As Platforms Face Their Demons, Here’s How Brands Can Rethink Their Social Media Strategies

The past few weeks have been a tumultuous time for some of the internet’s biggest social media giants.

A recent Twitter hack put the reputation of major world figures at risk by hijacking their platforms to promote a fraudulent Bitcoin scam. Two weeks later, Twitter announced that it had culled thousands of accounts involved in a conspiracy theory spreading false accusations and misleading information about coronavirus. Led by a coalition of civil rights groups including the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the #StopHateForProfit movement last month encouraged advertisers to boycott the Facebook platform for its lack of hate speech moderation. In response, Facebook has implemented changes in its news algorithm and is increasing brand safety standards. But more, and bigger changes, are on the horizon.

According to a recent study, 90% of marketers see a revenue impact from social media, and many brands rely on these platforms not only for advertising, but to build credibility and trust for their brands. Nonetheless, the speed at which these platforms change and respond to issues on their platforms provide constant challenges for decision makers looking to leverage their positions in social media to relate to customers and clients. Here are a few tips from Brownstein’s Social Media Team on how you can adapt to the rapidly changing social media landscape in the midst of global current events to ensure brand success.


1: Understand the Context Behind Recent Changes

The past few months have been a critical time for the presence of online brands. Current global events have sent social media plans back to the drawing board as brands evaluate how they respond to civil unrest and the pandemic, as well as whether or not equity and inclusion play an integral part in their messaging. As brands and social media networks are forced to deal with these global shifts, they face increasing calls from consumers for ethical responsibility in their practices.

According to a recent study from SproutSocial, 70% of consumers say it’s important for brands to take a stand on social issues, and 67% of consumers say brands have the power to raise awareness on important public issues when they speak out on social media.



2. Research First, Act Second 

With these stats in mind, it might seem tempting to participate in the latest political conversations happening on social media. While there is a need to respond quickly to major events, don’t rush to respond or jump on a trend without fully understanding its roots. Think of the Instagram black boxes or the new #ChallengeAccepted trends — often, there is much more behind these trends that needs to be critically assessed. Reflect on whether there is: 1) a legitimate call-to-action with positive results and 2) if participation in the particular trend will leave a genuine positive impact.

To stay informed on the technical aspects of social media, add social coverage into your daily news brief. New platforms, updates to old platforms, and innovative digital solutions make staying up to date with the landscape necessary. Add sites like Social Media Today and AdAge’s digital section into your daily reading and subscribe to newsletters.



3: Challenge the Brand Bureaucracy

A recent article published in the Harvard Business Review summarizes a larger, structural problem brands face when it comes to engaging with social media. According to author Douglas Holt, big companies tend to organize their social media marketing through “brand bureaucracies” —  conservative social media processes that excel at planning and executing complex marketing programs, but stifle innovation.

It’s this same kind of bureaucratic thinking that also prevents brands from finding creative solutions, and appropriate responses, to changing developments in social media. In order to gauge these changes, change course, and build longstanding trust among their audiences, brands need to engage with strategic partners who have the resources to quickly interpret and respond to immediate threats to security and reputation, as well as the evolving expectations of social media users.