Tips for Engaging with Social Movements as a Brand

ISM Social Movements

Gone are the days of social media networks simply being fun places to post pictures, emo song lyrics, and connect with friends (or make them upset by not putting them in your Top 8 on MySpace). Social media is now a massive world full of brand advertising, memes, news, influencers, and even movements to demand social change. Because of how it’s grown, brands should be extremely careful about what they choose to engage with. To help determine this, here are some tips for engaging with social movements as a brand:

Listen Before You Act

The first thing you should do before involving your brand in a social movement is to listen to what is being said. What’s the sentiment? Who is supporting this movement? Do thorough research on what EXACTLY the movement means, what the goals are, where and how it started, etc. Once you have gathered all the information, gather a diverse team to determine whether or not you think this movement is something that makes sense for your brand to engage with and what your angle will be.

Be Genuine

The most important part of deciding whether or not to engage with a social movement is to figure out how it’s relevant to your brand. If there is a clear tie-in to the ethos of your brand, you have a better chance of successfully entering the conversation. Your involvement has to be genuine and authentic or you’re setting your brand up for a potential disaster.

Cosmetics brand The Body Shop does a great job involving themselves in social movements geared towards the environment and animal rights. This is a natural fit for them because their brand has always been involved in this type of work. While some of these subjects aren’t as polarizing, others like climate change can get very politically charged, especially in more recent years. If they weren’t proactively doing things to enact change, their involvement in certain movements wouldn’t work and they’d be opening themselves up for backlash.

Don’t Try to Make a Profit

As a brand, everything you put out on social media is considered marketing. No matter what you’re saying in the post, it’s technically an ad for your brand, even if it’s not pushing a certain product or service. When involving your brand in a social movement, you have to be very careful with how you approach your involvement. Selling products to support a movement is a risky move, as a lot of people won’t see it as genuine. If you give 100% of the proceeds of those products to an organization that is directly tied to the movement, you lessen your risk for backlash. Even then, some people see this is disingenuous and accuse brands of using the movement to make a profit. Hard Candy learned this lesson with their #MeToo product line. They made the mistake of trying to trademark the hashtag and created a line with that same name, later saying they had planned to donate 100% of the proceeds, but people weren’t happy. They felt like Hard Candy was trying to promote sales using a serious movement centered around supporting survivors of sexual assault and ending sexual violence.

Don’t Be a Hypocrite

Finally, if you determine that your brand has a genuine and altruistic reason to engage with a social movement, make sure you aren’t being hypocritical. For instance, if you want to get involved in #EqualPayDay, a movement promoting equal pay for women and people of color, you better make sure your company is doing their part to have equal pay itself, or you’re going to get called out. Starbucks recently announced that they have 100% gender and racial pay equity for employees performing similar work. They would be less likely to get backlash for involving themselves in this movement because they’re actually doing something to further the mission and goals of the movement.


Overall, involving your brand in a social movement has some huge risks associated with it. Make sure you’re being genuine, fully understand the movement, and aren’t being hypocritical when engaging to mitigate a negative response.

Need help strategizing your brand’s social media involvement? We’re here to help.

Ignite Social Media