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What does online activism mean for your brand image?

Many brands now are developing a distinct point of view which, in turn, firmly plants them within certain circles of social activism, particularly in online spaces.

For some, this might mean that they have overhauled their process, packaging and supply chain to be more eco-friendly and cruelty-free, this makes them more appealing to the vegan/plant-based community.

What is online activism?

Using social media to address issues such as social change or environmental interests, often referred to as ‘social justice’. With this type of activity on the increase and both younger and older audiences becoming increasingly ‘woke’ (don’t judge my use of the word, it fits here!), brands need to consider their current image and how they can manage it in the future to ensure they align with their customers social interests and passions.

How can online activism affect your brand image?

It’s important for businesses to have a progression plan for their brand image, in line with online activism. It should also include contingency plans in case something goes wrong and how your brand will respond. In order to prepare social activism, you should start with brand research.

Brand research

Your brand value can quickly be destroyed if social activists decide that your company is chiming into a conversation where the input simply isn’t welcome or relevant.

It’s important to understand online debates before getting involved in them. This means conducting research before participating and gaining an insight into the catalyst, the background and what each side of the debate is saying.

With this understanding you can then be prepared to counter any arguments against your brand, should this occur. You can also use this insight to determine if it’s appropriate or relevant for your brand to get involved in a debate.

Sometimes it’s best to avoid getting involved in debates as they may cause serious damage to your brand image, particularly if your comment doesn’t align with the overarching brand point of view.

Accountability

Interacting with other brands and like-minded individuals online can help to grow your brand’s point of view. Ensuring you do this with users who share your interest and values can ensure accountability of the brand.

However, it’s important to remember that your brand doesn’t have to comment on every ‘social injustice’. It’s crucial to fully understand online debates in detail before getting involved.

Many brand experts will advise that in order to retain your brand image, you should pick your battles. This means, when you do choose to take a stance, you need to be sure you will stick it out until the end rather than a fleeting interest of support. If your brand can only partially commit, it may be best to not commit at all.

Monitoring and scheduling

By pre-planning content, you can often keep better tabs on your brand’s social media content. This means that you can have a little more control over what goes out in response to certain pre-planned or pre-determined events. 

Additionally, you should ensure that your social media channels are owned and run by trustworthy individuals who understand the ethos of your brand. They should be trusted to jump on topical conversations without fear of upsetting your audience or customers.

You can also prepare responses in line with certain situations or discussions which are likely to arise which will offer guidance on where your brand’s loyalties lie. It’s also advisable to set up brand alerts to ensure that negative or challenging mentions do not go unresponded where necessary, which can ultimately result in more damage to your brand value.

Personal persona vs brand persona

The tone of voice across your brand advertising, website and social media should be consistent. Sometimes, the people that have ownership over your marketing channels can overshadow your brand voice and image with their own opinions.

Of course, you may have hired someone for their specific interest in a certain subject or their understanding of the online activism landscape to help develop your brand’s point of view. If this is the case, you should still agree on topics of conversation you want your brand to get involved in. 

The people managing your brand’s image should be level headed and remember that the brand activity needs to be sustainable. This means only involving the brand in conversation which is relevant, important to the brand and is clearly thought through in terms of responses.

Influencer relations

To further enhance your capabilities within social activism, you could consider working with influencers who embody everything that makes your brand unique and forms the brand personality. Again, this association should be carefully considered and monitored to ensure no damage comes to the brand image. You should be able to clearly communicate with the brand advocate and be able to have trust in them to accurately represent or personify your brand.


Also published on Medium.

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