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How to Celebrate Black History Month on Social Media
As a digital marketing strategist with a focus on social media, I see a lot of brands trying to get as much attention for themselves as possible on a daily basis. I work primarily with nonprofits and small businesses, but the struggle is real for companies of any size. Social media is a marketing tool, but if it’s done well, it’s a way of telling your story and connecting with your audience in a meaningful way that resonates.
When Black History Month rolls around in February each year, I always watch brands with a critical eye to see how they celebrate it. It usually goes one of two ways: businesses are thoughtful and share an eye-opening series of posts that gets their audience talking, or businesses post something generic to check a box, and it leaves their followers rolling their eyes. What did your business do for Black History Month this year?
“Step back and consider whether your company culture is genuinely inclusive and welcoming, whether your staff are empowered, and what more you can be doing”
Before launching a social media campaign for Black History Month, you’ll need to stop and reflect. Does your company truly support Black people in an inclusive and equitable manner? Is your staff predominantly white? Do you struggle to retain diverse talent? Think long and hard about why this may be. Get to work on cultural issues before creating a social media campaign that rings hollow.
- Share the humans behind the brand. If Black staff members love working for your company and are willing to share their stories, allow them the opportunity to do so through a social media campaign.
- Give back in the community. Consumers these days more and more are looking for brands to put their time and money where their mouth is. If your company is out there volunteering in the community, making donations, and showing up for underprivileged people in the community, it makes a difference. Share that good work on social media! It may inspire others to step up and get involved as well.
- Keep it relevant. I’ve seen some social media campaigns slapped together that are clearly intended to honor Black individuals, but they have nothing to do with the business or the community they serve. Find ways to make connections that make sense for your brand- don’t just fabricate for the sake of checking a box.
Don’t Do That
- Don’t use stock photos of Black people because Black people don’t attend your events, but you want to look diverse. People will see right through it.
- Don’t whitewash. Ever. Be thoughtful about graphic design choices and how you’re presenting images of Black individuals. Erasing people’s melanin is antithetical to the entire point of Black History Month.
- Don’t use negative messaging. It’s important to highlight that our society still has issues to address, but Black History Month is about celebration and empowerment. Shine a light on the positive in your community, share inspiring stories, and push for change for the better.
Keep these best practices in mind year-round. Too often, I see businesses wanting a pat on the back for hitting arbitrary diversity targets. But step back and consider whether your company culture is genuinely inclusive and welcoming, whether your staff are empowered, and what more you can be doing. This approach can extend beyond social media too–support Black artists, read books by Black writers, and support Black-owned businesses–every month of the year, not just in February.
What brands have you seen doing an amazing job on social media for Black History Month? Did you spy any cringey moments? Share them with me–tweet me at @servemethesky!
About Emily Hessney Lynch
Emily Hessney Lynch is the owner and founder of Serve Me the Sky Digital, a social media consulting business. In her spare time, Emily is the Director of I Heart ROC, a local website that tells the stories of fascinating Rochesterians. She is also Vice Chair of the Cameron Community Ministries Board of Directors. Emily holds a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree from the University of Rochester. She’s a voracious reader and the proud parent of two rescue dogs.
- Photo credits (illustrations): Christy Roushey of The House of Roushey for her educational and empowering Black History Month series on Instagram.
About 29 Days of Little Known Facts About (Black) American History
29 Days of Little Known Facts About (Black) American History is an annual blog campaign curated by 540WMain that has a mission to promote and share little known facts about Black Americans everyday throughout the month of February. Now in it 3rd year the campaign highlights the life and work of past and present day Black Americans that are overlooked or underrepresented in our conversations about American history.
540WMain will celebrate its 4 year anniversary with a party and extravaganza on Saturday June 20, 2020. In just four years the organization has become a pillar in the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood and a convener and curator of important and vital community conversations, classes, and programs. Your financial support helps us scale up this work in 2020 and beyond with a year long fundraising goal of $40,000
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