Social advocacy is more than just a buzzword—it’s a key focus of marketing that every modern business needs to consider. Social advocacy is composed of two elements:
- Public conversations from your brand advocates, like customers, clients, employees, and loyal supporters about their perception or experiences with your organization.
- Messaging about current social and cultural issues that affect your community, industry, or audience.
Traditional advocacy marketing is the practice of turning brand advocates into ambassadors as a way of spreading positive word of mouth about your business. Social advocacy on the other hand isn’t about driving business results, it’s participating in important conversations, highlighting relevant issues, and showing that your brand is more than just a profit-focused entity.
The goal isn’t to raise brand awareness but rather raise awareness about causes. You can do this with your own messaging and by promoting content from your audience. Consider the data and a few key ideas to weave social advocacy into your marketing strategy.
Why Social Advocacy Is Important
We don’t live in a vacuum. As a business leader, it’s not wise to use your platform just to promote your product and service while ignoring societal and cultural issues. In our complex and evolving world, participating in and commenting on current affairs builds trust within your community. It shows authenticity and sincerity in your marketing and customers and clients want to engage with genuine brands.
The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer found that business is now the most trusted institution (more so than NGOs, government, or media). With this position comes responsibility. Edelman found:
- 86 percent of people think CEOs should publicly speak out about societal challenges
- 53 percent of people believe that when news media is absent, corporations are responsible for filling an information void
Prioritizing social advocacy is critical if you want to keep up with competitors and build trust with the evolving consumer.
How to Incorporate Social Advocacy Authentically
Before embarking on new strategies, it’s critical to know what social advocacy isn’t. This isn’t the time to advertise your services or products.
When including social advocacy topics in your marketing, it can’t fall back on traditional marketing strategies, like sales-forward copy or brand-focused messaging. Instead, you need to focus on moving the conversation forward in a meaningful manner.
Here are some ways to authentically shape your brand’s messaging to include social advocacy the right way:
- Instead of your typical CTA, highlight tools, resources, or organizations related to the cause you’re discussing.
- Don’t over-promote what your business is doing. You can share that your company donated to a non-profit, but that shouldn’t be the entire message. Encourage others to get involved and offer them the resources to do so.
- If needed, acknowledge your company’s past missteps or inaction and outline future steps you’ll take to change.
Bottom line, social advocacy isn’t an opportunity to promote your business; it’s a way to enter the conversation and use your platform to point a spotlight on important issues that impact your community.
How Bring Social Advocacy Into Your Marketing
You don’t have to rethink your entire marketing strategy. Instead, blend social advocacy themes into your current messaging, content and marketing efforts with these four simple strategies. If you’re not sure how to start, take your lead from some examples of brands that are doing it right.
1. Highlight Your Community’s Experiences
Partner with social advocates to create and share compelling content. When highlighting an issue, find an employee or team member with direct experience with it and share their story. For example, as a part of Black History Month, Starbucks elevated Black voices by sharing employee stories on their social media accounts.
Even if you don’t have as many team members as large corporations like Starbucks, you can still ask relevant employees and followers to share. For example, Shopify asked its community to share their favorite Asian-owned business for Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Heritage Month.
2. Host Social Media Takeovers
Work with one of your social advocates on a social media takeover. Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month, Netflix gave their Instagram reigns to actress Jessie Mei Li, to share her unique point of view and directly engage with their community. Communicating via your community members who deal with the issues you’re spotlighting allows you to bring an authentic and candid approach to the conversation.
3. Go Live or Interview Thought Leaders
Going live on your platform or conducting interviews are two effective ways to allow for meaningful dialogue. Your community can interact in real-time and, when done on social media, it also lives in your feed for years to come. Take a look at Power of World Women’s Instagram live interview about female body empowerment for some inspiration.
4. Spotlight Changemakers
Celebrate the accomplishments of your fellow colleagues who are making waves in the world. Represent a broad range of your audience by highlighting changemakers who are both in your company and outside of it.
Note how media company, Hello Sunshine, created a post of all the Oscar winners that made history at this year’s awards. Are those people on the Hello Sunshine payroll? Not necessarily. But they are pioneers that can offer inspiration to other underrepresented creatives and are relevant to their industry and community.
Silence Isn’t An Option—Social Advocacy is Necessary
A majority of consumers (70 percent) want brands to take a stand on social and political issues, according to Sprout Social. Yet you need to be authentic. That same survey found 53 percent of consumers believe brands take a stand for PR or marketing purposes.
Social advocacy is only effective and successful when you truly care and communicate about current issues that impact your business and community. Don’t wait for storms to pass or avoid hot-button topics. Your community expects you to sincerely participate in the conversation, and not just because it’s good for business.