How to Go Beyond the Hashtag

Social media activism is now not non-obligatory, particularly for bigger manufacturers. Customers, staff, and social followers all anticipate your model to take a stand on points that basically 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 folks assume they’re making a distinction after they actually aren’t.”

Alongside the identical traces, when an organization participates in social media activism that doesn’t align with its previous or current actions, it could 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 received issues proper.

But it surely actually all boils 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 vital market share and assets, actions converse a lot louder. Social media activism should be accompanied by actual world motion.

Pay attention to credible voices engaged on the trigger. Be taught from those that have well-established experience in the motion. And commit to working in the direction of actual change.

How to use social media to authentically help a trigger: 10 suggestions

1. Pause and evaluation your social calendar

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

Evaluation your social calendar. When you use a social media scheduler, you may want to unschedule upcoming posts and save them for later. Evaluation your content material calendar to see how issues align with the stance you’re about to take. When you’re responding to a disaster, you’ll probably 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.”

In the wake of the Uvalde taking pictures, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays paused their social media sport protection and as an alternative 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 occurring past the headlines so you possibly can take a significant stance adopted up with concrete motion.

That motion part is essential when it comes to garnering help on your activism fairly than backlash.

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


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

2. Pay attention to your clients (and staff)

It’s regular for feelings to run excessive throughout social justice and human rights actions. However these in-the-moment spikes can lead to long-term adjustments in how folks really feel and behave – and the way they anticipate corporations to behave.

70% of members of Era Z say they’re concerned in a social or political trigger. And so they anticipate manufacturers to be a part of them. Greater than half (57%) of Gen Z says manufacturers can do extra to clear up societal issues than governments can, and 62% say they need to work with manufacturers to tackle these points.

However the 2022 Edelman Belief Barometer discovered shoppers don’t assume manufacturers are doing sufficient to tackle social change.

Supply: Edelman 2022 Trust Barometer

Use social listening to higher perceive how your viewers is feeling. Understanding the broader perspective permits you to categorical empathy and solidarity with detrimental sentiments, then rally your viewers round optimistic sentiments with sturdy calls to motion.

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


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

3. Be sincere and clear

Earlier than posting something in help of a trigger, replicate in your firm historical past and tradition. That may imply taking a look at the variety of your groups, re-evaluating non-environmental practices, assessing the accessibility of your advertising, and extra.

Whereas tough, it’s vital to have sincere inside conversations about firm values and adjustments it’s possible you’ll want to make. When you’re not sincere, you’re going to have issues with social media activism.

Admitting previous errors is the first means 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 folks 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 fairly than making a public assertion. That rapidly turned an issue for the firm, as the hashtag #DisneyDoBetter took off and staff, creatives, and followers all shared their issues about the weak stance in addition to the firm’s earlier donations to supporters of the invoice.

Inside a number of days, Disney had 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 you want to be good earlier than you possibly can take a stand. For instance, more than half of staff say CEOs ought to publicly converse out about racism as quickly as the firm has its personal racial fairness and variety targets in place, with concrete plans to meet them.


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

4. Be human

Humanize your communication efforts. Individuals can and do see by way of inauthentic habits.

Overused phrases and thoroughly calibrated language have a tendency 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 anticipate CEOs to be personally seen when speaking about work their firm has executed to profit society.

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

Sure, this can be a assertion that has probably gone by way of legal professionals and different company messaging professionals. But it surely’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 points on which he chooses to take a stand align with company values.

He instructed 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 determination or embrace point out of the firm.

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


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

5. Make your stance clear and constant

Whenever you do share a message in help of a trigger, make sure that message leaves no room for ambiguity. Don’t depart folks asking questions or filling in the blanks for you.

The gold commonplace 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 vital points to be clear before they make a purchase. Meaning taking a stand in your social content material and adverts, but additionally in your web site, so the message is constant when somebody clicks by way of to be taught extra or purchase.


