We’ve likely all heard the phrase “socially responsible” before, right? Usually, it’s used in conjunction with companies and the importance of being aware of their impact. But did you know that it can apply to your digital marketing too? How you come across is as vital as how you actually are, as typically bad impressions are a hard stain to rub off, especially now with social media and the fact that those stains can hang around for YEARS.
For example, a few days ago Wacom, (arguably THE company that makes drawing tablets for artists,) came under fire for using AI art in their digital marketing. Not only was it incredibly irresponsible (as there are many socio-economic controversies surrounding the use of AI instead of artists at the moment), but it was also incredibly tone deaf. After all, you’re marketing to artists. The very people who are losing jobs to AI currently and of course as a result, oppose it.
Naturally there was a mass outcry in response, with artists asking why they wouldn’t simply hire artists, their customer base, to be on the front of their marketing campaign for the new year. The fallout from it will likely be rather large for Wacom, for a long time.
The post has since been deleted and an apology put out, but sadly that did little to salve the wound. The issue is, once trust is lost, it is VERY difficult to get back. Nigh on impossible.
So, what is socially responsible marketing? And how can you ensure you don’t fall foul of the opposite as above?
What does it mean to be “socially responsible?”
Being honest is vital as a business in general, after all, dodgy dealings under a table aren’t entirely the best way to go about it. Be forthright in your dealings and ensure you offer value to your audience – be upfront about your products and services, what they entail, and market that accordingly.
Accept the consequences of your marketing practices, good and bad. Sometimes owning up to a mistake can make you look better than just shoving it under the rug. Really, you just shouldn’t be making big enough mistakes to warrant an apology in the first place. But hey, we’re human, and social media can be a wildfire at times.
What’s also important here is to serve the needs of all customer types. Be sure you’re not excluding a community, intentional or otherwise, as it could end up warranting that apology. If you do include a community or make them stand out, be sure to do your due diligence, research, and get all the facts right! Also, understand your customers, and don’t do or promote anything that could harm them.
Balance buyer needs and seller interest fairly. And avoid manipulating your audience in the process. Not only does sell, sell, sell, not get you anywhere as a business in general, it just smells wrong to your audience. Also, as we covered before, don’t manipulate people into buying your product or what it actually is. Be honest, you’ll save yourself a headache later down the line!
Always treat people respectfully online, as a user and as a business. If someone riles you up, take a step back and consider the worth of engaging with them at all – trust me when I say, some people do it for fun, for some reason. If you have others contributing to your marketing or work, acknowledge them too – people notice online if you leave them out, or don’t credit them for their work – do it, and not only will you build a relationship, but you’ll also avoid upsetting someone too.
And no, we don’t mean literally. What we mean is: be open about your business online all the way. This is also a great tactic to build a relationship with your customers too. Sure, it gives you nowhere to hide, but if you’re being the model socially responsible business that you are, you shouldn’t have anything to hide. And that’s the point. Customers don’t like feeling that there’s something weird going on behind the scenes, don’t give them a reason to think so.
What we mean here is – fulfil all your legal, social, economic, and political responsibilities online. As a company, or someone, with a following, we’re sorry to say that with that comes a responsibility. Sure, we’ve been there, sometimes it’s hard to be aware of yourself outside of your immediate plane – that follower number is, just that, a number – it’s hard to visualise once thousands begin following and interacting with you, but you do have influence. You need to utilise it responsibly. There’s plenty of rubbish going around online and misinformation, don’t use your influence to add to that pile.
A commitment to truth!
Sure, sometimes the truth can be controversial, sometimes it’s hard to talk about – but separating the fact from fiction and the truth from the lies has gotten ever more difficult online as of late. With the rampant rise in AI generation, deep fakes and just general misinformation spreading around, it is hard to bury down in an attempt to find the truth. But what can you do about it?
Being media literate online is vital, more so as a business. Don’t hop onto any news unless you know all the facts, and before you do post anything you feel could be adding to the rubbish, double check that it’s all correct. At the end of the day, if it isn’t relevant to you, your best bet is to stay out of anything controversial altogether. Good or bad. Getting the facts wrong could cost you dearly, and taking sides in an argument that IS controversial could lose you customers. Either way.
Remember, you’re a business, not a news outlet. But where you have to be, commit to being truthful, regardless of how you personally feel.
How do I encourage truthfulness?
In the cases where you do need to get involved in a conversation, ensure you commit to the truth. But how do you do this effectively? Because it’s not always as simple as it may seem-
Ask for the facts!
Ensure all “facts” are reviewed and that “opinions” are kept to a minimum. Sure, I might be upset about AI art, but I have to acknowledge that others may not be, and my own personal biases towards it cannot be allowed to affect how I treat others. What I can do is find the facts and present them calmly and thoughtfully. In response, I can ask for the same from the opposition. Remember, you’re representing your business here, not yourself.
Use reflection to override bias
You’re only human after all, and sometimes those biases can make us feel angry if someone doesn’t agree, all the more if that bias is quite personal to us. Instead of allowing yourself to resort to arguing, let any info sink in before you respond. Walk away if you have to, and you may even decide that it’s not worth responding to at all. Sometimes people bait for arguments, and knowing the difference truly is a skill you have to learn.
Psst, I’m not opposed deleting a comment that’s just breeding negativity for the sake of it!
Sometimes, engaging with people who don’t share your opinions can be quite enlightening! It’s no lie that social media has made us quite opinionated, after all, for the first time in history we have a worldwide platform where we can stand on a soapbox and let rip. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should though, and sometimes sitting and listening can be as helpful as the opposite. It can even make you a more rounded person and encourage you to view other perspectives before engaging in a negative way.
Get a “Devil’s Advocate”
Why not get someone to justify an opposite solution to a problem to encourage you to see another side to that problem? In business in general this is a great idea, as it will make you a more critical thinker all around. If you have something that’s not working, they’re great to have around to suggest another angle, perhaps in a way you may not have even considered!
Be open to criticism!
We know sometimes it’s hard to hear, but your ideas aren’t always the best ones, and your solutions aren’t always the right ones. Sometimes, you may even be…wrong! That’s okay though! What isn’t is not accepting that. As a human being you sadly aren’t perfect, you aren’t immune to mistakes, but honestly, that’s part of the fun of being human! You have the chance to get better!
What’s important here is to be picky about where you get your criticism from – not everyone will have your best interests in mind when they say that blog you wrote was rubbish – that and, it’s just not helpful. But if someone suggests a way you can improve something, take it on board, consider it, at least try it out. I’ve personally found 90% of the time, my ideas have been better for it!
So, social responsibility, it’s important right? It can have a huge impact on how your customers view you, how the internet views you and, at the end of the day, your business. But it’s not the terrifying mine field it appears to be, we promise.
If you know your audience well, it should be easy – stay in your lane, cater to their needs, and you won’t find yourself having to write an apology letter on X. We hope.