Last week, a post I wrote caught some serious flack on LinkedIn. It centered on J-Lo’s recent influencer marketing gaffe. The original title of that post: “It’s high time A-Rod gave J-Lo some influencer marketing advice.” After sharing it on LinkedIn, I received feedback from some female friends and colleagues that I have a lot of respect for–Candee Wolf and Gabby Nelson, as well as others. The message: You missed the mark on this one. More importantly, the post and tone came across demeaning and rude to women.
Originally, I wrote the post in a very straight-forward way–J-Lo had made a sizable influencer marketing mistake, which is very unlike her. And as I wrote it, I was trying to think of a way to add a creative twist to the post. My thought: Write it as if A-Rod was giving her influencer marketing advice. Clearly, this is ridiculous, since A-Rod is 1) Not all that well-liked, and 2) Doesn’t seem to know nearly as much about how to market yourself via social media as J-Lo does. Pure satire. At least, that was my thought.
Boy, did I miss the mark.
And, because of that, I offended women in our industry–including a number of friends. I am truly sorry.
But, with every failure (and man, this was a failure), there are lessons to learn:
Humor can come off tone-deaf
I was trying to have fun with how a dialog between A-Rod and J-Lo might look in real life. And, it came off as condescending and belittling. Lesson: always check to see if humor is actually reinforcing stereotypes. In this case, it was adding to the same rhetoric we are trying to pivot away from. And that is not funny. It’s tone-deaf. I was guilty of this and it was a hard, but very important, lesson for me.
Listen to your friends when they speak up
I’ll be honest: it was hard to hear from clients and friends that they were offended. I thought “they know me and they know I wouldn’t mean anything negative towards women!” After all, I highlight strong, smart, amazing women in my industry all the time on my blog. But, if those friends and colleagues wouldn’t have said anything in the comment stream of that post, I wouldn’t have learned this was an issue I needed to be aware of. And for that, I am grateful. I’m glad those friends spoke up.
Sometimes it’s OK to edit or delete
I’m usually hard-and-fast on the “do not delete” posts or comments mantra. After all, if you said it, you own it, right? But, I altered my original blog post because it was offensive. It wouldn’t be authentic of me to leave something up that wasn’t in line with my values. So I edited it. And, ultimately, I decided to delete the post altogether. It just didn’t feel like the point I was trying to make (around influencer marketing) was worth it in the grand scheme of things. What always matters to me is that I am contributing in a meaningful way, sharing a unique perspective, and adding to the collective good. After reflecting on this over the weekend, this post did not contribute to the collective good or contribute in a meaningful way. It reinforced stereotypes and the garbage that women (and men) are working so hard to eradicate. So, I took it down. I went against my rule–and I think it was the right thing to do (I only wish I would have done it sooner).
I would also normally advise clients to let the 24-hour news cycle die, rather than keep it going with a post like this. And for corporations, sometimes that does hold true. But my goal is to be real. To fail, learn and get back up. So, I decided to bare this black eye and own it by sharing this message and showing what I’ve learned in the process.
Again, I hope you’ll accept my most sincere apology.
New Year. New Content!
That’s what many social media marketers are thinking about as we start 2021. And, as you think about new content ideas, you need to think about visuals as much as text (even more so, really).
And, what better place to turn than one of the biggest repositories of visuals on the planet: Shutterstock.
They recently unveiled their emerging visual design trends for 2021 based on hard-core search data from their users. These were interesting to peruse on their own. But, then I got to thinking: These trends can and should inspire social content marketers as you think about what kinds of visuals to use this year in your posts on Facebook, Insta, LinkedIn and other platforms.
Sure, you’re still going to use photos of your products and your people. But, that leaves a lot of room to refine your visual game on social platforms.
Let’s take a look at just a few of the visual trends I think could impact your content strategy in 2021:
#1 – Surreal faces
Might seem like a strange trend for corporate American to take advantage of, but I can’t help but think of what the Wall Street Journal did a couple years ago here. You know how they have those sketches of the reporters in their bylines? It’s a WSJ staple. And, they offered that up to anyone a while back and you started seeing those “portraits” as people’s social media profile pics for a while. I could see some companies doing the same thing in 2021. What about asking your design team to make face line art out of that boring team shot you want to feature on LinkedIn? Or, a face paint portrait of the exec leader who was recently recognized for a big industry award? Seems like a stretch, I know, but man, it would be creative, on trend and a big differentiator (and would get people liking, commenting and sharing!).
#2 – Tie dye
We know, based on 2020, that nostalgia is trending. Big time. What’s more nostalgic that tie dye! I could see brands using tie dye as backgrounds for social posts featuring quotes or clips from media placements. I could see companies working tie dye designs into branded templates. Lots of options to incorporate here.
