The way to Go Past the Hashtag

Social media activism is now not non-compulsory, particularly for bigger manufacturers. Customers, staff, and social followers all count on your model to take a stand on points that actually matter.

What is social media activism?

Social media activism is an online form of protest or advocacy for a cause. Because hashtags play a central role in mobilizing movements on social media, the term is often used interchangeably with hashtag activism.

Activism on social media includes promoting awareness of social justice issues and showing solidarity through the use of hashtags, posts, and campaigns.

Genuine social media activism is supported by concrete actions, donations, and measurable commitments to change.

Without genuine offline action, using a hashtag or posting a black square or rainbow flag comes across as opportunistic and lazy. Critics are often quick to call out these minimal efforts as “slacktivism” or performative allyship.

Brands should tread carefully: More than three-quarters of Americans (76%) say “social media makes individuals assume they’re making a distinction after they actually aren’t.”

Alongside the identical strains, when an organization participates in social media activism that doesn’t align with its previous or current actions, it might probably immediate backlash and calls of advantage signaling, greenwashing, or rainbow capitalism.

We’re about to dive into 10 methods to interact in significant activism on social media. And, after all, we’ll present loads of social media activism examples the place manufacturers obtained issues proper.

However it actually all boils right down to this:

Phrases are simply phrases, and hashtags are simply hashtags. Sure, they’ll each be extraordinarily highly effective. However for manufacturers, particularly these with important market share and assets, actions converse a lot louder. Social media activism have to be accompanied by actual world motion.

Take heed to credible voices engaged on the trigger. Be taught from those that have well-established experience within the motion. And decide to working in the direction of actual change.

The way to use social media to authentically help a trigger: 10 ideas

1. Pause and overview your social calendar

The very first thing to do earlier than participating in social media activism – whether or not you’re responding to a direct disaster or starting a long term marketing campaign of activism and allyship – is to hit pause.

Assessment your social calendar. If you happen to use a social media scheduler, you would possibly need to unschedule upcoming posts and save them for later. Assessment your content material calendar to see how issues align with the stance you’re about to take. If you happen to’re responding to a disaster, you’ll seemingly need to keep centered on the trigger at hand.

Customers do need manufacturers to reply in occasions of disaster. Greater than 60% say “manufacturers ought to acknowledge moments of disaster of their promoting and communications when they’re occurring.”

Within the wake of the Uvalde capturing, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays paused their social media sport protection and as a substitute used their social channels to share details about gun violence.

They went all-in on this, not holding something again.

Whereas your common content material is on pause, take the time to study what’s taking place past the headlines so you may take a significant stance adopted up with concrete motion.

That motion part is vital by way of garnering help on your activism relatively than backlash.

Earlier than returning to common programming, think about how your campaigns and content material will resonate inside the bigger context.


  • Attempt to revenue out of your help. Social actions are usually not advertising alternatives, and prospects will name out actions your model takes that seem motivated by something apart from good religion.

2. Take heed to your prospects (and staff)

It’s regular for feelings to run excessive throughout social justice and human rights actions. However these in-the-moment spikes can result in long-term modifications in how individuals really feel and behave – and the way they count on firms to behave.

70% of members of Era Z say they’re concerned in a social or political trigger. They usually count on manufacturers to hitch them. Greater than half (57%) of Gen Z says manufacturers can do extra to resolve societal issues than governments can, and 62% say they need to work with manufacturers to deal with these points.

However the 2022 Edelman Belief Barometer discovered customers don’t assume manufacturers are doing sufficient to deal with social change.

Supply: Edelman 2022 Trust Barometer

Use social listening to higher perceive how your viewers is feeling. Understanding the broader perspective lets you specific empathy and solidarity with unfavourable sentiments, then rally your viewers round optimistic sentiments with robust calls to motion.

This might embrace rallying followers to share messages, signal petitions, or match donations. Typically it’s so simple as acknowledging how individuals really feel within the context of social upheaval, comparable to Aerie’s ongoing advocacy for psychological wellness – on this case, actually giving followers instruments for combatting nervousness and enhancing psychological well being.


  • Dismiss feelings or police tone. Individuals sometimes have legit causes to really feel what they really feel.

3. Be trustworthy and clear

Earlier than posting something in help of a trigger, mirror in your firm historical past and tradition. Which may imply trying on the variety of your groups, re-evaluating non-environmental practices, assessing the accessibility of your advertising, and extra.

Whereas troublesome, it’s essential to have trustworthy inside conversations about firm values and modifications chances are you’ll have to make. If you happen to’re not trustworthy, you’re going to have issues with social media activism.

Admitting previous errors is the primary approach to present that your organization means what it says. Be upfront about something that goes in opposition to your present place. With out doing this, your social activism will ring hole—or worse, hypocritical. It might additionally immediate individuals to name you out.

