Wondering how to get a job in social media? The road to success in this industry isn’t quite as cut-and-dry as more traditional careers (so your cousin’s a doctor! Who cares!) — and getting your start in the field can be overwhelming.
For real-world advice, we talked to the social media experts at Hootsuite: Trish Riswick, Social Engagement Specialist, and Brayden Cohen, Team Lead in Social Marketing and Employee Advocacy.
They’ve shared their best tips for landing a job in social media, from skills to practice to courses to take to resume tips (and even some red flags to watch out for when you’re poring through job postings).
Here’s everything you need to know about kickstarting a career in social media marketing.
Bonus: Customize our free, professionally designed resume templates to land your dream social media job today. Download them now.
What is a job “in social media?”
First things first: What does “working in social media” really mean?
The job of a social media specialist or manager looks different depending on the size and type of the company they work for.
Small businesses often have a single person handling all of their social accounts — or even all their marketing efforts, even the ones happening outside of social platforms.
Larger companies may have a team of people dedicated to managing social channels with more specialized roles, like social media strategist, community manager, or social engagement specialist.
Here are the main types of roles in social media:
- Social media management (includes social media strategy and performance tracking)
- Content creation
- Community management
- Social media advertising
In smaller companies, these roles may all be bundled into one position. That means when applying to a small team, you’ll likely want to present yourself as a social media generalist, with broad skills across all of these areas. When applying for a role on a larger social team, you’ll want to highlight your specific expertise in one key area.
Daily tasks also vary from company to company—and even from day to day. “In this job, you’re not restricted to anything,” says Trish. “Social media changes every single day, and you need to be able to adapt to that.”
Here are some common responsibilities that might be expected of you as a social media manager:
- Creative copywriting
- Graphic design
- Social ad setup and optimization
- Performance tracking and data analysis
- Community engagement
- Customer support
- Public relations
- End-to-end planning of social campaigns
- Communicating with company stakeholders
So, as you can see, a job in social media can involve wearing many hats.
Corporate: Do you have enough bandwidth for this?
Me: My internet speed is working fine thanks
— Hootsuite 🦉 (@hootsuite) August 4, 2022
How to get a job in social media: 6 tips from real-world experts
Building your own social media accounts is an effective way to prove to a potential employer that you know your stuff — and the best part is, you can make your personal content about whatever you want.
“Create your own social account about something you’re passionate about and invest time in it,” suggests Brayden.
If you’re starting from scratch, Hootsuite has advice on growing followers and increasing engagement on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and other social media channels. Nothing beats practical knowledge, even if it’s not “work” experience.
If you’re in college (or even high school), you can also take on the social media marketing manager position for a group there— “Join a club at school and lead their marketing efforts,” says Brayden.
There aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to qualifications for working in social media (more on that later), but completing a social media certification is an asset.
“There are so many resources out there—webinars you can complete, Hootsuite Academy courses you can sign up for—that are recognized by people in the marketing industry,” says Trish.
“By educating yourself using free resources, you’re showing potential employers that you have taken the steps you needed to take in order to proactively build your knowledge base.” – Trish Riswick, Social Engagement Specialist at Hootsuite
Hootsuite Academy has everything you need to get schooled. Courses include:
- Social marketing certification
- Social selling certification
- Advanced social advertising certification
… and more—plus custom course options so you can set a curriculum that’s best suited to your needs.
Many social networks also have their own training and certification programs to help social media professionals learn the best ways to use each network’s specific tools—and highlight that proficiency to potential employers on your resume. You can learn from:
Find more industry courses in our post on certifications that will make you a better social media marketer.
The best way to find a job in social media? Using social media, of course. LinkedIn, the “smart one” in the social platform family (Instagram’s the hot one, Facebook’s the mom friend, you get it), is one of the best places to nail a new gig.
“I found my job at Hootsuite on LinkedIn,” shares Trish. “The best part of it is you can see other people who work at the company, connect with them and ask them questions.”
Brayden advises connecting with marketers in industries you’d like to work in and arranging informal informational interviews.
LinkedIn has some built-in job search tricks too. “Create a search and save notification function on LinkedIn for targeted keywords of jobs you’re interested in,” suggests Brayden.
That said, LinkedIn isn’t the only option. You can join social media community groups on Facebook or follow social marketers on Instagram for leads on positions.
The marketing industry is always growing and changing—type “social media manager” into a job search engine and you’ll get lots of hits (a quick Indeed search just yielded 109 jobs just in Vancouver, BC — and that’s only one of many online job boards out there).
So how can you tell a good job opportunity from a bad job opportunity? Here are some red (and green) flags from our experts.
Red flag: You can’t tell what the company does. It’s important that you’re managing social media for a company that you actually care about, and if you can’t even tell what the company does from the job description, that’s a bad sign. “I have seen so many job listings that don’t actually tell you what the company is or what they do, and that means you have to do all that extra research. Applying for a job shouldn’t be a scavenger hunt,” says Trish.
