Why silence may not be the best social media strategy for brands and leaders
This article was originally published on Brand Equity.
The word ‘unprecedented’ pales against the aftermath of India’s second wave of COVID-19. We are locked up in our homes again but unlike last year’s lockdown, our social media feeds aren’t filled with dalgona coffee and baking experiments. Instead, frantic calls for oxygen and grim news from across the country pour through our social networks. At such a time, what is the right social media etiquette for brands and leaders? Here’s a checklist of dos and don’t to keep in mind to ensure you’re posting responsibly on social media:
Going AWOL on social media
I have noticed several corporate leaders and brands disappear from my social media feed in recent weeks. It’s not a good look for brands to be abruptly radio silent on social media. During such times, even silence says a lot. Not being there and expressing solidarity sends out a certain message to your audience. There’s a reason celebrities and influencers are singled out for their silence. A paralysis of communication strategy is understood given the sensitive nature of the discourse and its tendency to turn political. Entities using social media to build a brand may want to avoid getting entangled in controversy. However, this is also when your stakeholders are looking at your brand to see the values you stand for. Your action or inaction demonstrates whether the values are simply lip service or you genuinely live them.
Expressing intent before taking a break
You may feel like you have nothing of value to add for the moment. In that case, it’s better to state your intent rather than halting your social media activity all of a sudden. I came across brands that made a straightforward announcement to their followers about their decision to take a break from social media until the situation settled down. From wanting to declutter feeds for essential posts to giving their teams a break or feeling like it simply wasn’t the right thing to do — the reasons were varied, but the sentiment was well-appreciated. As the most recent on your page, a post like that informs regular followers who may have noticed your absence. It also serves as a respectful gesture.
Offering support and encouragement
Leaders and brands can also optimise their social networks to amplify verified SOS calls, COVID-19 and mental health resources. In perhaps the best use of moment marketing, many brands moulded their social media content around public service announcements. Posts reminded followers to wear masks, maintain social distancing and stay at home. Similarly, many leaders turned to their social media profiles to build confidence for the COVID-19 vaccine. Now too, leaders can leverage their platforms to share words of encouragement and resilience.
Many influential voices from the advertising and marketing industry, including the India chapter of the International Advertising Association recently, have spoken about easing timelines and work pressure on teams. Many people may be struggling to make sense of current events and future uncertainties and looking to leaders for direction. As seasoned navigators of tough times, wisdom from leaders can prove to be an anchor and enhance trust.
Optimising networks to extend help
Some brands have also gone the extra mile and stepped up their CSR activities during this time, particularly those who can use their existing networks or infrastructure to make a difference in people’s lives. Ola, for example, launched free of cost doorstep delivery of oxygen concentrators. Meanwhile, Uber offered free rides to vaccination centres. Leaders, too, have initiated drives to crowdsource funds.
Staying aware and sensitive
The privilege divide has never been as apparent as it has in present times. While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all our lives, it has impacted some more than others. It’s crucial to ensure your social media posts don’t appear tone-deaf. Early in the second wave, the lesson was learned when celebrities were called out for flaunting beach vacations. Brands and leaders choosing to continue with their regular social media content must be mindful that their posts don’t exist in isolation on social media. Consider the sour taste a joke would leave sandwiched between an SOS call and grief post on a follower’s feed. Brands and leaders must ideally put a pause on promotional and celebratory content. It’s essential to read the virtual room before you post on social media in current times.
Silence on social media may not be golden for brands and leaders. With mindful social media activity, brands and leaders can sensitise their content and use their platforms and networks for genuine efforts to help and express empathy and compassion.