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When to ZIP IT

Dear Social Media Professionals,

You know there’s this social etiquette and then there are people that just don’t know how to follow the conduct.

Remember how Mom always told us: “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”, well, this rings true beyond belief this week. Always listen to Mom.

South Africans have gone through so much in the past couple of days. We’ve dealt with politics, socio-economical crises, social and moral confusion. And yet, brands continue as if nothing is going on. WTF. We’ve got a job to do, yes. But we’re human, with hearts. All of us.

Social media is an amazing tool to share our voice, have an opinion, create awareness and there’s no doubt in my mind as to why businesses have turned to these platforms to showcase and sell. However, we must remember why the tools were created in the first place. To be social. To speak about and share REAL things.

Some times take their toll on a nation. Most South Africans knew that their springtime celebration was marred by tragedy this week and only one seemed to be worried about a missing smart phone. Monumental events, and, sadly, monumental misjudgements from some of our big brands.  

This week, we’ve seen brands doing it all wrong ☹ Come on guys, we know better.

Brands that post for the sake of posting (eye roll emoji).

Write a calendar.

For a month.

Post on time.

Why haven’t you posted yet?


Just no.

You’d swear our lives depended on the posting schedule approved in the beginning of the month. Shit happens, we need to adjust, think, be considerate. We can do that right? So… let’s 😊.

Brands that use tactical approaches to trends and news find a much higher engagement rate because of their relevancy (think Nandos). But there’s also a time and place where we need to sit back and use those amazing machines in our skulls. Think. There’s a time to remain quiet. 

Things I’ve learnt this week being a Social Marketer in South Africa:

Lesson 1: Be relevant

Yes, we had a whole bunch of content ready for this week. We planned for a smooth sailing week. But hold the phone, our country is crying for the femicide, the murder, the riots, xenophobia, hurt and helplessness we are facing. Do the hot tips on how to decorate your home with exorbitantly high prices mean a damn thing right now? Probably not.

Sensitivity goes a long way.

We’re not saying that it’s wrong to continue posting, our suggestion is just to go the extra step and think about every aspect of relevance to the happenings in our delicate society.

Just for a second sit and think of yourself in the ‘customers’ shoes. Do they want to see this? Do they care?

Bigger things are going on.

The right to advertise directly to your audience comes with an inherent responsibility to marshal your own content.

Lesson 2: Read your room

Okay so, we’re taught to always do this in relation to our brand. So why stop when something that doesn’t relate to your business happens?

Womxn are crying. Womxn are dying. Womxn as a whole. Not just your segmented market of targeted consumers.

Scan the news, scan the poignancy of the situation, scan your positioning, scan the potential consequences, scan your morals, scan.

Lesson 3: Don’t engage when there is no reason for you to

Community management and engagement is always so tricky. We’ve seen it all; the rants, the complaints. I’m sure you’ve all had the most important person in the world comment on one of your posts (right?). Anyway, what I’m trying to get at, is if you feel like it’s absolutely crucial to engage when the comments are coming at you, you have to do so with any social/economic/political movement that is going on. It’s best to take this offline. Take your time to respond so as to not say the wrong thing. Be cautious. Tread carefully.

Lesson 4: Newsjacking isn’t always successful

It’s incredible that we can pick up trends so easily. It’s so accessible. We can pick up on anything and make it relate so that we can tap into hashtags, keywords, extend our reach. Fantastic.

But movements that have so much emotional poignancy can be a no-go zone for brands.

#MenAreTrash, #MeToo, #AmInext are just some of the hashtags that have gone viral this week. It can go really pear-shaped if you think it’s time for you to get involved in this. Unless you are a GBV, NGO or provide some sort of protection advice as a business, stay away. It’s fine to get involved, show your support, but we don’t need to flash it on social to prove a point. Yes, we need to speak up, have a voice, be loud. But not for the agenda of our businesses but rather for our country and it’s people.

In summary, let’s just know our space as social media and community managers. Let’s know when to throw in the towel and speak to our clients about the consequences of our social media activity and actions. We’ve all made mistakes, we’ve all had the oversight of something we really didn’t think would cause upset, but if we just take a moment to evaluate the social conversation sphere, how we fit and adjust our approach then we can achieve great things. It’s likely this won’t be the last time we face a difficult time, so let’s learn to read the room and remain relevant. Use social for what it was intended for.

You got this.

Loves and strength,


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