The current question on every social media manager’s lips (at the request of their brand or organisation) is ‘how do we make our digital channels more inclusive?’
I’m a firm believer that you can’t simply ‘switch on’ inclusivity. Nor, should brands even attempt to if they want to develop and retain credibility.
There’s no perfect criteria to achieve and there are no set tick-boxes to check against. It’s all about digital marketers continuously improving how they share people’s stories. Sometimes the context will set the scene (who the individual is); other times the outcome will help to ‘hero’ the success story; and occasionally the solution is to hand over the channels to let people share directly.
Working in this space, we should all strive to do better. Thinking you’re at the top of your game is a dangerous place to be – your next destination is always complacency, followed by laziness. And, that just won’t do.
Here are my six tips for embedding equality, diversity and inclusivity (EDI) themes across your digital communications.
- Create a culture-led editorial calendar: From Chinese New Year and Black Music Month to Equal Pay Day and LGBT History Month, there are plenty of opportunities to ‘lean in’ to relevant awareness days by advocating your brand’s employees, volunteers or beneficiaries to show social media followers why these days matter to your organisation. It’s also a useful way to start a positive conversation.
- Ask your online community for recommendations: As social media managers, we’re not here for the hard sell (most of the time). We have more fun interacting with our audience. So, why not encourage them to shape your approach by asking followers for content suggestions? We’re not talking labour-intensive qualitative YouGov surveys here. Questions, quizzes and sliding scales on Instagram Stories can be a great way to temperature check how people are feeling and provides helpful food for thought.
- Research appropriate hashtags to support your online conversations: Don’t expect people to come to you looking for EDI content; join current conversations by using hashtags to ensure your stories are discovered. Think #RepresentationMatters, #DiversityMatters, #LGBTQ and #DisabilityAwareness (some of the most popular diversity hashtags on Instagram right now). Just be sensible. Ensure your content is relevant and don’t manipulate or exploit any hashtags for your own gain. It’s also useful to do adequate ‘on the spot’ research to ensure the hashtags aren’t trending for the wrong reasons. In addition to this, it pays to stay in tight conversation with your Communications team. Some hashtags are unofficial political statements in disguise and you need to be clear that your organisation can ‘go there’. A paper trail is helpful to understand the decision-making process. But don’t assume that because you’ve used it once, you have licence to use it again and again.
- Catch people’s attention with an updated logo or cover image: Brand consistency is important come rain or shine, but there is scope to be savvy and show followers how you feel about certain subjects without using words. Refreshing your brand logo or creating a series of cover images that you regularly get into the habit of updating (over and above campaigns) is a subtle way of showcasing who you are, what you believe in and who you work with. However, think carefully about which causes you support (even if no-one asks, have a prepared rationale) and be fair. If you’re willing to push the envelope for one section of society, is there a reason why you can’t embrace another?
- First-person storytelling: You may have a bank of approved case studies ready to go, but don’t always fall into the trap of using the third person because you have consent. Strive for first-person content and plan accordingly so you can update stories based on new developments or the latest trends – to truly represent individuals or groups.
- Make the most of emoji: Now, as a mixed-race individual, I’m proud that I get to use the mid-range skin tone thumbs up (most used) 👍🏽, hand clap (sometimes used) 👏🏽 and bi-racial Santa Claus (used for festive or ironic purposes only) 🎅🏽. It’s a quick-win for me to demonstrate diversity with my online community. But, it isn’t a tool that should be abused to make up a shortfall as and when brands need to. Although Big Narstie doesn’t take offence to white people using black emoji (after all, at one point we were all using yellow versions because that’s all we had to express ourselves), others think it’s best people ‘stay in their lane’ to avoid insult – even going so far to label it as ‘digital blackface’ (a little intense for my liking). So, it’s safe to say the best advice I can give you is to think carefully. OK, OK! You don’t have time to think too long and hard about it otherwise you’d never post or gram anything. But, how does it make you feel? Could you explain your judgement call without breaking a sweat? To many, they won’t give it the time of day. But to some, it’s personal. And it’s this group that matters.
With World Emoji Day approaching on 17th July, perhaps it’s an opportunity to plan something special that represents everyone in your organisation? Or, you can play it safe and just pay homage to the most popular emoji from the past 12 months. In 2019, it was ‘smiling face with hearts.’ 🥰
Where will you start to improve representation on your social media channels? Share examples where you can and tweet me on @dmhwhite.