Twitter Advises Brands to Listen to and Learn From Black Voices

The social network reminds companies: ‘This is not a fad or a moment’

Twitter shared guidance for brands wishing to express their solidarity with the Black community Anthony Peltier/iStock
Headshot of David Cohen

Brands have to walk a fine line when it comes to their social media output during this time of racial unrest, as they want to make sure their messages don’t come across as misguided or insincere.

Two Twitter executives who are more than qualified to discuss the subject shared some tips for how brands can handle the current climate: global director of culture and community God-is Rivera and Twitter Next brand strategist Nicole Godreau.

Rivera discussed the events of the past few weeks, writing, “In the final days of May, there was a switch: Everyone’s attention turned to the racial pandemic that has cost the lives of Black and Brown people throughout the world and throughout history. In the weeks since, brands have taken a stand on social injustice, confronted the unequal scales of Black lives in this country and come to terms with their own complicitness in racial inequities. For what feels like the first time, the frustration, anger and pain of an entire community finally seem like they’re being heard and are beginning to receive their long overdue recognition in boardrooms and creative rooms.”

And Godreau shared some guidance for brands wishing to express their solidarity with the Black community breaking it down into eight bullet points:

  • This is not a fad or a “moment”: She cautioned that while the world’s attention is focused on the topic now, Black Americans have been fighting racial inequity for centuries, and the movement will continue even after the protests fade. Godreau wrote, “This community wants to know that you’ll show up for them even when it’s not popular to do so,” suggesting that brand express understanding of both the current moment in time and the history of the movement and recognize that years of hard work and allyship are ahead. Companies should commit to long-lasting change, rather than seeking to capitalize on what they may see as a fleeting moment.
  • Atonement should come before action: Companies should be honest about their history, even if doesn’t reflect positively. Honest conversations with current and former leadership are necessary to understand complicitness. Godreau wrote, “Don’t think your company’s history won’t be discovered and shared or pretend past hostile or detrimental employee experiences or company decisions don’t exist. If it’s negative and has gone unaddressed, it will make any statement on this issue seem hollow.”
  • Make a choice in solidarity and take it all the way: If a company makes a key business decision or pivot that stands in solidarity, it should be prepared to publicly enforce and defend it. The impact of things such as product launches, events and announcements during times of duress for a specific community must be considered.
  • Create real relationships and amplify the voices in the community: Godreau wrote, “Be considerate. Think of the real emotion, fear and anger the community and voices you want to engage with are experiencing. Be thoughtful about whether it’s the right time to reach out or not.” Companies should also think about how they engage with the community when it isn’t in crisis.
  • When it comes to showing solidarity, people want more than kind words from brands: Companies should ensure that their message is direct and provides actionable, measurable steps, and they cannot shy away from the issue.
  • Open your purse: Donate money to trusted organizations in a show of solidarity, but realize that the job doesn’t end there.
  • Acknowledge that there’s more work to be done: Offer honest progress reports and assessments of where the company stands and further actions it plans to take.
  • Stay tuned in to what’s happening on Twitter: Monitor news and conversation, and follow voices from affected communities. Godreau wrote, “Engage in uncomfortable conversations. Take the time to come up with a thoughtful response if you decide to join the conversation. Lead the way for others—people respect the brands that are the first to take a stand.” However, don’t stay silent, or you will be leaving it up to others to decide where the company stands. David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.