Should Brands Consider Mental Health in Their Social Media Strategies?
Brand managers can mitigate mental health issues through their brand’s own social media strategy by promoting wellness and positivity...16 Oct 2019 3582 Views
Written by: Catharina Nilsson
The link between social media and mental health is a hot topic in today’s society due to its controversial and inconclusive nature. Mental health is becoming increasingly easier to talk about, with key influencers and celebrities at the forefront of de-stigmatizing the topic. However, social media has been widely criticized for being a strong root cause of these rising mental health issues. This is because social media can be seen as promoting unrealistic ideals, for example, unattainable beauty standards or “picture perfect” lives.
But why is this topic relevant for brands? This article aims to provide key examples for brand managers who should consider mental health when developing social media strategies so as to avoid negative associations with their brand and contribute to a healthier and happier society.
Social Media and Mental Health Issues
Social media can breed negativity, which causes individuals to feel isolated and contribute to adverse effects on their mental health (Seabrook, Hons, Kern & Rickard, 2016). An example of this is our desire to seek affirmation of our self-worth through “likes” and “comments” from our friends on our posts (Belk, 2013). However, if we do not receive this self-affirmation through these likes or comments from our followers, we are likely to feel less confident in ourselves and experience lower self-esteem (Seidman, 2016).
Furthermore, social media causes us to compare ourselves constantly to others, which can lead to increased levels of anxiety and acute stress (Agarwal, 2018). Two mental disorders that can be intensified by social media, depression and anxiety, are detrimental to the size of an individual’s network, the quality of the interactions that they have with others and how they seek social support (Seabrook et al, 2016).
Lastly, according to the Royal Society for Public Health, young people are more likely to increase their chances of psychological distress if they spend more than two hours per day on a social media site (Baird-Murray, 2017). To further this point, according to Nielsen, the average adult U.S. consumer spends about three hours and 48 minutes per day on a digital medium (Nielsen, 2018).
Social Media Fatigue
On the other hand, increased social interaction, connection and engagement between people can be viewed as a positive effect of social media. It also can serve as a personal and creative outlet for many (Seabrook et al, 2016).
Although social media helps to increase the interaction we have with others, our networks are becoming increasingly unstable due to over-communication by both brands and others that cause us to experience information overload (van Dijk, 2012). This issue is known as “social media fatigue”, where we feel pressure to keep up with our connections and also has been linked to concerns about online privacy (Bright & Logan, 2018).
This can be an important implication for brands in regards to advertising and also how they should communicate relevant information to their consumers in our oversaturated marketplace (Bright & Logan, 2018).
The Rise of the Wellness Trend
Wellness is a popular and ongoing trend that takes our mental, physical and emotional health into consideration. Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with their overall well-being and quality of life and this seems to be taking precedence over our traditional view of health (Delaney, 2018). While quality of life focuses on a person’s outlook of their position within society, well-being focuses on “the synergy between an individual’s resources and challenges faced” (Winterton, Warburton, Keating, Petersen, Berg & Wilson, 2015).
In this emerging wellness culture, the power is shifting from brands to the consumers. Consumers now expect companies to be purpose-driven in order to make an impact and enact social change (Klein, 2018). Therefore, brands are having to alter the way that they use their marketing strategies in order to reflect these new consumer values (Delaney, 2018).
Also, consumers are becoming increasingly focused not just on what they buy, but where the product comes from. This is a measure of the wellness of the brand itself, rather than just the promotion of wellness (Delaney, 2018). Overall, the wellness trend has created a revolution for brands to generate innovative ideas in order to solve prevalent problems in our modern world (Delaney, 2018).
Brands: Promoting Wellness on Social Media
Many different brands are beginning to promote positivity and wellness on social media, which is no longer just limited to health products and services (Delaney, 2018). The wellness market is becoming easier to access and is applicable to most modern brands (Danziger, 2018). There are many more opportunities for brands to capitalize on wellness so that they can create more positive experiences for their customers (Delaney, 2018).
For example, Dove portrays men and women as they are in real life and is using its social media strategy to capitalize on this trend by sharing strong imagery and text that help to spread positive messaging. In a recent post, the brand explicitly states that it believes social media should be used to create “a safe-space for confidence, rather than a source of anxiety” (Dove’s Instagram 2018, first sentence). Through Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign, the brand has been able to challenge the beauty industry through openly discussing self-esteem issues and promoting body confidence throughout their posts.