Disney initially stayed silent in response to Florida’s “Dont Say Homosexual” invoice, sending out an inside electronic mail of help for LGBTQ staff relatively than making a public assertion. That rapidly turned an issue for the corporate, because the hashtag #DisneyDoBetter took off and staff, creatives, and followers all shared their issues concerning the weak stance in addition to the corporate’s earlier donations to supporters of the invoice.

Inside a number of days, Disney needed to acknowledge its mistake and make a prolonged public assertion.

Manufacturers can both maintain themselves accountable, or be held accountable. However don’t really feel it is advisable be good earlier than you may take a stand. For instance, more than half of staff say CEOs ought to publicly converse out about racism as quickly as the corporate has its personal racial fairness and variety targets in place, with concrete plans to fulfill them.


  • Disguise inside points and hope nobody finds out about them – or cover behind inside communications. Inside emails can rapidly go public when worker issues are usually not addressed.
  • Be afraid to be trustworthy. Clients recognize honesty. However Edelman discovered solely 18% of staff belief their firm’s head of DEI to be trustworthy about racism inside the group. In case your staff can’t belief you, how can prospects?

4. Be human

Humanize your communication efforts. Individuals can and do see by means of inauthentic conduct.

Overused phrases and thoroughly calibrated language are inclined to make firm statements look templated. (Ideas and prayers, anybody?) Be thoughtful in what you need to say, however throw out the company jargon and canned content material. Be actual.

Edelman discovered that 81% of respondents to the 2022 Belief Barometer count on CEOs to be personally seen when speaking about work their firm has completed to learn society.

When then-Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier spoke out about voting rights, the corporate posted his feedback on their social accounts.

Sure, this can be a assertion that has seemingly gone by means of legal professionals and different company messaging professionals. However it’s clear and doesn’t maintain again. And Frazier has repeatedly confirmed his capacity to unite enterprise leaders in social motion. He’s talked about his values and the way the problems on which he chooses to take a stand align with company values.

He informed the Albert and Mary Lasker basis that when he stepped down from President Trump’s Enterprise Council after the President’s remarks about occasions in Charlottesville, he spoke to the Merck board about whether or not he ought to current it as a strictly private choice or embrace point out of the corporate.

“I’m very proud to say that my board unanimously stated, ‘No, we truly need you to talk to the corporate’s values, not simply your private values,’” he said.


  • Simply say what everybody else is saying. It wants to return out of your firm.
  • Fear about key phrases, irrelevant hashtags, or algorithms. Say the precise factor, not the very best rating factor.

5. Make your stance clear and constant

If you do share a message in help of a trigger, be certain that message leaves no room for ambiguity. Don’t go away individuals asking questions or filling within the blanks for you.

The gold normal for clear model positioning comes from ice cream model Ben and Jerry’s. They’re constant and vocal of their help of racial and social justice.

Customers need your stance on essential points to be clear before they make a purchase. Which means taking a stand in your social content material and advertisements, but in addition in your web site, so the message is constant when somebody clicks by means of to study extra or purchase.


  • Attempt to have all of it or do all of it. Converse to the causes that matter most to your model and your staff, so that you will be constant and genuine.

6. Share how you take motion

Individuals need to hear how manufacturers are tackling points past social media.

It’s one factor to publish a message in help of Ukraine. However it’s motion that actually counts. Greater than 40% of customers boycotted companies that continued to function in Russia after the invasion. On social, each #BoycottMcDonalds and #BoycottCocaCola have been trending in early March, till the businesses lastly ceased Russian operations.

Present that your organization is definitely taking motion. Which organizations are you donating to, and the way a lot? Will you make common contributions? How is your model truly doing good inside communities? What steps are you taking towards a extra moral manufacturing course of and provide chain? Be particular. Share receipts.

For instance, when Dove launched its #KeepTheGrey marketing campaign to attract consideration to ageism and sexism within the office, the model donated $100,000 to Catalyst, a corporation that helps create extra inclusive workplaces.

And when the make-up model Fluide celebrated Trans Day of Visibility, they highlighted numerous trans fashions whereas committing to donate 20% of gross sales throughout the marketing campaign to Black Trans Femmes within the Arts.


  • Make empty guarantees. Edelman’s 2022 special report on business and racial justice discovered greater than half of Individuals assume firms are usually not doing an excellent job assembly their guarantees to deal with racism. If you happen to can’t reside as much as your guarantees, you’re higher off to not make them within the first place.

7. Guarantee your actions mirror your organization tradition

Much like level #3, observe what you preach. In case your model promotes variety on social media, your office must be numerous. If you happen to promote environmentalism, you must use sustainable practices. In any other case, it’s not social activism. It’s performative allyship or greenwashing. And folks discover: Twitter noticed a 158% increase in mentions of “greenwashing” this yr.