Green flag: There’s a healthy work-life balance. “Burnout is real in the social media space,” says Brayden. Work-life balance is something you can discuss with a potential employer, or even a LinkedIn connection working at the same company. You can also get a feel for the company culture by taking a look at their social media posts.
Red flag: The job description is too long. “A really lengthy job description can mean that the employer doesn’t necessarily know what they are looking for or have realistic expectations,” says Trish. “Having five or six specific points shows that the employer knows what their goals are.”
Green flag: There are opportunities for growth. Ask about this in a job interview (you know, at the very end when the boss asks “Any questions” and you suddenly forget your own name).
Red flag: There’s no social marketing budget. To set you up for success, your company should provide you the resources you need—and one of those resources is money to boost ads and pay for subscriptions to invaluable social marketing tools.
Green flag: You have the support you need. Even if you’re taking on the job of a solo social media manager, you don’t want to feel like you’re completely on your own. “If you’re going to be a one-person team, make sure that you have the tools and mentorship you need to succeed,” says Brayden.
5. Don’t be afraid to take a step back
Working in social media is different from working in any other industry — and that means that you might not be “climbing the ladder” in a traditional way. “We get into this headspace where we always want to be chasing for more money or a better title,” explains Trish, “but sometimes there’s value in taking a step back and trying a role you weren’t expecting.”
Especially if you’re pivoting to social media management from another type of work, you’ll likely find yourself at an entry-level job — but you don’t have to stay in it forever. “Sometimes taking a step back can open a door that didn’t exist before, and I would definitely encourage people not to be afraid of that,” says Trish. “A lot of the time, it’s not really a step back but more of a realignment.”
words of wisdom 🙏 https://t.co/Y5KwjXvSOP
— Hootsuite 🦉 (@hootsuite) July 20, 2022
6. Make your resume stand out
Your resume is the very first impression that you make on a potential employer, and there’s a lot of competition out there—here are some tips to stand out from the crowd.
Bonus: Customize our free, professionally designed resume templates to land your dream social media job today. Download them now.
Showcase your creativity and personality
“Your resume shouldn’t just be on a blank page with writing on it — let’s see some creativity!” says Trish. Social media management is a job that requires originality, so you should be displaying that skill in your resume. Show, don’t tell.
Brayden recomments showcasing your personality through the design, colors, or copy you use on your resume. “Make your resume social-first with its layout,” he says.
Modify your resume for every job that you apply to
Hey, no one said this would be easy. When applying to work in social media (or any industry, really), you should cater your resume to match the job description. “Always include the skills that the listing is asking for,” advises Trish.
Read the job posting carefully and make sure your resume addresses all of the points required. You may even want to mirror the language from the ad to make it easy to match your experience to the requirements — especially in case the first sort is done by software.
Show your industry experience
You don’t necessarily need paid experience in order to put your best foot forward on your resume. Any concrete practical knowledge is worth highlighting, says Brayden— “even if it’s running social for your personal account, or school projects you did that aligned with social media.”
Quantify your results
Many organizations are focused on proving the ROI of social, so showcase experience that demonstrates that your social marketing strategies yield results. Including numbers from real-world wins goes a long way.
For example, you could highlight the growth of social channels during your time managing them, the success of campaigns you ran, and so on.
What qualifications do you need to work in social media?
This is tricky to answer, because really, it depends on the person and the company.
“We’ve seen stories of people on TikTok who have become very successful social media managers with just high school education,” notes Trish.
With a natural marketing instinct and some luck, you can make it with very few formal qualifications. But that’s not to be expected—here are the social media qualifications that most hiring managers are looking for:
- A college or university degree. A post-secondary education in the arts is an asset, especially in something writing-related. “You need creative copywriting skills,” says Trish. “Being able to create content that isn’t generic is much harder than a lot of people think.”
- A certification in social media. Good news: social media certification is a lot cheaper (and takes a lot less time) than a college degree. Hootsuite offers social media courses through Hootsuite Academy and free online social marketing training on Youtube. Completing these kinds of courses gives you a concrete achievement to list on your resume, and to refer to during a job interview.
When it comes to working in social media, skills are just as important as qualifications. Here are the most important social media skills you need, according to the experts.
- Be adaptable. “This space changes at lightning speed! I’m not kidding you, there’s something new to stay on top of every day,” says Brayden. “You need to be comfortable with change and ready to hop on a new trend, change in the algorithm, or update your content strategy like it’s no big deal.” Trish agrees: “Social media changes every single day, and you need to be able to adapt to that.”
- Be creative. “Creative copywriting is the bulk of what we do,” says Trish. “There’s a lot of noise on social,” Brayden adds. “You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but you need to have creative ideas that serve a purpose for your brand and get your audience engaged.”
- Be versatile. “Social media managers don’t just do social media. They need to have a digital marketing generalist mindset because of what the role encompasses,” says Brayden. “It’s not just about creating videos or graphics,” says Trish.