  • Strive to have all of it or do all of it. Communicate 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. But it surely’s motion that basically counts. Greater than 40% of shoppers boycotted companies that continued to function in Russia after the invasion. On social, each #BoycottMcDonalds and #BoycottCocaCola had been trending in early March, till the corporations 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 draw consideration to ageism and sexism in 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 in the Arts.


  • Make empty guarantees. Edelman’s 2022 special report on business and racial justice discovered greater than half of Individuals assume corporations usually are not doing an excellent job assembly their guarantees to tackle racism. When you can’t dwell up to your guarantees, you’re higher off not to make them in the first place.

7. Guarantee your actions replicate your organization tradition

Comparable to level #3, observe what you preach. In case your model promotes variety on social media, your office needs to be numerous. When you promote environmentalism, it’s best to 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 guarantee your activism aligns together with your tradition is to select causes that join to your model function. In truth, 55% of shoppers say it’s vital for a model to take motion on points that relate to its core values and 46% say manufacturers ought to discuss social points straight associated to their business.

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 the United States (SIECUS) to promote inclusive intercourse schooling.

That stated, your model function might not have an apparent connection to social causes. That doesn’t imply you possibly can choose out of the dialog.

when can brands speak about social justice issues bar chart

Supply: Twitter Marketing

Accountable company tradition needs to be in the beginning about doing the proper factor. However know that over time, it is going to truly enhance your backside line. Numerous corporations are more profitable and make better decisions.

Plus, practically two-thirds of shoppers – and practically three-quarters of Gen Z – purchase or advocate for manufacturers based mostly on their values. They’re willing to pay more for manufacturers that do good in the world.


  • Take too lengthy to observe by way of on commitments. Your clients are watching and ready.

8. Plan for good and unhealthy responses

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

The intention of social activism is commonly to disrupt the establishment. Not everybody will agree together with your place. Prospects might applaud your model, whereas others might be essential. Many might be emotional. And sadly, some commenters could also be abusive or hateful.

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

Profit did all the proper issues on this publish by stating the actions they had been taking, displaying how the trigger associated to their core values, and linking to companions who’re specialists in the work.

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

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

Think about the following do’s and don’ts:


  • Evaluation your social media guidelines and replace as wanted.
  • Clearly outline what constitutes abusive language and the way to deal with it.
  • Develop a response plan for continuously requested questions or frequent statements.
  • Be human. You possibly can personalize responses whereas sticking to the script.
  • Maintain related coaching periods.
  • Apologize for previous actions, when vital.
  • Adapt your technique for various audiences on completely different social media platforms.


  • Disappear. Stay current together with your viewers, even when they’re upset with you.
  • Delete feedback except they’re abusive or dangerous. Don’t tolerate hate.
  • Be afraid to admit that you simply don’t have all the solutions.
  • Make it the duty of your followers to defend their fundamental human rights.
  • Take too lengthy to reply. Use instruments like Mentionlytics to maintain monitor of messages.

9. Diversify and characterize

Range shouldn’t simply be a field your model checks throughout Pleasure month, Black Historical past Month, or on Worldwide Girls’s Day. When you help LGBTQ rights, gender equality, incapacity rights, and anti-racism, present that dedication all through the yr.

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

Most vital: Pay attention to folks’s voices fairly than merely utilizing their faces. Shayla Oulette Stonechild is just not solely the first Indigenous world yoga ambassador for Lululemon, however she’s additionally on the firm’s Vancouver-based committee for Range, Fairness, and Inclusion.

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


  • Stereotype. Don’t forged folks in roles that perpetuate detrimental or biased stereotypes.
  • Let abusive feedback go unchecked after spotlighting somebody. Be ready to provide help.

10. Maintain doing the work

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

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

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


  • Consider model activism as “one and executed.” One supportive publish isn’t going to reduce it. When you’re going to wade into the waters of digital activism, be ready to keep there for the long run.

Schedule messages and join together with your viewers on social media utilizing Hootsuite. Put up to and monitor a number of social networks from one dashboard. Strive it free at this time.

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