Why Brands Need Social Media Community Guidelines

We’ve likely all excitedly published a post on social media and then quickly clicked the comments only to be horrified by an off-colour message. Be it abusive, racist, homophobic, sexually explicit, or plain ignorant, inappropriate comments can feel like a punch to the gut, and are embarrassing to have underneath your post.

Though these comments sometimes come from your always-inappropriate uncle or a friend with a weird sense of humour, they can also come from trolls – strangers who post incendiary comments just to get a rise of others. And though trolls can (and do!) target posts from regular people, brands with name recognition and large numbers of followers often receive much of their focus. Trolls will work to skew the conversation a brand is hoping to nurture online via inflammatory rhetoric that ignites outrage and shifts focus away from the brand’s message or intent.

The implications of trolling on users and brands

Worryingly, these types of comments can cause users to turn not on the brand, but each other. Suddenly, users will attack and bully those with differing opinions, and these comment threads can devolve into virtual boxing matches that turn personal and can result in real mental and emotional wounds.

There is ample research surrounding the turmoil cyberbullying can bring on a personal level, including increased likelihood to engage in self-harm or suicidal behaviour. But brands, too, can see digital ire move into the real world in very dangerous ways. YouTube headquarters in California was attacked by a female shooter who was upset about the company’s policies in 2018. In the same year, CNN received a pipe bomb in the mail from a man who was disgruntled about their political coverage.

In order to discourage and curtail language that can lead to dangerous behaviour, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr have put into place community guidelines that lay out the types of language and visual content users should not use. If users violate these guidelines, they run the risk of being suspended from the platform.

Though social media platforms do follow through and suspend accounts, trolls and cyberbullies are often barely discouraged by these measures due to the fact that if they are suspended, they can simply set up a new account using a new email address. Plus, it sometimes isn’t clear what does and does cross the prohibited content line because everyone has different personal standards, not to mention the fact that sarcasm and dark humour can be hard to discern online.

Strong social media guidelines curtail online vitriol

In order to keep comment sections from turning into cesspools, brands active on social media are now establishing their own community guidelines.

For instance, in March, the British royal family announced social media community guidelines, seemingly as a response to abusive, hateful and threatening comments made toward both Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex. The family’s guidelines detail their expectations for courteous and respectful engagement, and clearly state that they will use their discretion to determine if someone is in violation of their standards. Additionally, the famous family’s guidelines establish the actions they may take against those in violation of the guidelines, including deleting comments, blocking users and alerting law enforcement if comments are threatening.

Unfortunately, the existence of such guidelines does not mean that trolls will suddenly clean up their act. But the guidelines do provide brands the opportunity to condemn hate speech, communicate to their followers what their expectations are when it comes to engagement and establish transparent protocols for when and why they delete comments and block users.

If your brand does not already have social media community guidelines in place and is looking to establish a set, here are some things to consider:

  • Be clear in your policies: Revisit your company handbook or human resources policies and use the language regarding the sorts of behaviours that are not tolerated to begin drafting your social media community guidelines.
  • Condemn hate, not criticismThough no one enjoys being criticised, criticism can be useful – especially when brands are hearing directly from their audience and learning how they respond to different messaging. For example, when Pepsi released a campaign featuring Kendall Jenner and tying into the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the response to it was swift and the ad was deemed tone deaf – a lesson that Pepsi needed to learn. Though this type of negative feedback can be harsh, it is very different in nature from comments that are abusive and offensive, and should not be discouraged.
  • Enforce your community guidelines: Once your guidelines are announced and in place, do not be complacent. Your social media teams should monitor comments and enforce the guidelines consistently. After all, there’s no use of putting the guidelines in place if they are only there in theory – you have to practice them, too.

Taking a stand against hate speech and cyberbullying is a just cause, and one that your brand can champion. So if you notice that the comments on your posts make you want to log out, then it’s time to get your community guidelines in place to protect both your brand, your message and your audience.

Need help fighting the trolls? We can help: hello@mutant.com.sg

 

 

Why Brands Should Consider Being Woke

Of late, brands have woken from their corporate slumber to take stances on socio-political issues. Diversity, racial and gender inequality, LGBT rights are just a few of the issues which companies have been addressing and incorporating into their brand—from marketing campaigns to core business values and beliefs.

Leading this politically aware pack is rebellion’s poster child Nike, which succeeded in raising eyebrows doing what other sports brands wouldn’t dare to do–courting the controversial Colin Kaepernick in its latest ad campaign. Nike is not alone in receiving heat for its marketing campaigns. Citibank became the first Wall Street Bank to restrict firearms sales by its business customers – a move both lauded and criticised by people on either sides of the gun control debate.

