Using your brand voice for good on social media

Wow, it’s been a big few months for social media. As brands, 2020 has challenged us in unexpected ways around how we’re showing up online. Global events have connected us on an epic scale and impacted hugely on the way we’ve been called to communicate with our audiences. From the Australian bushfires, to Covid-19 to the Black Lives Matter social uprising, the first six months of the year have sure been an unprecedented (whoops, we’re done with that word now, aren’t we?) learning curve.

And learning is definitely the key word here. So much of what we’ve had to work through has been all new to all of us. There was no rule book on how to confront these world events in your communications, or how to respectfully move the conversation back to your business. But each event has presented the chance (or challenge) for us all to better understand our audience, the values that matter to us, and the stand that we, as a business, want to take. Through each event, we’ve seen brands stay silent, we’ve seen some get it wrong, we’ve seen brands correct themselves and we’ve seen some brands absolutely nail it.

For us, consistently coming back to our guiding ethos at The Social Shop has been key. That is: social for good. 

Social for Good is the premise that as brands and as individuals we can use our social voice to uplift, to advocate, to educate, to promote and share consciously, and to add value. (You can learn more about it on this episode of our aptly named podcast, Social for Good).

It’s the idea that no matter whether you have 100 followers or 100k, every social media user has a voice they can use for good. It’s about knowing that we all have a responsibility to understand that our individual decisions and conversations collectively make a huge difference to the world we live in. Therefore, promoting positive messages that help educate your community and inspire more conscious decisions is a way to do your bit.

Because here’s what we know to be true: social media is an amplifier. 

Of what is up to us.

The recent Black Lives Matter uprising has been a prime example of how the right kind of amplification matters. Here’s what we saw:

Global brands, such as Nike, were not afraid to communicate their stand using strong statements

Social media users were encouraged to share content that amplified melanated voices - that is content from BIPOC content creators, educators and artists. 

Hashtags trended which served to put this important content front and centre of news feeds, and conversations. It ensured that the right messages were being shared, and the right education was taking place. 

As brands, the content we were exposed to forced us to confront privilege, the language we use to communicate and how we are perpetuating diversity and inclusion in our own world.

It reminded us that we all have a responsibility to make online communities safe spaces, and to continuously put pressure on social networks, on brands and on our peers as to what we’re willing to take as ‘acceptable’.

The 101 of being a good social media citizen

For many brands, the #BLM uprising has been a confronting time. It made us realise that it simply isn’t enough to not be racist; we were forced to question how we were actively contributing to being anti-racist. These kinds of learnings are important. It’s all a part of being a better communicator, a better social media contributor and just a better global citizen, full stop. 

But being a conscious contributor is not a ‘trend’. It’s not about getting on board with ‘performative allyship’ or virtue signalling because it feels like the right thing to do. It’s about being really clear on your brand values, and contributing to conversations in a way that aligns with these. So let’s start there:

Brand values are the beliefs or principles that your brand will stick to, not matter what. Especially when it comes to difficult or confronting conversations (which, let’s face it, can often occur on social media). Your values dictate what you say, so will come through in both your language and the messages you communicate, as well as the type of work you take on, and the clients you partner with. If you haven’t spent time defining your values well, do this now. When you’re unsure about how you should contribute, respond to, or share content, come back to your values to guide you.

Secondly, understanding conscious and inclusive language use is critical. In the last New Zealand census, there were 213 ethnic groups identified in the country. Odds are, your brand is marketing to a diverse audience. But diversity doesn’t stop there - gender, sexuality, disabilities and family dynamics are all considerations when you’re building out your audience personas. Look at your own communications - where have you made assumptions about how you’re communicating with your audience? Is it accessible and inclusive to a wide range of people? Understand that the language you use, particularly on social, should be respectful and empowering to a diverse audience. There are resources such as The Conscious Style Guide which can help you understand the best way to consider inclusive language in your content.

Remember, other social media users are not the enemy. Stay kind. Shaming or attacking others gets you, or meaningful causes, nowhere. We read a quote the other day from Steven Bartlett that we think sums it up: “Arguing is only useful if you’re arguing with the right person. Pointless arguments are YOU vs THEM. Productive arguments are YOU and THEM vs THE PROBLEM. Don’t argue with people who care more about winning or offending you, than discussing the problem.” 

We couldn’t have said it better.

Seek out reliable sources to educate yourself around current events, social movements and global conversations. Rally your friends or community to do the same - including those with a larger platform and level of influence. Point out unsubstantiated or invalidated information that could be causing harmful discourse to take place. Share practical help, causes, links, or information that inspire positive discussion and keep these important messages front of mind for more and more people. Number 1 rule: Do not share unsubstantiated information.

Be conscious of the brands you promote and support on social media. Ask yourself, in partnering with these brands, are you actually spreading messages that don’t truly align with the kind of future you want for your world? In the same vain, if you’re using influencers or brand ambassadors to help promote your business, consider how their own personal brand, values or other affiliations could reflect on your business too. The wrong choice can polarise a segment of your audience, or bring a negative association to your product or service. It’s important to also be conscious of scheduled content. Many influencers and related brands have faced backlash over poorly timed or insensitive posts that have coincided with terrible events.

Above all else, use your voice to uplift - share stories of positivity, of heartwarming human behaviour and strength. Promote the posts that remind us that we’re united. Be conscious of the messages you choose to amplify. Times of crisis, in particular, are when we need this the most, and we all have the ability to use our social voice for good. After all, if we want to see change on social media, and in the world around us, then we have to be the change. 

As a brand, taking control of how you use social media is on you. Yes, social media platforms need the technology and controls in place to report and remove negative content. However it’s over to us to control the direction that discourse takes through taking ownership of our own behaviour on social media.

What steps are you taking to ensure your brand is contributing as a good social media citizen? We’d love to know.