Manage social media like a pro with Hootsuite. Easily schedule posts, collect real-time data, and engage with your community across multiple social media platforms. Try it free today.
Instagram Notes Explained: What the Heck Are They For?
Instagram Notes are a new way to communicate with your followers on the app.
They’re basically like little post-it notes that you can leave for people to see. You can use them to weigh in on the state of the world, or even ask what the heck Instagram Notes are for.
It feels like a throwback to the MSN Messenger days!
Instagram Notes are great as a pseudo-soapbox, but they’re also useful for businesses and brands. You can use them to promote your products, offer customer service, or just connect with your fans.
This article will walk you through everything you need to know about this new feature.
Bonus: 14 Time-Saving Hacks for Instagram Power Users. Get the list of secret shortcuts Hootsuite’s own social media team uses to create thumb-stopping content.
Bonus: 14 Time-Saving Hacks for Instagram Power Users. Get the list of secret shortcuts Hootsuite’s own social media team uses to create thumb-stopping content.
What are Instagram Notes?
Instagram Notes are short notes you can post to followers (who you follow back) or to your “Close Friends” list.
You may have seen them; they sit in your inbox above your direct messages.
Instagram Notes, much like Stories, disappear in 24 hours and can only be 60 characters. Users can reply to your Notes; you’ll receive these in your DMs.
People are using Notes to make announcements, blast out news or thoughts, and complain about Instagram Notes.
The app released Instagram Notes on unsuspecting users in July 2022. The new feature was a surprise to creators and business owners everywhere.
If you’re still reeling from the news and haven’t had time to dive into Insta Notes, don’t worry. This guide explains everything.
How to make an Instagram Note
Creating your own Instagram Note is easy. In 4 simple steps, you can use Instagram as your own personal megaphone.
Step 1: Open your Instagram app
Step 2: Navigate to your inbox in the top right corner
Step 3: In the top left corner, click on the box that says + Leave a Note.
Step 4: Write your thoughts down, choose who to share with and click Share to publish
That’s it! You’re officially an Instagram author.
Why use Instagram Notes
Notes are the least pushy of Instagram communication. They don’t come with notifications and are tucked away in your inbox. They are more subtle than Stories and less direct than sending a DM.
Creators and businesses can use Notes as a way to communicate news, updates, or pertinent information.
They’re an easy way to get eyes on your announcements because they sit at the top of your audience’s inbox and won’t get lost in the noise of Stories. Plus, they don’t require the same commitment as a Feed post or the effort that goes into crafting a Story.
Instagram Notes are a simple, short-lived way to blast out a message. In a way, they’re like the temporary tattoos of social media.
Try it out, you won’t regret it. And if you do, it’s gone the next day.
Frequently asked questions about Instagram Notes
Instagram loves dropping new features. Remember when Instagram Reels fell from the sky?
There’s always a bit of a scramble for marketers, creators, and business owners when Instagram decides to test something out.
Questions like, “what the heck is this for?” “How can this benefit me?” and “where the heck do I find this?” are all top of mind. Don’t stress. We’ve got your back.
Here are answers to everything you want to ask about Notes.
Where do I find Instagram Notes?
Instagram Notes are in your inbox underneath the search bar. They show up at the top of your messages, under the title “Notes,” so you can’t miss them.
Notes will appear in a row, with the most recent at the right of your screen.
You can scroll through the Notes just like you would in Stories, but you don’t have to click on the Note to view them.
Why do I not have Notes on Instagram?
If you don’t see Notes in your Instagram inbox, you’re not alone. Instagram is rolling this feature out slowly to test whether or not they’ll keep it. Kind of a try-before-you-buy model.
So, if you don’t see Notes in your app, you may have to wait until Instagram rolls the feature out globally.
If you don’t see Notes on Instagram, you might have an old model. Try updating your app. You can do this in whatever app store you frequent.
Here’s the step-by-step:
Step 1: Navigate to your app store
Step 2: In the search bar, type “Instagram”
Step 3: Find Instagram in the results, click on it
Step 4: Tap update
Step 5: Once it’s finished updating, just open your app
How do I delete an Instagram Note?
Maybe you wrote something you’ve since changed your mind about.
Or maybe you see a glaring typo in your beautiful, 60-character poem. Or maybe you wrote a 60-character poem that the public is just not ready for.
Whatever the reason, deleting a Note is easy.
Step 1: Navigate to your inbox
Step 2: Click on the offending Note
Step 3: Click delete note
Congratulations. Your Instagram Note has disappeared.
You should know that Instagram Notes don’t have a draft saving capability, so if you do delete your Note, it’s gone forever.
Do Notes affect the algorithm?
The short answer is that no one can be sure except Instagram. However, we have done our best to research and understand the Instagram algorithm. It’s elusive and ever-changing, so make sure you keep coming back to us for updates.
The long answer is that the all-mighty Instagram algorithm only has only one God, and it’s you. Well, to be fair, it’s any and all app users and the content they create, but it’s fun to think you’re the Instagram algorithm’s crush.
