Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why brands don’t need to quit social media to inspire change

By Tereza Litsa, Digital Engagement Manager, Lightful and Harriet Kingaby, Co-Founder, Conscious Advertising Network (CAN) 

Today, one of the most effective ways for organisations to tell their story and raise brand awareness is through social media. But it has been difficult for brands to get this right. With so many obstacles, from fake news to countering trolls, is there still a way for brands to inspire change online? 

The impact of social media on users’ mental health has driven major companies to take a stand. Last year, Lush announced it was going “antisocial” until platforms do a better job of protecting their users against harmful content. Similar action was taken by luxury brand, Balenciaga, who deleted all posts on its social media channels. Although these examples are admirable, such bold steps are simply too risky for smaller organisations. 

Instead, a number of businesses, charities and consortiums have decided to take a different approach, contributing to making social media a more positive place by creating conversation around the importance of considered, ethical posting. One of them is the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN), a voluntary coalition of over 150 organisations set up to ensure that industry ethics catches up with the technology of modern advertising. By highlighting the conscious advertising choices brands can make, CAN strives to close the knowledge gap on ethical marketing and communications practices, providing its members with free support and training. 

Alongside CAN, there has also been a rise of movements like #MeToo and #GivingTuesday, which have demonstrated the power of online platforms to inspire change. And this Monday7th February, the #ReclaimSocial movement will directly address the issue. Now in its fifth year, the viral campaign will encourage organisations and individuals to share how they’re using social media positively to spark change. 

Founded in 2018, Reclaim Social has gained interest from millions of social media users, including major charity organisations like Comic Relief, Samaritans, WWF UK, as well as well-known figures like Miranda Hart and Rob Delaney. The reason behind the wide support is simple: when done right, social media remains a space that can be used for good. 

How can digital marketers reclaim social for good? 

To improve your brand’s social media presence, beginning with the small steps is already enough. From your digital strategy to your messaging, here are five tips for posting with positivity and purpose in 2022: 

1. Call out for more ethical tactics in the industry 

Being an ethical social media and communications manager requires having an open mind. To maintain a safe online environment, continuously reading updated practice guides is a must. Charities Against Hate’s Guide to Best Practice in Ethical Digital Marketing & Comms Practices is a good place to start. 

Getting involved with organisations like CAN will also enable you to keep up with the latest strategies to help you be more ethical in your policies and practices. You can also sign CAN’s open letters on online racism and climate misinformation. Embedding such tactics might be time-consuming, but it is worth the effort in the long run.

2. Develop a plan for addressing negative comments and hate speech 

Hate on social media should not be put up with. Ensure you plan ahead for these scenarios and be ready to handle them with informed, consistent messaging. Being clear about how you’re taking action can go a long way towards minimising the damage. CAN’s hate speech manifesto can guide you in putting this together. 

3. Understand how misinformation works and educate others 

Many people are falling victim to misinformation online and the issue has only been exaggerated by the pandemic. To prevent misinformation from affecting your audience, make sure to educate them on the topic and to validate any sources you use. CAN’s misinformation manifesto is there to help. 

4. Build genuine connections 

When you share purposeful content simply for the sake of it, you could appear insincere and damage the reputation of your brand. Instead of treating your followers as clients, aim to build genuine connections. The key behind creating relatable and engaging content is listening closely to your audience. 

5. Promote positive and inclusive content that represents your audiences 

Social media platforms should be used to amplify diverse and inclusive content. This not only helps to make everyone feel welcome, but it also shines a light on the stories that are not always heard. So, be sure to pay attention to the language and accessibility of your content. 

Now more than ever, brands are responsible for building safe online communities. However, the reality is that companies still need more guidance on how to uphold and actively encourage ethical social media use. With the help of CAN and campaigns like Reclaim Social, it is possible to make this happen. 

Join #ReclaimSocial on Monday 7th February 2022 and make social media a better place.