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Social Media Messaging: Are You Sure You Are Getting It Right?

People do not like to be sold to.

Sure, we jump at a good deal. Some of us thrive on bartering. In both options, in the end, the buyer ‘wins.’

And that, my friends, means they weren’t sold to. 

I’ll disclose this to start, I majored in PR in college because I hated advertising. I think at this point, I do get it — we co-exist. At most universities, a good portion of the curriculum for these majors overlaps, and it’s only in the final semesters they separate. 

And marketing, of course, is the lovely marriage of the two in so many cases. 

The reason this is now more important than ever to discuss is so many are doing it wrong; and, so many are knocking it out of the park during the current pandemic. 

Cause marketing and playing to the current social climate is not new news when it comes to social media marketing. 

When you check out at the grocery store, on a regular basis, there’s an option to donate to the local food bank. 

When scrolling Instagram, there are tactful, often sponsored posts encouraging people to help to provide those without clean water an opportunity to get some. 

And yet, here in this pandemic, it doesn’t take a marketing eye to notice those not so tactful social media messaging faux pas.

I’m not here to debate that every business could use some help right now. But let’s take a look at a few that have done social media marketing during the pandemic well… and not so well.   

+Lord Jones

 Kristen Bell has 14.1m followers. (Side note: if you need a lockdown binge, check out The Good Place!). 

Lord Jones is the self-proclaimed “World’s Finest CBD Infused Products.”

Lord Jones doesn’t have a ton on their vision or mission on their website. Yet they do share that they aspire for a brand that stands for safety, quality, consistency, and efficacy. They note having experience in the personal care world. 

So, they may have simply killed it on the PR move, but I don’t really care. They did something amazing, and I believe are likely reaping the benefits. 

Back to Kristen Bell, she reposted @CovidSupporters share covering @thelordjones. Have a look:


Takeaway: Stay true to your brand.

Do something good when no one is watching. Don’t care, exactly, if anything even happens. The ‘free’ PR might be larger than you imagined. And at the end of the day, even if you had a connection that got you in, just doing something good is the right thing to do. Who cares about advertising and marketing during a pandemic. Stay true to your brand in all social media messaging. 

+Dove. Google. Uber. 

Each of these showed up as sponsored posts in my Instagram feedback in early April.

Dove regularly impresses me with their advertising. For someone so critical of ads (this one single brand has projected revenue of  $61.4B worldwide by Unilever in 2021), they’ve got me paying attention even if I can’t honestly say I have their products in my house!

View this post on Instagram

Courage is beautiful 💙 To all the front-line healthcare heroes, and to those who support them – thank you for your courage and care. We couldn’t be more grateful for you, and all you do for the world around you 🌎 Right now they need our support more than ever. So far, we’ve donated over €5 million worth of Dove products and protective equipment to government and NGO initiatives around the world – including front-line healthcare staff and hospitals 🏥 And we’re always looking for more ways to help with #CareFromDove ✨ But that’s not all, we’re also supporting in other ways: 👐 #WashToCare – we are redirecting the media investment behind some of our advertising to reinforce the latest advice from the @who on the importance of proper and frequent handwashing, to help you care for yourself and your loved ones 📚 #SelfEsteemAtHome – where the Dove Self-Esteem Project will be helping parents, carers and guardians support young people’s mental health while schools are closed ​ We are with you 🕊️ Leave a 💙 below to say thank you to our courageous heroes. #Dove #CourageIsBeautiful #CareFromDove #ThankYou #HealthCareHeroes #HealthWorkers #Care #CareWorkers #Community #FrontLineHeroes #Support

A post shared by Dove Global Channel 🌎 (@dove) on

Google is a way of life for most of us. Fact: in 2020, I still use an Android device. <I’ve already debated this with everyone I know, so dammit let me be. I like my device!> That right there should be enough for most of you of why Google doesn’t need to market to me at all. They’ve got me (although I don’t intend to switch to the Pixel… again, let me be.). 

Uber is the most unique of these three. Their business literally relies on our normal daily lives being out and about. It’s grossly impacting their contracted drivers to have us all stay home. Yet, they paused to thank us for staying home. 

View this post on Instagram

Thank you for not riding with us right now. When you #stayhome, we can all #movewhatmatters.

A post shared by Uber (@uber) on


Takeaway: Give the good a “face.” Celebrate the good. 

Each of these brands makes mad money. No doubt about it. Unilever and Google are donating money to help, and have way more to give than you or I. Uber is giving free rides to frontline workers and others in need. Sure, they note that publicly, but they also note the real heroes. They give us names, faces, special moments — a connection to what’s going on. 

For most of us, the COVID-19 pandemic, a wildfire in Australia, a hurricane in Florida, a mass shooting in <name most US cities at this point> — it’s easy to disassociate. Not because we don’t care, but psychologically, it’s a coping mechanism since it does not directly impact us. It’s hard to imagine and/or relate. 

