I am writing this post just two hours after casting my ballot in the midterm elections. As I proudly wear my “I Voted Today” sticker on my chest, I am thinking about the role social media played in my decision to vote today. For the past few weeks I have seen my friends, favorite brands, and celebrities posting on multiple platforms encouraging me to vote. Although I would have voted even without the influence of social media, a part of me wonders if I would have been as passionate about voting without them. I think this begs an important question for businesses of all sizes, “Should I Be Posting About My Political Beliefs?” As someone who works in and has studied social media for years, I think I have finally come up with an answer.
So… Should I Do It?
People follow, and more importantly engage with, brands that they identify with on a deep level. Examples of this “deep level identification” range from Patagonia’s environmentally friendly production to Dove’s self esteem project. These brands, in addition to others with great social media presence, have one thing in common: consistent branding. Branding is so important, especially online, because it is the narrative that your customer’s will associate with every aspect of your business. If anything you do (or post) is not in line with the image you have painted in your customers’ minds, it will be interpreted as inauthentic.
So when it comes to posting politically motivated content, I only recommend doing so if it is in line with your branding. That being said, a brand should never push their political ideas on their followers! Encouraging individuals to vote, participate in peaceful protests, or voice their opinion is very different from instructing them to support certain candidates or shaming them for not identifying with a certain ideology. The line on which you walk is very slim, so ensure you are proceeding with caution.
So… How Do I Do It?
Now that we have addressed if you should post politically charged content, the next question is how. Just because several brands are promoting social justice online doesn’t imply they are doing it in the same way! The major idea to keep in mind is relevancy. If a certain idea resonates with your brand- stand up for it, but don’t feel the need to take a public stance on every trending social issue. If you do so, it will seem that you are just jumping on a bandwagon as opposed to standing up for an issue you truly believe in.
A great example of authentic support is CoverGirl’s appointment of James Charles as their official brand ambassador in 2016. Before it was “in vogue”, they believed that everyone regardless of gender should have the ability to express themselves and redefine the meaning of beauty. Their public, yet understated, support was the LGBTQ community was praised, but most importantly is was real.
With that being said, for every success story there is a major fail as well. The first one that comes to mind is Pepsi’s Black Lives Matter campaign. If you haven’t seen the commercial, the cliffnotes are that Kendall Jenner settles a standoff between protesters and police by simply offering an officer a can of Pepsi. The public hated it.
Due to the outrage on social media, Pepsi was forced to pull the advertisement and face the music. A major lesson you can learn from this? Don’t comment on social issues and push your product at the same time. Not only does it make a mockery of the issue, but it comes off as very “salesy”.
So… What Now?
The moral of this story is simply: Be You. Don’t jump on political bandwagons to earn good PR or to follow the crowd. Post about movements you feel strongly about and that are in line with your brand identity. By doing so, you can create even deeper relationships with your audience and possibly grow your social following.
P.S. For everyone who voted on November 6th, thank you so much! You went out of your way to better this country, and for that you should be very, very proud.