes: "Stereotypes are the fastest way to show users that you don't understand them."
- To let abusive comments Deactivate this option after you have illuminated someone. Be ready to offer support.
The work doesn't stop when the hashtag is out of fashion.
I want you to take care of it after the protests are over. That's all.
– Dani Kwateng (@danikwateng), June 1, 2020
Commitment to ongoing social activism and learning. Keep your brand and employees informed and share helpful information with your audience.
Advocate the thing offline. To run non-optical alliance. Look for ways to support long-term change. Become a mentor. Volunteers. Donate your time. Help the demonstrators remember self-sufficiency.
Keep fighting for justice. Ask Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and other social media websites to better support and protect community members. North Face, Patagonia, Coca Cola and Upwork are among the brands that take a break from advertising on Facebook #StopHateForProfit, a movement that is trying to put pressure on Facebook to have stricter policies against hate speech on its platform. Unilever plans to post ads on Twitter and Facebook for the rest of the year.
We are in there. We're out @Facebook #StopHateForProfit
Further information: https://t.co/uAT7u7mjBG https://t.co/jVxTIH5ThQ
– The North Face (@thenorthface) June 19, 2020
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