Instagram’s algorithm works by cross-referencing content data with user information. It wants to serve the right content to the right people. When it’s successful, users will stay on the app longer, which is Instagram’s goal.
At the moment we don’t know much about how Instagram Notes affect the algorithm. For now it’s safe to assume they will follow the same principles as other Instagram features:
Follow the community guidelines, encourage engagement, and post regularly for success!
Save time managing Instagram for business using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can schedule and publish posts directly to Instagram, engage your audience, measure performance and run all your other social media profiles. Try it free today.
Social Media Activism in 2022: How to Go Beyond the Hashtag
Social media activism is no longer optional, especially for larger brands. Consumers, employees, and social followers all expect your brand to take a stand on issues that really matter.
Bonus: Read the step-by-step social media strategy guide with pro tips on how to grow your social media presence.
What is social media activism?
Social media activism is an online form of protest or advocacy for a cause. Because hashtags play a central role in mobilizing movements on social media, the term is often used interchangeably with hashtag activism.
Activism on social media includes promoting awareness of social justice issues and showing solidarity through the use of hashtags, posts, and campaigns.
Genuine social media activism is supported by concrete actions, donations, and measurable commitments to change.
Without genuine offline action, using a hashtag or posting a black square or rainbow flag comes across as opportunistic and lazy. Critics are often quick to call out these minimal efforts as “slacktivism” or performative allyship.
Brands should tread carefully: More than three-quarters of Americans (76%) say “social media makes people think they are making a difference when they really aren’t.”
Along the same lines, when a company participates in social media activism that does not align with its past or present actions, it can prompt backlash and calls of virtue signaling, greenwashing, or rainbow capitalism.
We’re about to dive into 10 ways to engage in meaningful activism on social media. And, of course, we’ll provide plenty of social media activism examples where brands got things right.
But it really all boils down to this:
Words are just words, and hashtags are just hashtags. Yes, they can both be extremely powerful. But for brands, especially those with significant market share and resources, actions speak much louder. Social media activism must be accompanied by real world action.
Listen to credible voices working on the cause. Learn from those who have well-established expertise in the movement. And commit to working towards real change.
How to use social media to authentically support a cause: 10 tips
The first thing to do before engaging in social media activism – whether you’re responding to an immediate crisis or beginning a longer term campaign of activism and allyship – is to hit pause.
Review your social calendar. If you use a social media scheduler, you might want to unschedule upcoming posts and save them for later. Review your content calendar to see how things align with the stance you’re about to take. If you’re responding to a crisis, you’ll likely want to stay focused on the cause at hand.
Consumers do want brands to respond in times of crisis. More than 60% say “brands should acknowledge moments of crisis in their advertising and communications when they are occurring.”
In the wake of the Uvalde shooting, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays paused their social media game coverage and instead used their social channels to share information about gun violence.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 26, 2022
They went all-in on this, not holding anything back.
Firearms were the leading cause of death for American children and teens in 2020.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 26, 2022
While your regular content is on pause, take the time to learn about what’s happening beyond the headlines so you can take a meaningful stance followed up with concrete action.
That action component is critical in terms of garnering support for your activism rather than backlash.
Before returning to regular programming, consider how your campaigns and content will resonate within the larger context.
- Try to profit from your support. Social movements are not marketing opportunities, and customers will call out actions your brand takes that appear motivated by anything other than good faith.
2. Listen to your customers (and employees)
It’s normal for emotions to run high during social justice and human rights movements. But those in-the-moment spikes can lead to long-term changes in how people feel and behave – and how they expect companies to behave.
70% of members of Generation Z say they are involved in a social or political cause. And they expect brands to join them. More than half (57%) of Gen Z says brands can do more to solve societal problems than governments can, and 62% say they want to work with brands to address those issues.
But the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer found consumers don’t think brands are doing enough to address social change.
Source: Edelman 2022 Trust Barometer
Use social listening to better understand how your audience is feeling. Understanding the broader perspective allows you to express empathy and solidarity with negative sentiments, then rally your audience around positive sentiments with strong calls to action.
This could include rallying followers to share messages, sign petitions, or match donations. Sometimes it’s as simple as acknowledging how people feel in the context of social upheaval, such as Aerie’s ongoing advocacy for mental wellness – in this case, literally giving followers tools for combatting anxiety and improving mental health.
- Dismiss emotions or police tone. People typically have legitimate reasons to feel what they feel.
3. Be honest and transparent
Before posting anything in support of a cause, reflect on your company history and culture. That might mean looking at the diversity of your teams, re-evaluating non-environmental practices, assessing the accessibility of your marketing, and more.
While difficult, it’s important to have honest internal conversations about company values and changes you may need to make. If you’re not honest, you’re going to have problems with social media activism.
Admitting past mistakes is the first way to show that your company means what it says. Be upfront about anything that goes against your current position. Without doing this, your social activism will ring hollow—or worse, hypocritical. It could also prompt people to call you out.
