Supporting social causes? Take notes from the NGO playbook

The world of marketing is getting more and more competitive, fueled by the use of social. Every brand on social today is clamouring for attention, trying to cut through the clutter. But when you are working on a social issue, it is not always an “us versus them” situation, explained Laura Hilliger, staff engagement advisor, Greenpeace.

“We're all human,” Hilliger said while on the panel during Socialbakers' Engage Prague 2017 conference. She was sharing a panel with Alice More O’Ferrall, digital engagement manager of WWF International.

“I think that we use social media to help people understand that it is okay to work together and listen, and show empathy,” said Hilliger. O’Ferrall agreed, adding when it comes to matters of humanity, organisations aren’t and shouldn’t be in competition.

“We're all working on issues that matter to the earth,” she said. While in the world of marketing it is always about getting the most out of your audience, be it via clicks, likes and overall engagement (and ultimately how that links back to sales), when it comes to CSR and social issues, marketers should think of collaboration. Social media then becomes a space for ideas to come to life and for people to connect.

As marketers turn their sights on the more socially conscious Millennial market, driven by purpose, buzzwords such as sustainability have become crucial factors in their marketing tactics. Today, more than ever, businesses are trying to portray themselves as clean, green and socially aware. And while having these issues ingrained in your marketing plan is vital, both panelists advised caution on taking on a social issue.

Build conversations around what matters

Hilliger suggests that when tackling a real world issue, instead of simply pushing out a message, building a conversation around what matters to both your brand and consumer.

“The whole reason that social media is called social is because it isn't a traditional broadcast. It's social. It's an opportunity, and part of that is conversing with people,” she explained. By putting the social issue you are tackling up for discussion and taking in suggestions, a brand can come across as more receptive and sincere.

“These are the kind of things that really turn people on to your brand," Hilliger said. She added that at the end of the day, marketers need to construct and tell good stories around the issues they are looking to tackle, in order for them to be easily understand and have maximum engagement.

And just because you work for the good of the world doesn't mean trolls will not exist, according to the panelists.

O’Ferrall said that marketers also need to  "beware the echo chamber" phenomenon on social. But this same phenomenon can also exist on your team when coming up with a campaign. As such, to make an impact in the world, brands must let themselves be vulnerable and put themselves out there. Brand marketers must also see the consumers' point of view to form a better argument to tackle the trolls.

"But if it's getting too much, take a break, come back, refresh when you need," she added.

Hilliger added that, at the end of the day, brands and marketers "need to take care" of themselves. This means:

If you have to shout back, you shout back. You're human and you're allowed.

This article was written by Pranamika Subhalaxmi. Socialbakers paid for Marketing's trip to Engage Prague 2017.

(Image courtesy: 123rf)