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In January 2022, I had a miscarriage at 10 weeks along. The farther removed I get from that horrific month, the more I’ve opened up to others. The more people have told me they’ve been through it too.
In the first few days after getting the news, my social media feeds were still filled with baby recommendations and pregnancy ads. I had to physically unsubscribe from every email list and app. I removed myself from the August 2022 due date groups.
I hid posts on my Instagram explore page. Marked ads as “irrelevant” on my feeds. Deleted and re-downloaded TikTok in an attempt to reclaim my FYP algorithm.
I was annoyed at anything that reminded me of what we lost. Of what we were no longer a part of. I was annoyed that all the advice on how to cleanse your social media after a loss left the onus on the individual user, not on the companies doing the advertising and targeting.
My story isn’t unique. No matter the specifics, so many of us have gone through grief, trauma and loss. And in a world where our social networks seemingly know every detail of our lives, it can feel like algorithms take forever to remove triggering content from our feeds.
As marketers and content creators, we understand how these algorithms work. We know that even in the tightest of targeting, there will always be audience members who fall through the gaps. It’s impossible to plan for every circumstance, but marketers can take some small steps to be more mindful of these challenges and create more empathetic marketing.
Make email opt-outs easy
Many marketers will insist the best marketing is growing your email list. It’s often one of the first KPIs implemented in marketing launches because it represents a segment of your audience committed to the brand.
But if someone wants to get your emails out of their inbox, this is not a time to stand in their way. If your marketing hinges on changing someone’s mind when they want to opt out of your emails, you should probably rethink your marketing strategy.
When someone is going through grief, the last thing they want to do is go through dozens of hoops to make sure your email doesn’t end up back in their inbox. Unsubscribing from your emails probably comes with a lot of baggage.
It’s admitting that the life they thought they’d lead with your products actually is no longer happening. It’s letting go of the excitement and happiness that existed when they first subscribed to your emails.
Don’t make this any more difficult for people. Make your unsubscribe button as clear as possible in emails and ensure the process is simple and easy.
Even better: regularly check your unsubscribe paths to ensure they’re working and provide clear expectations for when people should stop receiving your emails. When you’re going through grief, it’s incredibly kind and reassuring to know that you’ll stop receiving notifications on a specific date. No one expects your actions to be instant, but they do expect you to follow through with your actions.
Create better audience targets
Being more strategic about your suppression lists and negative keywords to factor in grief-prone audiences can set your marketing apart.
For example, if you’re targeting pregnant moms with baby products, you may add in terms like “first trimester” or “new pregnancy” for negative keywords as about 3 in every 4 miscarriages happens during this period, according to the NHS.
Does this mean that you may miss an audience early on in pregnancy? Maybe. But by delaying your ads to be targeted towards only people with a lower statistical likelihood of loss (though still far too common), you provide a cushion for the grief of those who do go through early loss.
Instead of running with your typical, classic audience targets, dig deeper into your suppression lists to ensure you’re being sensitive to any potential outliers. Again, it’s impossible to cover all the outliers, but by leading with an empathetic mindset, you provide a more quality ad experience for those who do fall on your content.
Great customer service is great marketing
When we think of grief in regards to good marketing, oftentimes the example of Chewy’s customer service comes up—for good reason.
Over the years, online pet supply company Chewy has garnered positive press for its empathetic and human customer service. They send customers custom paintings of their pets, birthday cards on the pet’s birthday and condolence cards when customers lose an animal.
They could just do the bare minimum and offer good customer service—respond to timely inquiries, issue refunds and be a liaison for Chewy shoppers. But they go above and beyond to create a great, caring experience for their customers.
People want to tell others about their unexpectedly good service. By creating a consistently positive experience for customers, you may find word-of-mouth acquisition growing.
On the flip side, it’s been shown that dissatisfied customers will tell 9-15 people about their bad experiences. In dealing with customers going through grief, a bad brand experience can burn a bridge.
I’ll never forget the companies who continued to target and email me after I repeatedly asked them to stop following our loss. One company made me reset my password 4 times to get access to my account just to unsubscribe from “your pregnancy this week” emails.
I’ll also never forget the companies that provided sensitive grief resources. What To Expect, the go-to pregnancy resource, provides a quick user path to report a loss which then triggers your entire account to go into grief mode—providing articles, external resources and forum groups all for people going through a miscarriage.
Grief, trauma and loss are incredibly tough moments for anyone to endure. Which is why leaving the next actions (unsubscribing, hiding posts, flagging ads) on the person going through grief is damaging. Until our social networks and algorithms can be built to easier identify users going through tough times, marketers can take small steps to hold space and kindness for those suffering.
We are all going through things beyond what we show on our social media feeds. We’re all challenged with more than what the algorithms can measure. But through showing kindness to others in our work and personal lives, we can support and comfort those around us.
Author’s Note: If you’re struggling with pregnancy loss or infertility, I highly recommend checking out the resources at Rescripted and RESOLVE. If you’re going through general grief and trauma, I recommend seeking mental help with a therapist (Psychology Today has a helpful therapist finder) or checking out free resources like The Trauma Foundation.