Disney originally stayed silent in response to Florida’s “Dont Say Gay” bill, sending out an internal email of support for LGBTQ employees rather than making a public statement. That quickly became a problem for the company, as the hashtag #DisneyDoBetter took off and employees, creatives, and fans all shared their concerns about the weak stance as well as the company’s previous donations to supporters of the bill.
tl;dr: “We will continue to invite the LGBTQ+ community to spend their money on our sometimes-inclusive content while we support politicians working tirelessly to curtail LGBTQ+ rights.”
I’m a huge Disney fan as is well documented on this site. Even I say this statement is weak. https://t.co/vcbAdapjr1
— (((Drew Z. Greenberg))) (@DrewZachary) March 7, 2022
Within a few days, Disney had to acknowledge its mistake and make a lengthy public statement.
— Walt Disney Company (@WaltDisneyCo) March 11, 2022
Brands can either hold themselves accountable, or be held accountable. But don’t feel you need to be perfect before you can take a stand. For example, more than half of employees say CEOs should publicly speak out about racism as soon as the company has its own racial equity and diversity goals in place, with concrete plans to meet them.
- Hide internal issues and hope no one finds out about them – or hide behind internal communications. Internal emails can quickly go public when employee concerns are not addressed.
- Be afraid to be honest. Customers appreciate honesty. But Edelman found only 18% of employees trust their company’s head of DEI to be honest about racism within the organization. If your employees can’t trust you, how can customers?
4. Be human
Humanize your communication efforts. People can and do see through inauthentic behavior.
Overused phrases and carefully calibrated language tend to make company statements look templated. (Thoughts and prayers, anyone?) Be considerate in what you want to say, but throw out the corporate jargon and canned content. Be real.
Edelman found that 81% of respondents to the 2022 Trust Barometer expect CEOs to be personally visible when talking about work their company has done to benefit society.
When then-Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier spoke out about voting rights, the company posted his comments on their social accounts.
— Merck (@Merck) March 31, 2021
Yes, this is a statement that has likely gone through lawyers and other corporate messaging professionals. But it’s clear and does not hold back. And Frazier has repeatedly proven his ability to unite business leaders in social action. He’s talked about his values and how the issues on which he chooses to take a stand align with corporate values.
He told the Albert and Mary Lasker foundation that when he stepped down from President Trump’s Business Council after the President’s remarks about events in Charlottesville, he spoke to the Merck board about whether he should present it as a strictly personal decision or include mention of the company.
“I’m very proud to say that my board unanimously said, ‘No, we actually want you to speak to the company’s values, not just your personal values,’” he said.
- Just say what everyone else is saying. It needs to come from your company.
- Worry about keywords, irrelevant hashtags, or algorithms. Say the right thing, not the highest ranking thing.
5. Make your stance clear and consistent
When you do share a message in support of a cause, ensure that message leaves no room for ambiguity. Don’t leave people asking questions or filling in the blanks for you.
The gold standard for clear brand positioning comes from ice cream brand Ben and Jerry’s. They are consistent and vocal in their support of racial and social justice.
Consumers want your stance on important issues to be clear before they make a purchase. That means taking a stand in your social content and ads, but also on your website, so the message is consistent when someone clicks through to learn more or buy.
- Try to have it all or do it all. Speak to the causes that matter most to your brand and your employees, so you can be consistent and authentic.
People want to hear how brands are tackling issues beyond social media.
It’s one thing to post a message in support of Ukraine. But it’s action that really counts. More than 40% of consumers boycotted businesses that continued to operate in Russia after the invasion. On social, both #BoycottMcDonalds and #BoycottCocaCola were trending in early March, until the companies finally ceased Russian operations.
@CocaCola is refusing to pull out of Russia – outrageous and disgusting decision. I will NOT be adding to their profits (and I am particularly partial to Costa Coffee) and i would encourage others to boycott too. #BoycottCocaCola #Ukraine️ pic.twitter.com/tcEc6J6sR1
— Alison (@senttocoventry) March 4, 2022
Show that your company is actually taking action. Which organizations are you donating to, and how much? Will you make regular contributions? How is your brand actually doing good within communities? What steps are you taking toward a more ethical production process and supply chain? Be specific. Share receipts.
For example, when Dove launched its #KeepTheGrey campaign to draw attention to ageism and sexism in the workplace, the brand donated $100,000 to Catalyst, an organization that helps create more inclusive workplaces.
Age is beautiful. Women should be able to do it on their own terms, without any consequences 👩🏼🦳👩🏾🦳Dove is donating $100,000 to Catalyst, a Canadian organization helping build inclusive workplaces for all women. Go grey with us, turn your profile picture greyscale and #KeepTheGrey pic.twitter.com/SW5X93r4Qj
— Dove Canada (@DoveCanada) August 21, 2022
And when the makeup brand Fluide celebrated Trans Day of Visibility, they highlighted diverse trans models while committing to donate 20% of sales during the campaign to Black Trans Femmes in the Arts.