Enter purpose-driven brands, the latest entities to dominate today’s saturated, hyper-politicised media landscape. While maintaining an opinion used to be a right enjoyed solely by humans, the companies of the 21st century bear little resemblance to their corporate cousins from the previous century. Today, companies who fight the good fight resemble a sentient humanoid with well-rounded, coherent, and informed views on sensitive socio-political issues.

By right, the phenomenon of corporations being politically aware is not new — there have always been some who considered activism to be as important as their bottom-lines, if not more. In the Eighties, ice-cream company Ben and Jerry’s went against the grain by extending health benefits to same-sex couples–almost unprecedented in a time when homosexuality was deemed unnatural. The Body Shop’s Anita Roddick dedicated her entire life to being a vocal advocate for animal rights and environmental causes also while also managing a multi-million-dollar skincare and beauty business.

When firms assume positions on sensitive issues, they transcend their status as capitalist entities and resemble full-fledged humans. In short, by espousing the views of their consumer base they become just like the person they serve, or hope to serve.

Of course, brands with a global reach are likely to have a customer base diverse in thought and belief. Choosing a side in any hotly-debated political topic means alienating some customers on the socio-political spectrum–but also winning the endorsement of several others.

Down with the Youth

Many young people of today no longer view corporations (or capitalism, for that matter) as a positive force. Social media has made it much easier to document and scrutinise in detail the shortcomings of corporate entities. As millennials are one of the biggest consumers of online content, they have no difficulty in accessing vast amounts of information about the companies they patronise. More and more youngsters are taking time to educate themselves on critical socio-political and economic topics, and expect the same from the entities providing them with goods and services.

There is plenty of research to suggest that more young people resonate strongly with “woke” brands than other generations. Gen-Zs are a force to be reckoned with and command considerable financial influence. As a result, companies must work harder to retain relevance with those aged 16-35–and not just perform lip service in the form of rainbow filters and themed merchandise. Levi’s, American Eagle, and Converse are examples of companies who talk the talk and walk the walk–in addition to selling LGBT merchandise, they work with and donate to several organisations which support marginalised communities. Conversely, several consumers have boycotted fast food chain Chick-Fil-A, which reiterated its stance against gay marriage.

Look Beyond Yourself

The relationships brands share with consumers can no longer simply be transactional. Nowadays, people make informed choices regarding products, taking into account not only their own selves but also the wider ecosystem. For instance, consumers are turning to “ethically/responsibly sourced” or “cruelty-free/vegan” products (clothes, food, make-up) which are not environmentally detrimental. When a company goes out of its way to do good, it usually wins the unwavering support of loyal consumers.

If the corporations they patronise do not share their value system or do not make good on their promises, consumers will simply find another company whose actions resonate with their belief system. Consumers in the 21st century seek affirmation through the products and services they consume, and consider factors such as sustainability, inclusivity, and quality to be an integral part of their purchase and consumption journey. Urban Decay Cosmetics, Fenty Beauty, Patagonia and H&M are companies which put sustainability and inclusivity at the core of their businesses.

Court Quality Employees

The implications of a socially conscious brand extend not only to consumers, but also to employees. More millennials and Gen Z-ers are gravitating towards companies whose political stances and actions echo their own. Employees are likely to be happier and more productive in a socially-conscious firm. As an employer, if attracting the next generation of talented changemakers is a priority, then it’s time to start speaking to them in a language they understand.

Of course, purpose-driven brands are not without their naysayers. People proclaim that by latching themselves onto pressing issues, companies are distracting the gullible from considering their “dark deeds”. Keen observers of pop culture have been quick to point how the patterns of brands suddenly becoming social justice warriors is nothing more than late-stage capitalism — a ploy where companies use emotionally-charged marketing tactics to get tongues wagging, generating traction for themselves. In the case of a sports brand whose hard-hitting rebranding campaign proved to be highly profitable, netizens brought to light its unethical and inhumane business practices in foreign countries.

Picking a side is a risky move, both socially and financially. While established companies can weather consumer boycotts and other controversies, smaller firms struggling to establish themselves might not fare so well–unless they have very clearly defined goals and visions from the get-go.

Brands who wish to embrace a meaningful cause in addition to their business endeavours must be consistent in their efforts. For instance, a brand which champions gender equality while underpaying its female employees is clearly faking its wokeness to exploit the emotions of liberal youth. Its cause of choice must be relevant to the history or culture of the brand–if not, its efforts will appear to be shoehorned in and insincere.

Need help crafting an assertive voice? Talk to us at hello@mutant.com.sg

Tips on using PR to build a brand for small businesses

For most small businesses with limited resources, public relations tend to be overlooked as a viable business strategy.. However, an effective public relations strategy can be incredibly valuable. In many cases, it is a cost effective way of getting your brand out there and building a strong reputation without the expensive cost of traditional advertising.