#3 – Identity Unfiltered
You’re definitely going to see more companies featuring diversity in their people images in 2021–mostly in advertising. But, that should show up in social content, too. And, not just racial diversity, but gender and sexual diversity, too. Brands will start making conscious choices about what kinds of people to feature in their social content. This will be a big one–and it’s already happening in spots.
#4 – Inner Life
During the pandemic, it’s no surprise people are searching for more visuals featuring self-care and home hobbies, as noted above. So, why shouldn’t we see companies capitalize on that in the year ahead? I also think more of these visuals will be user-generated, as companies continue to struggle with sourcing photogaphy that hits on this trend.
#5 – Eccentric Animation
Animation might not be something every company can do–mostly due to cost constraints. But, it certainly is an interesting option at a time when many are struggling to produce original visuals. And, it’s interesting that the trend revolves around more fun, light-hearted animations–something many companies are usually loathe to do. The liquid abstract is another interesting visual trend I think companies could take advantage of–again, I’m thinking of post backgrounds and visual elements in branded posts here.
Note: Photo courtesy of Amy Hanson
A couple weeks ago, I noticed an acquaintance of mine accepted a new job as a VP of marketing. Sweet title, right? And, this person is probably in his/her early 30s. So, yay for him/her! VP by 32. This person has made it. They have achieved greatness in marketing and they are officially a success.
However, whenever I see a younger (and by “younger”, I mean anyone under the age of about 35) take on one of these VP, CCO or CMO roles I can’t help but wonder, “did they just make a big mistake?”
Hold up. Didn’t you just say the person had accepted a VP of marketing role? How on earth could that be a mistake?
Because, sometimes “title chasing” can backfire on you.
To be clear, I’m not saying this person was title-chasing. I do not know the details, and I’m not speculating. But, I have seen a movie like this before.
The young person is frustrated. She wants the bigger job. She wants more money. She wants to manage a big team and budget.
So, she takes a VP job. At age 30! So cool! You’ve made it! You’re a freaking VICE PRESIDENT!
But, here’s what happens after that. The person does the job for a few years. Then, like many other jobs, they get bored. Or, the employer decides to move on. And, the person is laid off or starts looking.
And, they hear crickets.
Why? Because they’re a VP now. And, when you’re a VP at age 30, strangely enough, you put yourself in a tough position.
Now you need to look for VP or CCO-level jobs. That’s it. And, as we all know, those are few and far between. So, you’re going to be looking for a while.
So, you start looking for director and manager level jobs, because those are open. But, employers start looking at you sideways. “Why are you looking for a manager job? You were just a VP!” Or, “Why are you looking to take a step back in your career?” These are the questions you are bound to get.
It’s tough to find a new VP job. And, it’s tough to find a director or manager job because people think you’re “settling” and that you’ll be bored quickly.
Like I said, it’s a tough position.
And I’m not even saying it’s the wrong thing to do. I mean, how could accepting a VP job at age 30 be wrong! All I’m saying is there is a downside to taking that super-senior role at a young age. And I do think you have to consider that when you do.
Like I said, title-chasing can sometimes backfire on you.
Trust in everything is plummeting. Except my company’s CEO.
That’s the message from the 21st edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer (side note: They’ve been producing this thing for 21 years?!?! Man, I feel old).
While the continued loss of trust in government, NGOs and media is definitely concerning–and not great for communicators. The rise in trust for “my local employer” and “my employer’s CEO” could result in huge wins for your organization in 2021–with the right steps.
As I read over the Trust Barometer last weekend, I couldn’t help but come back to one key tactic that more communicators could be pushing: Get your CEO out in front on social media–specifically LinkedIn and/or your corporate blog.
Let’s let the data do the talking, shall we?
Data Point #1 – Business now most trusted
Not by a wide margin, mind you. But this is significant. And, what’s more, as you can see, it’s not just in the US. Businesses are more trusted in most companies around the world.
Data Point #2: Trust highest in “my local employer”
Sure, trust in “my employer” was down in the US this year (-2), but at 72%, it’s still highest among all sources. And again, still highest for most companies around the world.
Data Point #3 – Trust higher in my local CEO than everyone but scientists
Not only is trust highest in local employers, it’s also highest in local CEOs. And, unlike every other position on this list, trust in local CEOs did NOT go down in 2020.
Data Point #4 – “My CEO” trusted most by both Biden and Trump supporters
Key point here: Local CEOs are most trusted not just among Democrats–but among folks of all political stripes.
