Social media is often the first place brands will turn to take a stance on public issues and speak about what’s happening in the world. We saw this when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, as many brands began to post more coronavirus-related content to help support their audience. And in the wake of racial justice protests that followed, brands again chimed in to show their support.
In times of controversy, the pressure to contribute your own voice can be overwhelming. Consumers often interpret a brand’s silence as being out of touch or not caring about an issue, but if a brand says the wrong thing, it can backfire.
Here are five tips for managing social media for your company during challenging times and crafting a message that’s true to your brand without alienating your audience.
1. Take some time to breathe.
Being active on social media — especially for marketing purposes — can be stressful in and of itself. Jumping into a conversation without first stepping away and sorting through your thoughts can cause you to say something you’ll regret.
Especially online, words and statements can easily be misinterpreted — and their impact can be permanent. It’s important to consider what’s best for your business and its customers so you don’t make any rash, emotional decisions.
It’s easy to get swept up in the noise around you, which is why it’s so important to take some time away to breathe and center yourself before making any rash decisions. Your mental health should always be a priority.
Related article: Managing Mental Health While Working from Home
2. Have open discussions with your employees.
Before posting anything on social media, check in with your employees and ask how you can support them personally. If you’re going to have difficult conversations online with your external community, you’ll want to make sure you’re having them internally, too.
Also, make sure your staff knows where your company stands with handling controversy online. If you choose to stay neutral on a specific topic, like politics, make sure your employees know not to speak out while representing your brand. This can be done on their own personal accounts rather than your business’s account.
3. Separate yourself from your company.
Your brand is a reflection of your company’s values and personality, which are not necessarily your own personal views. If what’s being discussed on social media has no relation to your business, don’t pressure yourself to speak about it on your company’s account. Otherwise, your posts might seem random or even forced.
However, if there is a controversial issue that somehow relates to your business, there is a more obvious call for you to share your perspective on the matter. For instance, if your business is in the medical industry, you might share your stance on vaccinations; or if you own a local health food store, maybe you’ll chime in on your thoughts on eating healthy during quarantine.
Related article: Maintaining Your Business, Despite the Uncertainty
4. Be genuine and authentic.
It’s great if you choose to share authentic thoughts to stand up for what you believe in. But if you’re only posting for superficial reasons and have not done your research on the topic at hand, your words (and brand) might come off as disingenuous.
Being aware of life outside of your own perspective is important to achieving societal growth. However, if what you’re posting does not align with how you truly think and feel, you’ll want to reevaluate your reason for sharing it. Are you doing it because everyone else is? Are you trying to gain more followers? Are you afraid to get backlash if you don’t?
Understand your motives and stay true to your brand. If you’re posting but not living up to the sentiment you’re sharing, it may do more harm than good.
5. Listen and offer empathy.
Sometimes, the best way to respond to controversy is by simply listening and holding space for those who are directly impacted by it. It’s always better to offer empathy rather than rash words or judgement when you can’t personally relate to the situation. If your audience is upset about something unrelated to your business, extend your support to them in whatever way they need. If they are upset about something related to your business, extend support and take action.
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