Using Social Media to Impact Social Change

In the current political climate, social issues are at the forefront of conversation online. Trending topics on social media often include diverse groups voicing their varying opinions about the latest controversial issue. Brands with a strong social media presence may be left wondering where they fit into all of this. Is it better to stay quiet or take a stand?

According to this 2018 survey by Sprout Social,  66 percent of consumers say it’s important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues. But before you take to Twitter tweeting political hashtags, you need to ensure there is a strategy in place in order to minimize the risk of alienating customers who might not agree with you.

The first step is knowing your brand values and who your customers are. If your brand is suddenly showing support for an issue none of your customers would support or assume your brand supports, you can potentially lose credibility with loyal customers.

It’s also important that whatever issue you support is relevant to your brand. For example, a farm company supporting sustainability measures makes sense and it would be easy for customers to see its motivations. Supporting an issue that is inconsistent with your brand values and irrelevant to your customers or employees can seem unnecessary. Consumers may be left wondering if there is a hidden agenda.

Once you’ve found an issue your brand can stand behind and your customers will support, your team needs to create an execution strategy. Some items to consider will be the medium used to announce your stance (Sprout Social suggests using social media), if financial backing from the company will support the issue, rallying the CEO and employees to be on the same page, and to what lengths your company will push the issue.

One of the reasons consumers want brands to take a stand is to “impact social and political change through significant donations, or to use their substantial platforms to encourage others to do the same.” (Sprout Social) It’s easier for a brand to get the word out and donate money to a cause than just one individual looking to incite change. And if those individuals feel your brand has helped in some way, their loyalty to your brand will be strengthened.

It’s important that the people behind the brand share the same values as the brand. It wouldn’t look good if your company just took a stance on a hot-button issue and then minutes later your CEO is taking the opposing position.

The last thing to consider is how often your brand speaks up. While consumers do want to hear from you, 63 percent of consumers prefer to only hear about political or social issues from brands 10 percent of the time or less. Sprout Social says “smart brands choose when to engage, not whether they should.”