Marketing

How to Support Social Causes as a Brand on Instagram


By Jillian Warren

Published August 21, 2020

8 minute read

More than ever before, people expect the brands they support to have a clear stance on social causes.  As consumers, our purchasing decisions are influenced beyond the product spec — we want to see and hear how brands are supporting the causes and missions we care most about.  However, there are potential pitfalls to beware

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More than ever before, people expect the brands they support to have a clear stance on social causes.

As consumers, our purchasing decisions are influenced beyond the product spec — we want to see and hear how brands are supporting the causes and missions we care most about.

However, there are potential pitfalls to beware of as a brand. Rushing to support a cause “without the receipts” runs the risk of appearing disingenuous and inauthentic; a risky PR move for any business.

But when done right, brands can make a real difference to a movement they care about — while also building their brand identity and values.

In this blog post we’re delving into the many benefits of aligning a brand with a social cause, as well as how to do it in a meaningful and effective way:

Why Support a Social Cause on Social Media?

This year has seen a rising trend of brands using their platforms to educate and inspire.

Social media has been transformed from a place of simple inspiration and ideas sharing, to a vocal, thought-provoking space.

And the best news is that brands and consumers are joining forces to support a common good.

When done successfully, supporting a social cause is one of the most powerful ways to illustrate your brand’s values, ethics, and ideals. All while building an engaged and supportive social following.

Mission-focused brands often have the most loyal customers, as they are united by their shared ideals rather than just the latest product offer or flash sale.

A study conducted in 2019 found that 74% of consumers think brands should take a stand on important issues.

And that’s not all. It can even improve affinity inside the workplace — with 87% of employees stating that businesses should have a stance on relevant societal issues.

However, supporting a social cause on social media should be approached with sensitivity and careful consideration.

Brands that succumb to tokenism can face a negative backlash, especially if their corporate actions don’t align with their stance on social media.

To help you find your voice and meaningfully support a social cause on social media, here are our top tips:

How to Support a Social Cause on Social Media #1: Put Authenticity First

Authenticity may sound like a social media buzzword, but if you’re going to publicly align your brand with a social cause, you need to whole-heartedly believe in it.

Knowing why you’re supporting a social cause will help guide your approach — if it’s a cause you genuinely believe in, it’s much easier to speak with passion and conviction.

Similarly, brands who truly believe in a social cause are much likely to support it at every level of their business.

For example, limited edition jacket brand Paynter publicly advocates for sustainable manufacturing.

But it doesn’t end with a quick Instagram post. Every part of their business reflects their environmental stance, from their choice of recyclable packaging and zero-waste production methods, to locally-sourced buttons.

Being able to “show the receipts” and demonstrate how you’re supporting the mission in every facet of your business is essential for building a community that trusts and respects your values.

How to Support a Social Cause on Social Media #2: Celebrate the Advocates in Your Community

Supporting a social cause on social media isn’t just about what you have to say, it’s about listening and giving a platform to the voices in your community.

Introducing user-generated content (UGC) into your strategy can be a great way to introduce new perspectives that help increase awareness of your mission.

This can also be an effective way of sharing first-hand experiences that provide a deeper context for a social cause.

For example, Patagonia used their 4.5M-strong platform to share the words of Leah Thomas in support of the Black Lives Matter movement:

By featuring the voices of your community you’re also showing that you’re actively listening to your audience, which is the best way to encourage participation and drive momentum for your campaign.

TIP: Use Later’s UGC tools to automatically pull all the posts you’ve been mentioned or tagged in into an easy-to-use dashboard!

Later will maintain the high-quality resolution of the original post (no screenshots needed here) and will automatically add the handle of the user who originally posted it.

Source, schedule and repost UGC to your feed in minutes with Later!

How to Support a Social Cause on Social Media #3: Strive for Meaningful Change, Not PR Coverage

If your main motivation is to improve your brand’s perception, you could be setting yourself up to fail.

The ultimate goal should be to drive meaningful change for your cause — not score kudos points with your followers.

Avoid the urge to jump straight onto an Instagram soap box — instead, put your values into practice first. This could be via volunteer days, fundraisers, new hiring policies, or education initiatives — whatever it takes to truly practice what you preach.

If you’re a brand already taking steps to support a social cause in-house, for example hosting a sponsored run or anonymously donating to your chosen charity, that’s great!

Not every action you take needs to be shared on social, but if you care passionately about a mission, there’s a strong chance a portion of your community will feel the same way.

So while actions speak tremendously louder than words, think about how you can use your social media channels to invite your community to join you in your efforts.

For example, Instagram’s new fundraising features are a great way to support nonprofit organizations through monetary contributions.

While Instagram feed posts are great for highly visual graphics that raise awareness and share your message:

Video platforms (whether that’s TikTok, Pinterest Video, YouTube, IGTV or Instagram Live) can be an effective way to delve deeper into your cause, whether through Q&As or storytelling.

There are plenty of ways to share the efforts you’re taking to support your mission, but always keep in mind that the goal is to build a community around a common goal, rather than finding a PR opportunity.

How to Support a Social Cause on Social Media #4: Take Accountability with Your Community

Even with the best of intentions, reflecting a social mission in every business decision can be difficult.

As an example, for brands that support environmental causes, navigating the complex world of supply chains and biodegradable packaging can be challenging to say the least — especially for small businesses with limited funds.

What’s important is that you communicate with your audience about how you’re learning, and what actions you’re taking to achieve your goals.

Openly responding to the concerns of your audience is one of the most effective ways to evolve your brand, even if some questions are tough to answer.

Recently, many brands faced probing questions about their anti-racism policies in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Brands who respond openly to difficult questions show a true commitment to change, which is key for building lasting trust within a community.

Remember that your social profiles should act, in part, as a place of 2-way conversations. Your followers should feel comfortable asking difficult questions, and as a brand, you should respond regularly.

How to Support a Social Cause on Social Media #5: Plan Campaigns in Advance

Finally, it’s important to think about your long-term strategy when it comes to supporting a social cause on social media.

Short-lived efforts can lack momentum, or worse, look like a token gesture.

To prevent this, it’s worth thinking about how your social campaigns will play out over the next 12 months, and beyond.

For example, your overarching campaign goal could be “combating climate change,” with several sub-campaigns, such as “environmental awareness” and “material sustainability.”

This is a great way to consistently drive towards a social goal, while maintaining an engaging content strategy.

Similarly, you can use key social media hashtag holidays, such as #WorldEarthDay or #BlackFriday, to give your campaigns a fresh contextual hook.

TIP: You can use a social media planning tool like Later to plan your content strategy in advance! Bookmark key dates to support your campaign and reserve them in your content calendar.

Learning how to support a social cause on social media doesn’t happen overnight. For many brands, their efforts to support their mission stays “offline” for months, even years before they approach sharing it on social media.

However you decide to share and build a community around your mission, know that supporting a social cause is a long-term project that should go beyond a single post and a hashtag.

But when you get it right, you can bring your community together and make a real difference to an important cause.

In the spirit of learning from our peers, we invited Matthew Herman, Co-founder of Boy Smells to speak at this year’s LaterCon! Join us for the live event on September 23rd to learn how the Boy Smells team approaches marketing in a post-binary world and their ongoing efforts to support the Pride community.

Missed out on LaterCon 2020? Catch up on all the action here.

Stay on top of the biggest social media marketing trends!

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