A technique to make sure your activism aligns along with your tradition is to decide on causes that connect with your model goal. In reality, 55% of customers say it’s essential for a model to take motion on points that relate to its core values and 46% say manufacturers ought to discuss social points immediately associated to their trade.

For instance, the sexual wellness model Maude has an ongoing marketing campaign selling inclusive #SexEdForAll.

Providing actual requires motion and donating a share of earnings from their Intercourse Ed For All capsule assortment, they work in partnership with the Sexual Data and Training Council of america (SIECUS) to advertise inclusive intercourse training.

That stated, your model goal might not have an apparent connection to social causes. That doesn’t imply you may decide out of the dialog.

when can brands speak about social justice issues bar chart

Supply: Twitter Marketing

Accountable company tradition must be initially about doing the precise factor. However know that over time, it would truly enhance your backside line. Various firms are more profitable and make better decisions.

Plus, almost two-thirds of customers – and almost three-quarters of Gen Z – purchase or advocate for manufacturers primarily based on their values. They’re willing to pay more for manufacturers that do good on this planet.


  • Take too lengthy to comply with by means of on commitments. Your prospects are watching and ready.

8. Plan for good and dangerous responses

Earlier than your model takes a stance on social media, put together for suggestions.

The goal of social activism is usually to disrupt the established order. Not everybody will agree along with your place. Clients might applaud your model, whereas others shall be vital. Many shall be emotional. And sadly, some commenters could also be abusive or hateful.

Manufacturers taking a stand within the face of the overturning of Roe v. Wade confronted abusive feedback on their social posts.

Profit did all the precise issues on this publish by stating the actions they have been taking, displaying how the trigger associated to their core values, and linking to companions who’re consultants within the work.

That stated, they nonetheless confronted feedback that could possibly be very triggering for his or her social crew to see coming in, particularly anybody impacted by their very own abortion or fertility experiences.

Anticipate an inflow of messages and equip your social media managers with the instruments they should deal with them. That features psychological well being help—particularly for many who are immediately impacted by the motion you’re supporting.

Contemplate the next do’s and don’ts:


  • Assessment your social media guidelines and replace as wanted.
  • Clearly outline what constitutes abusive language and methods to deal with it.
  • Develop a response plan for regularly requested questions or widespread statements.
  • Be human. You’ll be able to personalize responses whereas sticking to the script.
  • Maintain related coaching periods.
  • Apologize for previous actions, when mandatory.
  • Adapt your technique for various audiences on totally different social media platforms.


  • Disappear. Stay current along with your viewers, even when they’re upset with you.
  • Delete feedback until they’re abusive or dangerous. Don’t tolerate hate.
  • Be afraid to confess that you just don’t have all of the solutions.
  • Make it the accountability of your followers to defend their primary human rights.
  • Take too lengthy to reply. Use instruments like Mentionlytics to maintain observe of messages.

9. Diversify and characterize

Range shouldn’t simply be a field your model checks throughout Satisfaction month, Black Historical past Month, or on Worldwide Girls’s Day. If you happen to help LGBTQ rights, gender equality, incapacity rights, and anti-racism, present that dedication all year long.

Make your advertising inclusive. Construct illustration into your social media style guide and general content strategy. Supply from inclusive inventory imagery from websites like TONL, Vice’s Gender Spectrum Collection, and Elevate. Rent numerous fashions and creatives. Keep in mind that almost each motion is intersectional.

Most essential: Take heed to individuals’s voices relatively than merely utilizing their faces. Shayla Oulette Stonechild will not be solely the primary Indigenous world yoga ambassador for Lululemon, however she’s additionally on the corporate’s Vancouver-based committee for Range, Fairness, and Inclusion.

Open your platform as much as takeovers. Amplify distinctive voices. Construct significant relationships with a broader group of influencers and creators. You’ll seemingly develop your viewers and buyer base in consequence.


  • Stereotype. Don’t solid individuals in roles that perpetuate unfavourable or biased stereotypes.
  • Let abusive feedback go unchecked after spotlighting somebody. Be ready to supply help.

10. Hold doing the work

The work doesn’t cease when the hashtag stops trending.

Decide to ongoing social activism and studying. Proceed educating your model and your staff and sharing useful info with social media customers who comply with your model.

Champion the trigger offline, too. Carry out non-optical allyship. Search for methods to help long-term change. Turn out to be a mentor. Volunteer. Donate your time. Hold combating for fairness.


  • Consider model activism as “one and completed.” One supportive publish isn’t going to chop it. If you happen to’re going to wade into the waters of digital activism, be ready to remain there for the long run.

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