- Make empty promises. Edelman’s 2022 special report on business and racial justice found more than half of Americans think companies are not doing a good job meeting their promises to address racism. If you can’t live up to your promises, you’re better off not to make them in the first place.
7. Ensure your actions reflect your company culture
Similar to point #3, practice what you preach. If your brand promotes diversity on social media, your workplace should be diverse. If you promote environmentalism, you should use sustainable practices. Otherwise, it’s not social activism. It’s performative allyship or greenwashing. And people notice: Twitter saw a 158% increase in mentions of “greenwashing” this year.
One way to ensure your activism aligns with your culture is to choose causes that connect to your brand purpose. In fact, 55% of consumers say it’s important for a brand to take action on issues that relate to its core values and 46% say brands should speak about social issues directly related to their industry.
For example, the sexual wellness brand Maude has an ongoing campaign promoting inclusive #SexEdForAll.
Offering real calls for action and donating a percentage of profits from their Sex Ed For All capsule collection, they work in partnership with the Sexual Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) to promote inclusive sex education.
That said, your brand purpose may not have an obvious connection to social causes. That doesn’t mean you can opt out of the conversation.
Source: Twitter Marketing
Responsible corporate culture should be first and foremost about doing the right thing. But know that over time, it will actually improve your bottom line. Diverse companies are more profitable and make better decisions.
- Take too long to follow through on commitments. Your customers are watching and waiting.
8. Plan for good and bad responses
Before your brand takes a stance on social media, prepare for feedback.
The aim of social activism is often to disrupt the status quo. Not everyone will agree with your position. Customers may applaud your brand, while others will be critical. Many will be emotional. And unfortunately, some commenters may be abusive or hateful.
Brands taking a stand in the face of the overturning of Roe v. Wade faced abusive comments on their social posts.
Benefit did all the right things on this post by stating the actions they were taking, showing how the cause related to their core values, and linking to partners who are experts in the work.
That said, they still faced comments that could be very triggering for their social team to see coming in, especially anyone impacted by their own abortion or fertility experiences.
Expect an influx of messages and equip your social media managers with the tools they need to handle them. That includes mental health support—especially for those who are directly impacted by the movement you are supporting.
Consider the following do’s and don’ts:
- Review your social media guidelines and update as needed.
- Clearly define what constitutes abusive language and how to handle it.
- Develop a response plan for frequently asked questions or common statements.
- Be human. You can personalize responses while sticking to the script.
- Hold relevant training sessions.
- Apologize for past actions, when necessary.
- Adapt your strategy for different audiences on different social media platforms.
- Disappear. Remain present with your audience, even if they are upset with you.
- Delete comments unless they are abusive or harmful. Don’t tolerate hate.
- Be afraid to admit that you don’t have all the answers.
- Make it the responsibility of your followers to defend their basic human rights.
- Take too long to respond. Use tools like Mentionlytics to keep track of messages.
9. Diversify and represent
Diversity shouldn’t just be a box your brand checks during Pride month, Black History Month, or on International Women’s Day. If you support LGBTQ rights, gender equality, disability rights, and anti-racism, show that commitment throughout the year.
Make your marketing inclusive. Build representation into your social media style guide and overall content strategy. Source from inclusive stock imagery from sites like TONL, Vice’s Gender Spectrum Collection, and Elevate. Hire diverse models and creatives. Remember that just about every movement is intersectional.
Most important: Listen to people’s voices rather than simply using their faces. Shayla Oulette Stonechild is not only the first Indigenous global yoga ambassador for Lululemon, but she’s also on the company’s Vancouver-based committee for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Open your platform up to takeovers. Amplify unique voices. Build meaningful relationships with a broader group of influencers and creators. You’ll likely grow your audience and customer base as a result.
- Stereotype. Don’t cast people in roles that perpetuate negative or biased stereotypes.
- Let abusive comments go unchecked after spotlighting someone. Be prepared to offer support.
10. Keep doing the work
The work doesn’t stop when the hashtag stops trending.
An important point to not forget. This is not the time to divest from purpose and inclusivity in marketing, it’s actually the time to dive deeper into those commitments— and truly great marketers should be able to both show ROI AND center purpose https://t.co/8w43F57lXO
— God-is Rivera (@GodisRivera) August 3, 2022
Commit to ongoing social activism and learning. Continue educating your brand and your employees and sharing helpful information with social media users who follow your brand.
Champion the cause offline, too. Perform non-optical allyship. Look for ways to support long-term change. Become a mentor. Volunteer. Donate your time. Keep fighting for equity.
- Think of brand activism as “one and done.” One supportive post isn’t going to cut it. If you’re going to wade into the waters of digital activism, be prepared to stay there for the long term.
Schedule messages and connect with your audience on social media using Hootsuite. Post to and monitor multiple social networks from one dashboard. Try it free today.
How Brands Can Support Indigenous Communities on Social—the Right Way
There is a growing interest among businesses, large and small, to add their voices to the nationwide acknowledgment of the trauma inflicted upon Indigenous children at Canada’s Indian Residential Schools.
