Racism is unacceptable, period. But, before we collectively judge the character of the college students involved in recently resurrected racially offensive 70s and 80s college yearbook photos, let’s pause and ask ourselves an important question: Did I ever do anything stupid in college and if so, does that define who I am today?
I know what you’re thinking. “Yes, but I never posed for a racially offensive photo smiling in blackface or wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood, holding a noose.” If you thought that, you’re in the majority.
A February 20 USA Today article, “Blackface, KKK Hoods, Mock Lynchings: Blatant Racism in 900 College Yearbooks,” features results of a recent nationwide survey of college yearbooks during the 70s and 80s. A front-page story in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle leads with a provocative headline that reads more like a blanket statement, “Racism Common in Old Yearbooks.” Let’s do the math: 200 examples of racially inappropriate photos found among 900 college yearbooks, each about 150 pages in length—or the equivalent of 1/1000th—hardly constitutes something “common.”
Are the yearbook photos acceptable? Not at all. The question is: Where was the oversight? How did the faculty yearbook advisors allow the photos to be published in the first place? The students involved are certainly accountable, but what about the adults? Where were they in the process?
The deeper issue offers an opportunity for dialogue about race and cultural norms across generations. What may have been perceived as “acceptable” forty years ago is considered morally reprehensible today. If we know that to be true, why is this still happening in popular culture? Late-night hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon, and comic Sarah Silverman, are among several celebrities being called out for their use of blackface, and rightly so. It was unacceptable then, and it still is today.
If we’ve learned anything from this latest controversy, it’s that people and brands should consider a thorough audit of their documented pasts, understanding that what happened decades ago may become a crisis today. That includes public-facing organizations and media outlets. If they shine a spotlight on others, they should prepare to face the same scrutiny.
What was originally designed for Twitter, hashtags have exploded across multiple social media platforms, completely changing the landscape for reaching new audiences and sparking new conversations.
Social users search for specific hashtags to see what other people are saying about a topic that they’re interested in. Hashtags have created millions of niche little “communities,” if you will, for people to insert themselves into a conversation.
But, before you go crazy using hashtags all across your social pages—you should keep these three tips in mind...
Stay True to Your Brand
Creating new hashtags—and even using existing ones—leaves a lot of room for creativity. But, it is important to make sure you’re not steering off-brand. Before using a certain hashtag, do your research.
Type your hashtag into the search bar to see what people are saying, what topics are trending, and what the existing conversation already looks like. This will give you a better idea as to whether or not using this hashtag makes sense for your brand.
You’ll want to avoid hashtags that may have double meaning. Or, maybe another brand is already using the hashtag you had in mind to promote an entirely different campaign.
There are websites that can help make monitoring hashtags much easier, like ritetag.com, for example. They offer a “hashtag dictionary," which allows you to check the meaning of hashtags before you use them, which will save you from attracting the wrong audiences.
Know Your Audience
Think about your audience for a moment. Who are they? How old are they? What are their interests?
This will help when deciding the overall message you’re trying to convey. The more targeted your message is, the more engagement your posts will receive.
Don’t Go Overboard
The rule for the number of hashtags varies from platform to platform. On Facebook and Twitter, it's most effective to use only one to two relevant hashtags at most, according to Social Media Today. Whenever you use more than the recommended one or two hashtags on these platforms, you run the risk of making your posts look "spammy." Research shows that posts with one or two will see more engagement than posts that don't use any at all.
On the flip side, Instagram is a platform that encourages (borderline excessive) hashtag use—up to at least 30 per post! But, for optimal engagement, studies reveal that between 5 and 10 hashtags is best practice for this particular platform.
With all of this in mind, however, we recognize that the use of hashtags is constantly changing as the world of social media continues to evolve. This is a prime example of why it is important to stay on top of the latest tips and trends in social media—especially within your industry.
Over 100 million people watched Super Bowl LIII. But what did they see? A boring game or an epic defensive battle. Their favorite band or an uninspiring halftime show. Eye catching ads or ones that made you say huh.
What MillerCoors – brewer of Miller Lite and Coors Light – saw, was opportunity.
If you were up getting a snack and missed Anheuser-Bush’s Bud Light commercial , let me bring you up to speed. The brewing giant called out rivals Miller Lite and Coors Light for using corn syrup to brew their beers. As you can imagine, that didn’t sit well with MillerCoors nor with corn farmers.
Corn growers voiced their “disappointment.” MillerCoors wasted no time pushing out content voicing their pride in the ingredients they source from corn growers and reminded consumers that Miller Lite has fewer calories and less carbs than Bud Light. MillerCoors Chairman Pete Coors delivered Coors Light and Miller Lite to corn growers. Even a hashtag – #corntroversy – sprung up.
I’m not here to tell you which is better – Bud Light, Coors Light, or Miller Lite (although we at McDougall Communications do encourage people to sample products from your local craft breweries, wineries and distilleries). What I am here to tell you is to be prepared to take advantage of the happenings of the day to promote your brand.
MillerCoors hasn’t run a Super Bowl ad in more than 20 years. Instead of becoming defensive, they powered up the offense. At a substantially lower cost, they were able to capitalize on Anheuser-Bush’s multi-million-dollar ad buy to promote its products. Now that’s what we call earned media.