February 5, 2021
In a world where a burger chain talks about depression, shoe brands support Black Lives Matter and ice-cream makers chime in on climate change, it’s easy to see social issues as a marketing must-have.
But corporate social responsibility (CSR), charity sponsorships and posting on social issues shouldn’t be seen as just another box on your marketing checklist – and not just because it won’t help the cause. Zavy social media analysis over the last two years shows average engagement with CSR posts is on the rise. This makes getting it right all the more important.
Social media can be forces for good, but involvement needs to be done thoughtfully. It’s about finding causes that fit with your corporate values and voice, not just jumping on the latest bandwagon and firing off a quick post.
Here’s how to get it right:
Sharing your take on a social issue can be a powerful way to connect with people – or an embarrassing way to alienate them. And on social media, any missteps will be instantly identified and shared – going viral in the worst way.
Before you throw your support behind a cause, think hard about whether it fits your brand values and voice. If it’s not relevant or connected, or if you make a sudden shift from your usual brand character, it risks looking like a token effort.
It’s also essential to consider your history with the cause. If your company has been on the wrong side of the issue in the past, either stay away or be prepared to own up to your less-than-exemplary behaviour. The most obvious example? Oil companies posting about climate change.
Getting involved is more meaningful if you have a real connection to the cause or community you want to support. If not, it’s smart to liaise with a reputable organisation or expert that can guide your action and help you make a real difference. Otherwise, you could end up offending people with inaccurate language, focusing your efforts where they’re not needed or simply using ‘woke’ buzzwords without any real action.
A one-off Facebook post or Twitter share isn’t going to make much difference, but a wider CSR policy, including social media strategy, can. Before you join the latest social trend, work out where it fits in your strategic plan – and create one if you don’t have one already.
Keep the focus on the cause you’re supporting and resist the temptation to self-promote or tie in your products at the same time. In the CSR space, this type of post looks particularly self-centred and tone-deaf.
In a politically divided world, diving in on either side of a controversial issue can be risky. Of course, many brands are prepared to take a risk if it means living up to their values, but it’s best to find out as much as you can about an issue before you share your thoughts.
This is where a social listening tool – like Zavy’s – can come in handy. By listening to online conversations around an issue, you can work out how people are feeling and tailor your messaging to match.
- Overall feelings – hope, anger, sadness, exhaustion
- Key conversation themes – what really matters to people
- Other voices – who is contributing helpful content and who is missing the mark
- The news stories or other sources driving conversation
- Who are the experts? Are there knowledgeable voices you could help amplify?
If you do decide to get involved, keep listening once your campaign goes live. This gives you valuable insight into how your social strategy is working. If you make a mistake and get negative feedback or criticism, do your best to show that you’re listening and changing in response – try not to be angry or defensive.
In a lot of ways, social media is like real life. You don’t have to share your opinion or have your say on every single topic. Sometimes it’s better to stay silent and listen. If you do raise your voice for a cause, make sure it aligns with your values, get help from the experts and tune in to the wider conversation online before you start.