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Here’s How AARP, Refinery29, and MakeLoveNotPorn Are Overcoming The Social Media Paradox

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Panelists from AARP, MakeLoveNotPorn, and Refinery29 came together at #SMWNYC to discuss ways for using social media to help us make meaningful connections.

Social media has emerged as an incredibly democratic medium, in which brands and people from all walks of life can share their stories. With this great power comes great responsibility. How can we use social media to help us have meaningful conversations, connect with, and learn from one another?

In this panel, Cindy Gallop, Founder & CEO of MakeLoveNotPorn, Lydia Pang, Creative Director at Refinery29, and Patrice Woods Wildgoose, Social Media Brand Strategist at AARP, joined forces at #SMWNYC to share top three ways brands can use social media for good.

Create a Safe Space

To be viewed as a trustworthy and authentic brand, designing safe experiences on their channels should be top-of-mind. “The people who created social media platforms are not the primary targets of online and offline abuse, harassment, sexual assault, and violence. They don’t design for it,” explains Gallop. Her suggested exercise is to think about how you would build your own social platform. What does a safe and trustworthy space look like to you? How can you make that happen?

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The value of these safe spaces, when done right, is immeasurable. “I once went on a comment stream that was wonderful, warm, and constructive. I’d like to see more of that.” One method would be to immediately filter out and manage things you don’t want on that platform. “The more windows left broke, the more people who feel like they can vandalize the things around it. When you manage all that from the beginning, a safe community can flourish,” said Gallop.

By creating safe spaces, brands can attract the kind of positive and productive people who want to be there. “When people think ‘This is a safe place I can go,’ You’ll start seeing brand loyalty. Safe spaces are self-sustaining. People will bring even more like-minded people into the conversation,” added Pang.

Don’t Fake Authenticity

Diversity and Inclusion. It’s the hot buzzword that echoes through the corporate chambers of every brand. But how can we move past token inclusion and move towards authentic representation?

“Advertising is a very important shaper of perceptions, but it is also an ageist industry. When you do not have older people actually directing ads, what you get are clichés and stereotypes,” says Gallop. How can we avoid this?

Let them directly be involved. “You become inclusive when you want to be inclusive. Have older people create and produce the ads. Want to prevent female stereotypes? Have women create, produce, direct the ads.”

Although not as impactful as authentic representation, Tokenism can also drive inclusion the other way around for inexperienced brands. “If somebody’s thinking ‘We have to make sure women show up in this image! We have to find female speakers!’ You have to change the content once you change the optics. Starting from a superficial point can sometimes work backwards,” explains Gallop. 

Be Driven by Your Audience

Storytellers have an enormous responsibility to show up to work and make decisions that directly impact how consumers view their brand. “The people we chose to be involved, the representation decisions we make – We are reaching a place now where companies know their audience won’t buy from them unless they align with their belief systems.” said Pang.

This type of threat is healthy and allows authenticity to flourish. “Companies realize you can’t just tag onto a conversation, show up on International Women’s Day, and put pink on something. You can’t just have an epic 60 second TV ad and do nothing the next day. You need to do something meaningful.”

For brands that are nervous about entering into conversations, Pang recommends partnering with publications who have authority in that space. “Not every sneaker brand feels like they can show up on deep conversations. It’s important to drill down on brand truths.”

Pang summarizes it best when she says, “Silence is deadly. How are you going to show up every single day and impact culture instead of just selling a product?”

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