Data Point#5 – “Employer media” most believable
Content from employers appears to be the most trusted source of content. Actually a little surprised “National Government” is #2 on this list, but the fact that employer-based media is #1 is huge for communicators.
Data Point #6 – CEOs should take the lead
We’ve seen this in other surverys over the last couple years, but Edelman also found, quite demonstrably, that people want CEOs to speak up and tackle societal issues.
Data Point #7 – I expect CEOs to speak out about issues
Again, people are looking for leadership from their local CEO. On COVID, societal issues and local community issues.
These data points paint a pretty clear picture: Employees trust their CEOs more than anyone else and they want to hear a lot more from them.
So, what opportunities do we have as communicators in the year ahead? Although most were doing their best to get CEOs out in front of employee audiences a lot in 2020, I see some clear opportunities in the New Year:
Opportunity #1 – Polish your CEO’s LinkedIn profile and make a plan
Table stakes for 2021. No question. It’s time. If your CEO doesn’t have a functioning LinkedIn profile, it’s high time to get on that. And, if it’s incomplete, time to polish it up! But, more importantly, start to make a plan for how your CEO can start effectively showing up on the platform. Start with getting them in the habit of using the tool–even just 5-10 minutes a day will make a difference. Then, get them engaging. Liking and commenting on employee content is a good place to start (see #3 below). Finally, make a plan for what they will post about on LinkedIn. What are your content pillars? And remember, you don’t want to repurpose internal messages here directly–LinkedIn requires a different kind of message and content.
Opportunity #2 – Get your CEO out in front of employees more regularly
Here’s where a post on LinkedIn every week can make a big difference. No, LinkedIn hasn’t historically been considered an employee comms channel–but it should definitely be a complimentary channel! I know most communicators have probably been doing this in 2020, but I’d also ratchet up CEO visibility in 2021. More Town Hall meetings (virtually, to start). More email communications (without inundating people). More videos. When I worked on the corporate side earlier in my career, the one thing we always heard from employees was: We want to hear more from our CEO. It was always #1. I can’t imagine that’s changed in light of the year we just had. And, the stats above from Edelman confirm that.
Opportunity #3 – Look for ways to humanize your CEO
In 2020, a lot of CEOs became more active on LinkedIn, which is awesome. Many of us have been lobbying for this to happen for years! It took a pandemic to make it a reality. But, I saw one key mistake made by many CEOs in 2020 on LinkedIn–they still felt too stiff. Too corporate. Not approachable. I’d suggest doing the opposite–making your CEO more human. Softer. More approachable. That’s what employees want. They don’t want a robot leader–they want a strong, but empathetic leader they can relate to. So, give them that. Help your CEO weave in messages that display her personality more. Add in personal stories that connect with employees. For far too long, CEOs have shied away from opening up about who they are as people–those days are long gone in 2021.
Opportunity #4 – More visibility doesn’t have to mean more content
Case in point: Take a page from H&R Block’s CEO, Jeff Jones, and help your CEO comment and like employee content on LinkedIn more. XX makes a habit out of this, commenting on employee posts weekly. And, I have to believe that’s intentional–and that it’s making a big impact. Couldn’t you sit down with your CEO and coach them through this process? Help them understand how to identify employee-generated posts on LinkedIn, and come up with appropriate responses. In reality, this could take as little as 10-15 minutes per week. Again, with a huge impact. Think about being a store manager at Walmart and having Doug McMillon comment on your LinkedIn post? If you don’t think that would make a big difference in employee morale and positivity, you haven’t worked in communications long enough!
Every year, about this time, I typically present to the local Social Media Breakfast chapter on the topic of social media trends. It’s one of my favorite days of the year. I don’t get down to the SMB meetings as much as I used to, so it’s a chance for me to reconnect with old friends–and meet a few new folks.
However, this year, that’s been put on hold obviously. But, I still put together my annual trends deck. Mostly because I enjoy doing it! But, this year, I took a slightly different tack. I offered it up to clients, partners and a few other select folks (including the team at Maccabee–you can see that full recording here).
It’s been a blast. So far, I’ve given the presentation 8 times! And, since we’re already past the mid-way point of January, I thought I’d share it here before we get into February and I start thinking about trends for 2022! 🙂
A couple caveats as you review the deck below. First, I am not a trend expert. BUT–I do read a lot each week. I have to–for this blog, for our podcast, for my enewsletter, for class. And I love keeping my finger on the pulse of what’s going on in our industry.
Second, my trend presentations usually tend to lean a bit more pragmatic than some. The trends I talk about are things I believe will impact a lot of people. If you’re looking for bright shiny objects, this is NOT your presentation.
With that, here’s 14 social media trends I believe you’ll see in the year ahead.