Disney channel actor and producer Zendaya recently said “If people know your name, they should know it for a reason,” meaning, if you have a platform, you should use it for social good.
Zendaya is using her social media platform (she has nearly 47 million followers on Instagram alone) to speak up on political issues she cares about, including the right to protest by taking a knee, ending gun violence and eradicating the pay gap for women of color.
If you don’t have 46 million followers (how many of us do!?) you might be wondering how you could possibly make an impact, let alone use your social media platform for social good. Finding success on social media is never easy, but it is attainable, particularly if you follow in the footsteps of some social media success stories.
Here are three tips on how business owners and entrepreneurs can use social media for social good, inspired by some powerhouse women and businesses.
1. Create a strong brand identity
Over the past decade or so, Chelsea Handler has built a solid brand identity as a bold, fearless force. Often controversial — and never giving a f*ck — she is known for unabashedly speaking her mind.
The woman who built her platform by writing about her dalliances with vodka and her “horizontal life” has traded her Kardashian punchlines for political activism. Her brand has evolved but her no-holds-barred identity remains the same.
Handler recently left her Netflix talk show in order to focus on fighting for women’s rights and getting more women elected to public office. She’s using social media to accomplish both these goals — and succeeding.
Handler has continously been in the top 10 social media personalities — even hitting no. 1 a few times — in part due to her posts endorsing female political candidates and urging women to support each other.
You don’t get distinctions like that without having a strong brand identity.
Handler’s uncensored brand identity seeps through in every social media interaction, including those with her critics. When a Twitter user wrote to her to say “One thing America does NOT need is more women being elected,” Handler retweeted his words with some of her own: “This is exactly why we need more women. So, that comments like these are no longer made.”
This is exactly why we need more women. So, that comments like these are no longer made. https://t.co/OlxUrcGEYf
— Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) November 18, 2017
If you’re an introverted entrepreneur who shies away from conflict or adamantly opposes combining politics with business, you might be wondering what you can learn from Handler. It’s not about copying her personality; it’s about showcasing yours. When creating your own powerful brand, don’t stray from who you really are.
Handler’s personal branding works because it is unequivocally her. Don’t pretend to be a social butterfly if you’d rather spend your weekend at home in pajamas with a good book. Ask yourself who you are and how can you best showcase your traits to align with your business goals.
2. Be a good resource
A good social media marketing campaign involves providing helpful, interesting content to your audience. If all you do is link to your own content or automate “buy it now” sales pitches, your audience will likely tune out. Provide valuable, story-driven information, and you’ll have a happy, rapt audience.
The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, founded by Academy Award winning actor Geena Davis, uses social media to highlight the gender disparity both in front of and behind the camera in film and TV. In doing so, it’s established itself as the go-to resource for all content related to gender in media.
For instance, if you head to any of GDIGM’s social networks, you will find thoughtfully curated content related to women in media — from articles about Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, to articles about Eva Longoria developing a new family drama about immigrant mothers and statistics showing that women are slowly starting to get more directing gigs in television.
By thoughtfully curating content, GDIGM is able to get its message across — that women take up half the space on the planet and deserve to take up half the space in movie and TV credits — without shouting. By sharing reputable news stories about women in media, GDIGM allows its audience to see the lack of gender parity in film and TV as a legitimate problem without simply sharing statistics from its own website. Curating content allows GDIGM to be seen as an authority on gender in media rather than a company promoting its own research.
That said, GDIGM has shown itself to be an invaluable resource by spearheading its own research studies and presenting its findings to studio heads and entertainment executives in order to reduce the gender imbalance in film and TV. Which is a good lesson for entrepreneurs: If you don’t simply peddle your own content but instead combine it with useful curated content, your audience is much more likely to savor your material.
3. Make your audience part of your brand story
Actor and activist Ashley Judd uses her social media platform to speak out against misogyny and abuse of women. She is successful at both because she includes her audience in her brand story.
When Judd spoke out about being sexually harassed by Harvey Weinstein in the original New York Times exposé, she said, “Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.” She turned to social media to bring the conversation about sexual harassment out in the open with the hope that “women across all spaces and sectors and industries” would join together “and say basta — enough is enough.”
When Judd received rape and death threats on Twitter back in 2015 and wanted to write an article highlighting the abuse, her chief advisor told her not to, fearing the situation would be escalated and her life would be in added danger. She wrote the article anyway, believing that women needed her to use her platform to speak out against online harassment — and that women would in turn amplify her own voice, diluting the cacophonous chorus of abusive men. And she was right. Her article went viral and inspired a TED Talk in which she fiercely stated, “Online misogyny is a global gender rights tragedy and it is imperative that it ends.”
By being an ally for women — and by engaging with her audience — Judd has inspired an army of women to assist in her mission to make the world a safer, less misogynistic place.
— ashley judd (@AshleyJudd) December 7, 2017
If you’re an entrepreneur wondering how you can improve your social media strategy by following Judd’s lead, start by engaging with your audience. Judd regularly replies to people on Twitter, including adding them in her brand story.
For instance, when a man on Twitter wrote to her lamenting about the abuse women go though on a daily basis, she asked him if he’s checked out A Call To Men, an initiative working to “create a world where all men and boys are loving and respectful and all women and girls are valued and safe.” In doing so, Judd not only included him in her brand story, but gave him a call to action on point with her mission.
— ashley judd (@AshleyJudd) November 11, 2017
When another man on Twitter sent her “hypersexual, nasty stuff,” she wrote him back and asked if the girl in his profile picture is his daughter. If it is, she said,“I feel a lot of fear that you may think about and talk to women this way.” As Judd recounted in her TED Talk, “he surprised me by saying, “You know what? You’re right. I apologize.”
By engaging with your audience, you won’t always change people’s minds, but you’ll consistently make them feel included in your brand story. The more you engage with others, the more likely they’ll return the favor by commenting on, liking and sharing your posts. This is a fantastic way to expand your audience.