Using Social Media During Times of Social Unrest
In the world of social media, you can never get too comfortable. That’s probably never been truer than right now, when companies are shifting strategies yet again, just after figuring out how to market during a pandemic. This time, people are not only social distancing––they’re also demanding social change.
The death of George Floyd sparked outrage across the country, resulting in the largest civil rights movement in the United States. So large, in fact, that protests have spread to countries far beyond ours. And brands, which usually stay hush-hush about sensitive topics, have been coming out and taking a firm stance on the issue.
Although this bold move has paid off for many, others have fallen prey to sharp criticism. So, if you’re hesitant to join the conversation or unsure of what to say, you’re not alone. We’ve put together a few best practices to keep in mind when posting on social during times of social unrest.
Don’t: Rush to Say Something. Due to the pandemic, people are staying home more than usual and social media activity is at all-time high. Meaning that if they weren’t paying attention to your brand before, they probably are now. A cut-and-dry boilerplate statement will get noticed––and not in a good way. The last thing you want to do is appear inauthentic.
Do: Make Every Word Count. Whatever you say needs to be said with education and intention. Before posting, take the time to educate yourself about the issues and reflect on what your company can do to improve. Some brands have even reached out to their customers to ask how they can do better. Share an actual point of view and make your intentions clear, like Ben and Jerry’s did in this post.
Don’t: Join Trends Just to Be Trending. If you were on Instagram last week, you noticed your feed being flooded with black squares. This movement, known as #BlackoutTuesday, was originally meant to signal a pause in “normal” social content in order to amplify content relating to the protests. The brands that participated with authentic messages were praised for speaking up, while the ones that just slapped up a black square quickly became subject to criticism.
Do: Back Up What You Say with Action. If you support the movement, that’s great. And yes, you should speak up and voice your support. But make sure to back up whatever you say with tangible actions, whether that means donating, sharing more diverse content, supporting Black-owned businesses, or making internal company changes. Maybelline for example, shared that the company was donating to the NAACP.
Don’t: Take Up Valuable Real Estate. More than ever, social media has become a primary source of getting and sharing information. People are taking to social channels to find information about protests, share information about organizations to support, and learn how they can do their part. If your post is just going to clutter up the feed and make it harder for them to access that information, you’re better off not posting. Make sure what you say is worth the real estate.
Do: Do Better When You Can. Although perfection isn’t the goal, you should actively strive to listen, learn and improve. Maya Angelou once said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Yellow Beauty, for example, was one such brand that missed the mark with its #BlackoutTuesday post. Later, the company issued an apology that outlined actionable steps for improvement, which received a positive reaction from followers.
As marketers, our goal is to use messaging to influence action. And because our social platforms give us a larger share of voice than most, the actions we can influence can be more meaningful than you ever considered before.