Many brands are getting involved in social issues and the idea that it’s something reserved for the elite has swiftly gone out of style. Today, it isn’t about perpetuating a vanity project that hopes to tug at the heartstrings of consumers. It’s about standing up for issues that are at the core of a brand.

But do consumers want their favourite brands to stand up for social issues? According to Accenture, 62% of consumers want businesses to take a stand on social, environmental, cultural, and political issues and 65% revealed that they would be likely to purchase from a company that did back a cause they supported.

Plus, today’s consumers aren’t as passive as they used to be about social issues. They’re more vocal and want businesses to engage and take initiative in driving real social change. It seems that businesses that take a stand on social issues generally do better—at least in terms of the number of consumers they attract.

While having a social cause your business is passionate about is a good start, how you communicate it to your audience is equally important. So where do you do it? Research states that 58% of consumers want brands to use social media to convey their activism. So how can brands address social issues on social media? Here are a few ideas we think will help you strike social media gold.

Don’t overlook Millenials and Gen Z

A Gallup study revealed that 77% of consumers aged 18-29 are more likely to consider it extremely important that businesses operate in an environmentally sustainable way and pay attention to long-term social impacts. Bodyform, a UK company that focuses on women’s intimate care products and is also an advocate of women’s health, unveiled the ‘Womb Series’.

The campaign shed light on issues that impacted women including infertility, endometriosis, and menopause. The video encouraged women to share their stories without judgement or fear of being believed. In many societies, even Western ones, there is a hesitation to encourage women to speak about their intimate health which may incite feelings of shame—precisely what Bodyform wanted to address.

The animation highlighted powerful images and gave a voice to the many untold stories of women’s bodies. The video generated a lot of buzz on social media with 1.1 million views on Instagram and over 3.4 million likes on X.

A campaign that dared to speak about a subject that is still considered taboo, is precisely what Millenials and Gen Z consumers want to see from their brands.

Have a track record on the cause you’re supporting

When it comes to tackling social issues on social media, you need to have a track record. Something that you’ve been working on for a while so it doesn’t seem like it’s something you pulled out of the air to stand toe-to-toe with everyone else who’s doing it.

Take Dove for example. Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign has made the brand synonymous with celebrating real women and saying goodbye to retouching and Photoshop. What struck a chord with the audience was the positive experience they brought to all women with the message that beauty was accessible to everyone. The campaign was such a huge success that within the first 10 years profits skyrocketed from USD 2.5 million to USD 4 billion.

Offer a link to your cause

If you’ve got a resource-intensive business or the cause you’ve chosen to stand up for is reducing waste, then sustainability is a great message to tackle on your social media. Donations are leading the way that consumers think businesses can make a difference. This is why brands need to back a cause on a local or global scale.

One of the best examples of this is perhaps an Australian brand called ‘Who Gives a Crap’. The company manufactures eco-friendly toilet paper that they say is ‘good for your bum and good for the world’. Their goal? Use half of their profits to make sure that everyone has access to toilets and clean water within their lifetime. To achieve this they step into partnerships with non-profits like WaterAid to provide sanitation for millions around the world that need it.

Stand out from the crowd

There perhaps isn’t a better example of how not to go with the flow, than the myriad of brands that populated social media when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. While everybody in their respective marketing teams was feeling like they did some of their best work by connecting their brand with the pandemic and trying to be empathetic, it backfired—big time!

A Kantar study conducted on COVID-19 found that 74% of consumers believed that brands were exploiting the pandemic to push their brands.

The lesson here is that you shouldn’t run behind a generic message because everybody else is doing it. The social issues you stand up for should convey your unique perspective and give a voice to a cause that many feel passionate about but isn’t getting the attention it deserves.

A lot of consumers today are savvy and know when they’re being hustled. So it’s important to make sure that if you’re tackling any social issues on social media or anywhere else, you need to be sincere about how it ties in with what your company is trying to do, what’s important to your audience, and if it’s something that you’re fully committed to seeing through to the end.

Stand up for social issues on social media—the risk is worth the reward

Once your business adopts a social issue that’s driven by a strong social media management strategy, it’s going to have a significant influence on your customers and they’re going to watch closely.

According to Zendesk, 41% of consumers stated that their brand’s social media posts had a significant impact on how they shape their opinions on public issues.

While standing up for social issues on social media has its benefits, it also comes with its own set of risks. 55% of consumers say that they will discontinue the use of a brand or boycott it completely if they stand up for issues that consumers don’t believe in. 

So the goal isn’t to align your business with a cause, it’s to align it with a cause that reflects the values of your business and your consumers. It’s to be genuine in your fight for your cause and do it in a way that shifts public opinion. 

If you can get this right, then your brand could one day stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the big players who pioneered the art of rising for social causes and paving the way for many more businesses striving for the same.