How to Decide If & When You Should Chime in On Social Media Trending Moments
From Women’s History Month to Pride Month, Veteran’s Day to Earth Day – these are moments we celebrate in our personal lives that often make it to the feeds in our virtual ones, too. These days, social media for corporations is table stakes, and in the life of a social media manager, these holidays are helpful prompts for developing engaging content.
That said, it’s a lot to navigate: while #NationalDonutDay may start trending on June 2, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should chime in.
Donuts are an easy one; many of us can understand why it wouldn’t make sense for a brand or executives to chime in on a topic that light and fluffy (pun intended). For other moments, some may have political undertones or be emotionally charged, which can make it difficult to decipher if it’s “brand safe” to comment.
If you are deciding if and how your company, an executive, or even you can chime in on a key moment or holiday on social media – from LinkedIn to Instagram to your internal Intranet – we recommend going through this checklist:
1. Does your brand want to stand for something? If so, what are those specific topics?
In the financial and professional services spaces, firms and executives tend to take a reserved approach to having a M.O. outside of their business. However, we’re seeing more and more institutions taking strong stands on large topics. Take BlackRock, a company whose ESG stances have resulted in political and business implications.
Deciding what issues or moments are authentic to you and your brand requires a bit of forethought and intentionality. That’s why it’s important to align on corporate and/or executive priorities, passion areas, and purposes. Do a thorough analysis to identify opportunities and threats by taking a stand. Then, communicate what these priorities are, and select certain moments to own.
In other words, if your firm takes a strategic stand and wants to be vocally pro-climate, you and your team should identify which moments in the year will be most relevant (Earth Day, the UN’s COP conference, Climate Week, etc.) and prioritize those. Just because you communicate about some holidays, doesn’t mean you have to tap into them all (you don’t want your social feed to turn into a trending topic thread), so this will help you prioritize.
2. What is the purpose of sharing this message, and who is the right audience?
If your answer to this question is, “We need to show that we care about this topic,” that may not be enough to warrant an external-facing post. The intended purpose should ideally be something like, “Because it’s authentic and fundamental to our brand,” or, “Because it’s something we can speak to with authority and experience.”
Especially with issues that are sensitive and divisive, consider all factors – not just who this would support, but also who it might alienate. Sometimes an internal message is better suited than an external one – especially if the purpose of sharing a message is to support employees and help assure them that their employer shares their values.
When you think about the audience, also think about the platform. For moments like Hispanic Heritage Month, you may have relevant news to share on Twitter, an internal employee engagement initiative to share on LinkedIn, and photos from an internal event to share on Instagram. Whereas for National Dog Day, you may just stick to Instagram. It’s a case by case basis, but think critically.
3. Have we shared other content around these topics?
One of the worst and potentially most threatening things a brand can do is let the one hashtag holiday post represent the company’s views year-round. For example, brands have been criticized for everything from greenwashing to rainbow washing on social media. Spotlighting the team’s free reusable water bottles or adding a rainbow background to a LinkedIn profile picture doesn’t suffice nor make you a true advocate or ally. Followers can tell when a company’s being disingenuous and posting to capitalize on the zeitgeist.
Once you have aligned on the core brand themes that you and/or your executives want to publicly support, hold yourself accountable to sharing about these moments year-round. This can start with a quantitative metric (e.g., “post two times per month about internal employee engagement programming”), or make a public-facing campaign (e.g., share updates on progress to reach internally set KPIs).
If your conclusion is that you DO have enough buy-in and substance to post something to social media, here are some best practices to consider:
- Solicit volunteers, don’t voluntell. Employees may want to contribute, but others have the right to decline.
- Avoid communicating a singular, generalized identify on behalf of a larger group.
- Do not take the role of educator or historian if it’s not authentic to your brand, as this can be seen as tone deaf or even triggering.
- Be wary of commercializing celebration. Take a person-centric approach rather than a sales-driven one.
- Do not center consumption or objectification of traditions. People are much more than their foods, music, and sports.
- Understand the year’s theme, if relevant. Oftentimes, moments like Black History Month or AAPI month will have a focus for the year, and even a unique hashtag.
If your conclusion to the previous questions is that you should NOT post, what can you do now to authentically chime in next time?
Going through this checklist, it may become clear that while you want to be able to chime in, your post for [insert celebration here] might not have enough substance to stand on its own. Use that as a sign and as motivation to make progress now so that next time, you can chime in with credibility.
Be it working with an internal employee resource group (ERG) to set KPIs and develop programing, or conducting interviews with internal experts (ideally, volunteers) on the matter to have first-hand testimonials – these sorts of actions now will make it so that you can join in on the dialogue in a meaningful, authentic way that resonates with your intended audience.