Finding the good. Finding the connection. Praising those heroes. It goes a long way in the good of social media marketing.

You and I might not rush to buy a Dove product right now, but next time we’re at the store, our favorite lotion is sold out and we’re browsing the shelf for an alternative… I’d put money on we’ll both stop and pause and maybe pick up something Dove. 

As for Google, if you’re still using Bing, please DM me so we can talk. 

And Uber… they’ve already got my info. I’ll be back for a lift. And I’ll do my best to tip my drivers a little extra. 

-Fitness and Health

I’m so bummed to have to hate on these things I think are so very important right now. 

Mental health, an outlet to produce positive endorphins, a healthy lifestyle: they should always be at the forefront. Yet, as the COVID pandemic hit — and continues — I’ve been cringing at the social media messaging I’m seeing.

Now, I do like to give the benefit of the doubt that I’m just not the correct target audience and these ads accidentally showed in my feed, but the fact is, they showed up in my feed.

I’ve seen ads from larger brands on at-home fitness videos for “just $19.99 a month.” 

“Lose weight quickly with this 2-week free trial of our specialty weight loss program.” 

“Download our app today for a one-time low price and get guided through a meditation to feel at ease.” 

social media messagingI’m being critical, but I’ve seen the ads pre-pandemic for these companies and unfortunately, the message hasn’t changed! In fact, they’re popping up even more now. So that suggests the company is throwing more into their advertising because they see the opportunity to ‘help’ while everyone is stuck at home. But let’s scroll back up to the top of this article. 

People do not like to be sold to.

And I especially want to say “shame on you” when we’re looking at a recession that has millions out of work and feeling trapped at home and mentally struggling through. But hey, ‘give me your money.’ 

I know that’s not what they’re trying to say. They are brands with strong visions and missions and aims to help make the world a better place. But the very front and center ‘buy now’ doesn’t tie into those visions and missions. It doesn’t speak to the current climate. And it could very much turn off those people that need them most. 

Takeaway: Remove the ‘buy now.’ Focus on the education piece.

We know we need to work out and take care of our mental health, but why aren’t we doing it on a normal day let alone on a pandemic day? Pull me in with that. 

They need to focus on the value they offer: reduced anxiety, weight loss, heart health, empowerment, etc. 

It has nothing to do with being a smaller brand; it’s the value in knowing what is most important now to the audience and tying everything you do back to why you do it. If it’s just to make money — keep the ‘buy now’ social media messaging — and I will keep clicking ‘show less of these ads’ when given a chance. 

+ Toms

The reality is, we all need to keep sales up to keep our businesses alive. And the one brand that I think has found a nice middle ground of pushing sales while supporting the cause is Toms

Toms has always been rooted in giving back. If you’re not familiar, for every shoe purchased, they give one to someone in need. As you can see, from the Instagram post above, starting on April 1st, 2020, they shifted to ⅓ of their profits going to a global COVID-19 fund. 

There’s no catch, you’re still being prompted to buy some awesome shoes, BUT the buyer wins. They get to feel the gratification of doing something good, plus they gain the physical item they want. 

Takeaway: Be upfront.

While your business structure may not enable you to offer a one-for-one physical item, the idea you really need to focus on is aligning your mission, vision, goals with those of your audience, and let them know you’re selling to them. You’re just doing it in a way that achieves your business goals and the greater good of the climate. 

+/- Gaynor’s School of Cooking

Full disclosure, I have met Gaynor. I don’t know her personally, but she makes a great impression. I’ve never attended a class (God knows I need to) and have never received any financial gain from the school. 

Gaynor’s School of Cooking has been shut down during the lockdown here in Pittsburgh. With Mother’s Day this past weekend, I saw a post last week about a cooking class she was planning to host. 

This is a direct sale. I just ‘yelled’ at some unnamed fitness/mental health groups for this. But hear me out. This is a social media post only. It’s not a sponsored post. I’d even recommend it go into some more detail in the post copy to pull the average scroller-by in more.

Yet, this is a small business that saw there was an opportunity to make a holiday when so many normally take mom out to give her a day off from cooking and made it a special day when you could cook with (or for) mom! With this very simple, and brief post, there wasn’t any hidden round-about promotion. Just a cooking school with an opp to share their business in a new way on a holiday benefiting everyone. 

Takeaway: Pick and choose your moments to sell.

If you find a mutually beneficial opp, gosh-darn it seize it! 

COVID-19 might be the first ‘close to home’ event you’ve had to navigate the social media marketing world through. If you stick to everything always aligning with who you are and what your brand stands for, the decision on what to do with your marketing efforts should come a whole lot easier.   


About Marikaye DeTemple

Marikaye DeTemple is the owner and managing director of RSM. She loves words, the color red, and Maxapen Mister Talbuddy.