This was amplified in 2021 with the location of nearly a thousand unmarked graves at sites of the now-shuttered institutions—and we know thousands more have yet to be discovered.
On National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, it’s important for Indigenous people (and, frankly, for non-Indigenous people) to see businesses and brands honour those who lost their lives through the 165-year program of assimilation.
It’s also important for us as Indigenous people to see them pay tribute to those who survived their years at the notorious schools.
But deploying the hashtag #TruthAndReconciliation or #EveryChildMatters can be a risky undertaking. There are many ways to make a well-meaning blunder that will prompt eye rolls throughout Indigenous Canada or, worse, to accidentally post something that’s outright offensive.
That’s why I wrote this blog post. I’m a Métis woman and lawyer who has been the CEO of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), the largest organization representing Indigenous women in Canada, since 2017.
I, and other Indigenous women who follow social media, brace ourselves as September 30 rolls around, waiting for the inevitable ham-fisted attempt by non-Indigenous actors to be part of the commemoration.
Please don’t misunderstand. We want you to be there with us as we grieve and as we remember and as we honour. We just want you to do so respectfully. So here are some guidelines.
What is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation? How is it different from Orange Shirt Day? And what should we call it on social media?
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was declared by the Canadian government in 2021, after the graves were found at Indian Residential Schools.
(Please note: “Indian Residential Schools” is the official name for the schools and a construct of the colonial mindset of 19th Century Canada. In any other context, the word Indian is extremely offensive when used to refer to the Indigenous people of Turtle Island.)
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a day for honouring the victims and celebrating the survivors of the schools. And it’s a federal statutory holiday, so it applies to all federally regulated workplaces. But it’s been left to provinces and territories to choose whether it is marked within their own jurisdictions.
We note that it took Canada’s federal Liberal government (which came to power in 2015 promising to act on all 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission) nearly seven years to meet the relatively simple Call Number 80. It urged the creation of the holiday “to ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
There is no doubt that the discovery of the graves—which the Truth and Reconciliation report said would be found if an effort was made to look for them—bolstered public support for such a day.
September 30 should be thought of as our Remembrance Day, and it should be referred to by its official name: the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Any other name fails to communicate the sombreness of the occasion, just as it minimizes Remembrance Day to call it Poppy Day.
September 30 is also Orange Shirt Day, reminding us of the day in 1973 when six-year-old Phyllis Webstad from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation arrived at the St. Joseph Mission Residential School, just outside Williams Lake, B.C.
She was wearing a vibrant orange shirt her grandmother bought her to match her excitement for her first day of school. But the shirt was immediately taken from her by school authorities and never returned—an event that marked the beginning of the year of atrocities and torment she experienced at the institution.
We wear orange shirts on September 30 as a reminder of the traumas inflicted by residential schools. If you’re specifically referring to Phyllis’ story on social media, then it is appropriate to call it Orange Shirt Day.
But the holiday is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and should be referred to as such.
Speaking of terminology, when is it appropriate to refer to someone as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit, and when is it appropriate to refer to someone as Indigenous?
First up, here’s what those different terms actually mean:
- First Nations: The largest Indigenous group in Canada, these are members of the 634 First Nations spread across the country
- Métis: A distinct group of people who have an ancestral connection to a group of French Canadian traders and Indigenous women who settled in the Red River Valley of Manitoba and the Prairies
- Inuit: The Indigenous people of the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions
- Indigenous: The First Peoples of North America whose ancestors were here before the arrival of the Europeans
Next, where to use them: It’s always best to be as specific as you possibly can when describing us on social media.
Here’s a quick reference on the best way to refer to Indigenous individuals:
- Reference the person’s specific first nation and its location
- Reference the person’s nation and ethno-cultural group
- Reference their ethno-cultural group
- Refer to them as First Nations, Mètis, or Inuit
- Refer to the person as Indigenous
So, if someone is a Cree from the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi, say that. Second best would be to call them a Waswanipi Cree. Third best would be to call them a Cree. Fourth best would be to call them a First Nations member.
And fifth best would be to call them Indigenous, which is a catch-all phrase that includes all First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. But it also includes all Indigenous people around the world. The Māori of New Zealand are Indigenous.
Saying someone is Indigenous is like calling a Chinese person Asian. It’s true. But it misses a lot of detail.
If you don’t know how best to describe someone, ask us. Preferences vary from individual to individual.
But please, despite the fact that my organization is called the Native Women’s Association of Canada, which is a holdover from a much earlier time (NWAC was formed in 1974), please do not call Indigenous people ‘native.’
At NWAC, our hashtag for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is #RememberHonourAct. We think those are good guidelines for everyone—individuals and businesses alike—on September 30 and, indeed, year-round.
Remember the survivors of the residential schools, honour them, and act to strengthen the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
If yours is a local business, pay tribute to the Indigenous people in your area. Acknowledge their traditional territory. Recognize that your operations are taking place on the land that they have shared with you, and that you and your employees are benefitting from that.