Another brand in a different industry, Refinery29, is a news and media website that uses social media to empower women through sharing authentic stories, re-posting positive quotes and connecting like-minded individuals. The brand colorfully and artfully portrays this wellness culture by creating a conversation around difficult topics, such as politics, race and gender inequality, in order to promote unity and acceptance (Refinery29’s Instagram, 2018).
Lastly, Ivy Park, an athleisure line created by Beyoncé, seeks to combat women’s issues with exercising and feeling comfortable with their bodies. In her own words speaking about society’s “body ideal and aesthetic perfectionism”, Beyoncé states that “women have to take the time to focus on our mental health – take time for self, for the spiritual, without feeling guilty or selfish. The world will see you the way you see you, and treat you the way you treat yourself” (Teather, 2016). On social media, the brand emphasizes showing different body types, races and ethnicities, as well as promotes its products to both genders.
Why is This Relevant for Brands?
Brands focus on people and are able to directly connect with them through their marketing strategies. Because of this, brand managers should care about the well-being, either mental or physical health, of their consumers and seek to adapt their social media strategies accordingly (MacGillivray, 2017).
Although brands do not hold the sole responsibility to combat consumers’ mental health issues, they do have the ability to use wellness as a tactic to help mitigate the issue. Since wellness is a trend that doesn’t appear to be disappearing anytime soon, it is vital for brands to implement new practices as soon as possible.
8 Ways in Which Brands Can Promote Wellness
There are a multitude of ways for brands to promote wellness and positivity across their social media accounts. Here are 8 to help you get started:
1. Consider Mental Health Within the Brand
Have open discussions with employees and ask them to share their stories on tackling the mental health stigma (MacGillivray, 2017)
2. Consult Mental Health Experts
Seek guidance from mental health experts to determine a purposeful approach (MacGillivray, 2017)
3. Determine an Issue to Focus On
Focus on a certain mental health issue that resonates with your brand and plan to help solve it (Klein, 2018)
4. Post Inspiring and Authentic Content
Share inspirational content that highlights the importance of a positive mind frame, such as quotes and relatable stories that are true to your brand
Create a unique hashtag that embodies living a healthy lifestyle and/or is focused on wellness
6. Ask for Followers’ Positive Brand Experiences
Encourage consumers to generate content that shares their own positive experiences with your brand
7. Use Influencers’ Self-Care Journeys
Choose influencers that align with your brand’s values, are authentic and share their own personal stories about their self-care journey
8. Be Transparent Across Social Media
To show brand wellness, be transparent with origins of products, ingredients and the production process (Delaney, 2018)
By considering the negative mental health effects of social media, brand managers have the opportunity to enact real social change. Brands can make an important impact by altering their social media strategies in order to strengthen their relationships with their consumers through the promotion of wellness and positivity.
Do you think that brands should consider mental health in their social media strategies? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Belk, R. (2013). Extended Self in a Digital World: Table 1. Journal of Consumer Research, 40(3), pp.477-500.
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Seabrook, E., Kern, M. and Rickard, N. (2016). Social Networking Sites, Depression, and Anxiety: A Systematic Review. JMIR Mental Health, p.50.
Seidman, G. (2018). Do Facebook “Likes” Affect Psychological Well-Being? [online] Psychology Today. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/close-encounters/201610/do-facebook-likes-affect-psychological-well-being [Accessed 24 Nov. 2018].
Teather, C. (2018). Beyoncé talks body perfection and the inspiration behind Ivy Park. [online] Evening Standard. Available at: https://www.standard.co.uk/fashion/partiesandpeople/beyonc-talks-body-perfection-mental-health-and-the-inspiration-behind-her-new-athleisure-brand-ivy-a3217876.html [Accessed 21 Nov. 2018].
Van Dijk, J. (2012). Network Society. 2nd ed. London: SAGE Publications, pp.186-188.
Winterton, R., Warburton, J., Keating, N., Petersen, M., Berg, T. and Wilson, J. (2015). Understanding the inﬂuence of community characteristics on wellness for rural older adults: A meta-synthesis. Journal of Rural Studies, p.321.
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Students from the International Marketing and Brand Management program at Lund University are the contributing authors for the BrandBase blog.