Social media, these days, is getting a bad rep. Wherever you look you see damning reports of social media being responsible for feelings of depression and social isolation from seeking validation from the ‘likes’ of strangers, the lack of transparency and authenticity around influencers, social media propagating negative and ‘fake’ news, being a fertile playground for bullying etc…
But what about the positive change that can be facilitated through the power of social?
Like recently, when the whole world rallied around the Australian bush fires raising hundreds of millions of dollars for the relief effort. It was the sharing of hard-hitting real-time Instagram stories, the constant flood of news on Twitter showing the scale of the devastation, Facebook fundraisers and influential celebrities like Celeste Barber that helped mobilise people across the world to get involved, making it not just an Australia’s battle, but all of ours.
Or what about influencers like Grace Beverley, aka. fitness blogger turned sustainable fashion entrepreneur/ eco warrior/ superwoman. Through her authentic, relatable and consistent messaging around veganism, the benefits of a healthy active lifestyle and self-empowerment, she cultivated a strong community of advocates and has utilised her power and platform to guide GenZers and Millennials to make more responsible, healthier choices. So much so that her up-cycled/recycled activewear brand, Tala, sold out within minutes of launch using solely organic Instagram stories and zero marketing spend; showing the power that a brand can have when a community is engaged and mobilised in the right way.
What about the fact that social media has given 17-year-old Greta Thunberg the platform to go head-to-head with the President of the United States to call out his 'fake news' and climate change denials, while also educating on the impending doom of global warming and uniting a whole generation to take action before it’s too late.
Or even just last week, the outpouring of love and support on Twitter and Instagram for the Bryant family and giving a community an outlet to express and share their grief. This tragedy has also served as a reminder that in this one moment, no matter where we are in the world, we are all connected and sharing this together through social media.
Whilst social media is a powerful platform for amplifying influential voices, it can also serve as an incredibly effective tool for brands to amplify their efforts for social change. Looking at Dove, for example. Its brand purpose is to encourage us to have a positive relationship with our looks and raise our self-esteem; its recent #ShowUs campaign stood by its values and took a stand against fake images and unrealistic standard of beauty perpetuated across social media by asking people to share their photos of real women from all walks of life.
Finding the right path
However, alongside the positives of social media are the pitfalls - and many brands make unnecessary and costly mistakes. There’s a thin line between getting it right and wrong and one which brands must traverse carefully or risk getting left behind.
When brands communicate in an authentic way, around a topic that is ingrained in a brand’s values, it can have a real positive social impact and increase brand favourability. However, when done without strategic purpose, it can come across as opportunistic, tenuous and a feeble ploy for brands to make a quick buck. Something that today’s savvy consumer will sniff out in an instant. Don’t let your brand be the latter.
Learning to harness its power of it in a positive, genuine way is imperative to whether a brand lives or dies in the eyes of the consumer. Brands like Tala, Nike, Dove, TOMS and Patagonia whose culture, products and marketing all radiate their core values and brand DNA, have built a strong connection with their loyal community because they are authentic, transparent and live by what they stand for in everything they do.
While I’m under no illusion that social media isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, let’s just remind ourselves of the power of all of us being connected can bring and together the great things we can achieve. And how, when its done in a genuine, credible way that’s aligned to a brand's strategy and values, what an important tool social media can be to make a positive difference in the world.
Carrie Mash, senior account director, Communicator London