Limitless Lives
Published in

Limitless Lives

Imogen Lees

Mar 9, 2017

4 min read

Revolutionising social media for the 21st Century Woman

Panel discussion on ‘Engaging the 21st Century Woman’

“We live in a selfie society — focus on me and how I look.” That was one opinion we heard from the qualitative research of our 21st Century Woman study, when we interviewed 30 women from different backgrounds across the country about what it means to be a woman today.

“This pulls us back from what’s important,” Ashley* continued. But what is important for the 21st Century Woman? The quantitative research we conducted as part of our comprehensive study uncovered that 88% of women believe it’s important to look good on social media. At the same time, 65% would not be disappointed if all social closed down tomorrow.

So where do brands stand in this confusion? That’s the question we asked at our ‘Engaging the 21st Century Woman: What Brands Need to Know’ event this week, when we presented our findings and held a panel discussion with leading voices in the field such as Labour MP Stella Creasy, Stylist Journalist Harriet Hall and Sport England’s Kate Dale who led the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign. If women are struggling with the contradictions inherent in social media, what can brands do to minimise this damage?

If you can’t say something nice

To many of the women we interviewed, social media was perceived to be a tool for shameless self-promotion. 80% of those we asked believe it’s important to look as though you’re having fun. Trouble is, women are judged a lot more critically than men on how they look. And social media has become a place for judging and being judged.

That’s what Amazon Fashion set out to change with their ‘Say Something Nice’ campaign. Led by candid confessionals from style bloggers and influencers, the campaign encouraged people to post positive comments on women’s fashion photos on social media to end body-shaming and promote individuality.

The campaign received endorsements from celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, but most importantly from the everyday women that the campaign directly benefitted. If brands can prove that social media can be empowering and supportive, it benefits them as well as their female audience.

Stella Creasy speaking on the panel at ‘Engaging the 21st Century Woman’

Building safe spaces

There’s no question about it — the internet does not always feel safe for women. A study from Norton states that amongst women under 30, 76% had experienced some form of abuse or harassment online, while Pew Research Center found that women were more likely than others to experience harassment on social media.

Whether that’s a snide comment from a friend on an Instagram post or a direct threat from a stranger on Twitter, it’s no wonder that the majority of the women from our study said they want to get rid of social media.

Our ‘Engaging the 21st Century Woman’ event panel expressed that the backlash women get on social media express the underlying inequalities in society. But as Stella Creasy put it, ‘Twitter doesn’t make you an idiot, you’re already an idiot if you’re going to air those views online’.

Nice or nasty comments aside, social media is a platform for sharing. And it’s not going away. When a brand gets it right, it can be the most powerful platform of all. Which throws down the gauntlet for brands to harness it for good.

That’s exactly what Sport England did with their second campaign for ‘This Girl Can’. ‘This Girl Can’ created a supportive community — one where name-calling and body-shaming were banned and Sport England drew on this community to inspire their new campaign. The honest and user-generated feel allows Sport England to be the voice of a group of women whose shared interests have made them stronger, together.

Flood the market

It’s understandable that brands are wary of social media. It’s difficult to control and often unpredictable. But brands who take advantage of this unpredictability will stand out and be heard.

OneLogin benefitted from the pervasive — and unpredictable — power of social media when their simple recruiting campaign received a sexist backlash. In response, the female employee who featured on the ads started #Ilooklikeanengineer to show the world the diverse face of tech — and the world joined in, with 65 tweets with the hashtag posted per minute at peak time.

There’s such a wealth of opportunity for brands to get behind positive social media campaigns — and those which put the communities of consumers at the heart of their campaigns see the benefits.

As our study shows, women are keen to use social media — but they’re afraid of the judgement and negative feedback that surrounds it. Brands should take the lead and harness the positive influence of social media and make it work for women.

We can’t get rid of the trolls, but we can outnumber them 100 to 1.