So, if you run a small business, consider these tips  to get the right kind of attention your brand needs – all without breaking the bank:

Find the right people

Journalists are constantly getting emails with story pitches that don’t often relate to their beat. To cut through the clutter, make sure what you are sending their way is relevant to their publication, and what they cover.

Do your research to find out who you should be targeting, and spend time understanding their publication. Reading what journalists are currently tracking and covering is a good starting point in building a media list. Remember, journalists who are already interested in the space you’re in are more likely to publish what you have to say.

Know what the media needs

Sure, your story is important to you, but is it newsworthy? The key to a well-written press release is not imbuing it with flowery language; it’s nailing down a compelling news angle and getting straight to the point. Journalists are often on the go just like you, so go with a punchy headline to grab the journalist’s attention, and keep it short and sweet.

Strike while the iron is hot

Sometimes, tying your announcement in with a timely moment can help give it an extra boost through that connection. If you’re launching a new product, do a bit of research to find out if there are any upcoming events, occasions or even trending topics that are relevant to your product. Use a recent trending topic that is linked directly to features of your business or business model. For instance, McDonalds struck gold with their nasi lemak-inspired burger by launching it ahead of Singapore’s 50th National Service anniversary. A clever spin on a classic dish, the burger was a massive hit thanks to its local appeal and opportune release date.  Connecting the two can enable you to tap on that trending issue.

Communicate your expertise

Even as a small business owner, you are still an authority in your field. Communicate that expertise by positioning yourself as an expert in the industry, and build yourself up as a thought leader with a story to tell the media. There’s always a story to tell, you’ve just got to find the right angle to communicate it. The key here is to step out of living and breathing your product. Showing thought leadership requires you to go beyond just how amazing your product is. You will have to demonstrate your understanding on the issues faced by your target audience and how you can solve them.

Make it visual

In today’s multiscreen world, people respond well to visuals. If you’re pitching a story involving data and numbers, putting them into one neat infographic can bring your story to life. You will be surprised at how much a good image can enhance your press release or media kit. It is definitely worth the investment to have a professional come in to take pictures of your products and spokespeople.

Getting your brand off the ground when you’re running a lean operation may be a daunting task, but when done right, an effective PR campaign tailored to the needs of your small business can do wonders – even with limited resources.

Need a helping hand on getting your brand and voice out there? Reach out to hello@mutant.com.sg

4 Step guide to defining your brand voice

When it comes to your business, your brand voice is everything (well, almost!). Your voice communicates your brand, core values and the type of relationship you want to have with your consumer. It sets expectations and helps build trust. In fact, your brand voice is so impactful – it can make or break your business. That’s why it’s important to get it right early on.

And yes, we know it’s no easy task creating a voice for your brand. It takes time to get it right so you should never rush it. Take your time and follow these four steps:

Step 1: Who are you?

It’s as simple as that. What is your business all about? At this stage, it is about defining your company values – what you stand for, what makes you unique, and why you exist? And even if you aren’t offering the sexiest product in town, it doesn’t mean you need to come across in a boring manner. Have fun with your brand and really stand out from the crowd! Suggested read: FunTech: Make that content cray

Step 2: Who are you talking to?

First, define your audience. Who is your key customer? Are they likely to respond to a very casual tone with lots of humour? Or perhaps your customers prefer a more corporate approach. Either way, you know your customers, so work out the best way to speak to them.

Get your team together and brainstorm answers to the following:

  • I want my brand to make people feel _______.
  • Three words that describe my brand are _______ , _______ , and _______.
  • I love the brand voice of _______.
  • I dislike the brand voice of _______.

Doing this will really help you define and drive your communications.

Step 3: Strip it back

Ok, so you’ve now identified what your brand represents and who you’re talking to. The next step is to create a list of brand buzzwords and as well, a banned list of words or phrases. Focus on specific things that encompass what your brand represents and decide how you’d like them to be communicated. Here’s your chance to think outside the box and really get creative.

 Step 4: Stimulate visually

Words are one thing, but a picture tells a thousand words. The imagery you use across your marketing should show a brand story and convey a strong message. Try creating a series of graphics that are unique to your brand and match this with quirky copy.

Here’s our favourite example of a brand that’s really created an amazing voice – Vinomofo. Their audience is made up of wine lovers but what makes this brand unique, is how they convey their message to their audience. From the way website looks, to the fun tone used in their copy, all the way through to culture which is clearly represented through the imagery – it all really helps differentiate the Vinomofo brand from any other wine company or distributor around.

Check out the tone of their website bio:

Do yourself a favour and scroll all the way down to the bottom of their home page – make sure you read all the text. It’s so funny and entertaining! It’s rare to find a brand that communicates this way. Reading their content makes you feel like you’re having a direct conversation with Vinomofo –  and they really do have fun communicating their message.

If you need help standing out from the crowd, drop us a note at hello@mutant.com.sg – we can help you take your brand tone from boring to brilliant!