If you are a national brand, turn the spotlight back on the First Nations communities. Highlight the achievements and the contributions that First Nations people have made to Canadian prosperity.
Yes, September 30 is a sombre day of remembrance. But we don’t want pity. We want acknowledgments of past wrongs and promises that they will not be repeated, but we also want to embrace the promise of a better future in which Indigenous people can enjoy prosperous and happy lives free of historical trauma.
There are other sombre days.
Less than a week after the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Indigenous women across Canada will gather at Sisters in Spirit Vigils to honour the women, girls, and gender-diverse people who have lost their lives in the ongoing genocide that targets us for violence. This is an annual event created to give support and comfort to the families and friends who have been left to mourn their loved ones.
On February 14, Valentine’s Day, annual Women’s Memorial Marches are held in cities and towns across Canada and the United States. They too are meant to honour Indigenous women and girls who have been murdered or who have gone missing.
And on May 5, we mark Red Dress Day, a day on which red dresses are hung in windows and in public spaces around Canada, again to honour the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
But there are also joyous occasions.
Although there is not a specific date set aside, summer is the time for gathering. It is powwow season. Fall is the time that we traditionally rejoice in the bounty of the hunt.
On June 21, the Summer Solstice, we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day. This is a day for rejoicing in our heritage, our diverse cultures, and the contributions that Indigenous people are making to the complex fabric of Canadian life.
The most egregious examples of brand behaviour around the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation are attempts to monetize our pain for financial gain.
If you own a clothing company, please don’t print a batch of orange shirts and sell them for profit. And don’t promote the sales of your shirts on social media. This happens every year and it is offensive in the extreme.
On the other hand, printing and selling orange shirts and then turning the profits over to Indigenous causes is a wonderful gesture of support.
And it’s not just the small brands that are doing this. Walmart, for instance, promises to donate 100% of the profits from its Every Child Matters t-shirts, which have been designed by an Indigenous artist, to the Orange Shirt Society.
Be the brand that does something like that.
In all of your social media posts, be mindful that this is our history. Every Indigenous person in Canada has been touched by the residential school experience, whether or not we or our ancestors attended one of the institutions. Be mindful of the traumas that can be brought to the fore with a thoughtless twist of words.
And again, Indigenous people are at a place where we don’t need or want pity. We need people to celebrate our accomplishments. We need to feel part of a society that is eager to include us.
What opportunities are there for intersections between Indigenous people and other social movements?
In a simple word: lots.
If there is a social justice issue being championed—whether that is Pride in the gender-diverse community, or climate justice, or prisoners’ rights, or racial equality—you’ll find Indigenous people at the forefront.
My organization is an example of that. We have whole units of staff working on all of those things.
Reach out to us, or other national Indigenous organizations (we list a few later on), to ask about ways you can get involved, projects you can promote, and causes you can stand behind.
This is a prime opportunity to collaborate with Indigenous creators who are passionate about the larger social issue at hand.
Find them and ask them. There are plenty out there. Any search engine will quickly turn up hundreds of names of Indigenous content creators and influencers, and many will be eager to collaborate with you.
Here are some examples of places to look:
- TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators
- APTN Profile of Indigenous Creators
- PBS Article on Indigenous Creators
- TeenVogue Roundup of Indigenous Creators
- CBC Profile on Indigenous Creators
Most of the National Indigenous Organizations are looking for partners. We, at NWAC, have terrific partnerships with brands like Sephora, Hootsuite, and TikTok.
Applications for the TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators are now open! Indigenous creators, apply by September 15 💫
But there are also smaller groups out there who would be delighted to hear from you.
One example that immediately springs to mind is Project Forest in Alberta which is working in partnership with Indigenous communities to restore sacred lands so that medicinal plants and native species will thrive again in First Nations communities.
There is also a range of organizations that are working tirelessly to improve the lives of the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit.
I would point to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, Susan Aglukark’s Arctic Rose Foundation, The Martin Family Initiative, or the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.
Those are just a few. And of course, there is NWAC—we work tirelessly for the well-being of Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit and gender-diverse people.
What are some examples of brands that are supporting and/or highlighting Indigenous communities the right way?
Many brands are doing things right. I will again mention beauty company Sephora partnered with the NWAC to run a roundtable on Indigenous beauty to find out where they could improve. And they’ve acted on their learnings.
TikTok, likewise, has taken the time to reach out to us to ask for guidance on how to get engaged with Indigenous people and communities. And, over the past few years, we have worked closely with Hootsuite, providing advice and information.
But others are also making great strides.
I would point to the National Hockey League which has been unreservedly vocal in denouncing the racism directed at Indigenous hockey players. The Calgary Flames opened their season with a land acknowledgement.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) September 29, 2021
This would not have happened 10, or maybe even five, years ago. But society is changing, corporate behaviour is changing, the world is changing. And social media has had, and will have, much to do with that.
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