Brands and Mental Health: How to show authentic advocacy online

Rachel Moore, Associate Strategist, and Ashley Romo, Social Media Coordinator | Khoros Strategic Services

Mental health is a common topic across social, but brands are missing from the conversation

Mental health has become a cornerstone issue and discussion on social media, especially after a year of social distancing. Khoros Intelligence surfaced almost thirteen million tweets mentioning the topic in the past three months (March – May 2021) alone.

Khoros Intelligence 13M

Source: Khoros Intelligence

This uptick in social media mentions isn’t without cause. The World Health Organization estimates that over 500 million people worldwide, including 40 million Americans, have some type of mental health disorder and, according to the American Psychological Association, young people are 27% more likely than other generations to report that their mental health is either fair or poor.

However, brands are participating in only a small fraction of this online conversation, with less than a thousand mentions from brand accounts from March through May. Even in May, Mental Health Awareness Month, there were only 401 mental health mentions from brands in comparison to 4.2M total mentions in May, signaling that mental health is not an ongoing area of focus for many brands, despite being a continued consumer conversation.

Khoros Intelligence 801 Brand Mentions

Source: Khoros Intelligence

While brands have an opportunity to have meaningful and impactful conversations with users around mental health, it can be difficult to determine the best way to become an advocate. But that doesn’t mean you should stay silent on the issue; this is an important topic to your customers, your employees, and (hopefully) your brand.

We believe that when it comes to mental health, authenticity and consistency are key. It’s not just about showing up during cultural moments, but showing consistency year round to help amplify and advocate for mental health. Genuine brand advocates are both proactive in their content creation and prepared to support the community as they react.

Develop a proactive, consistent mental health content strategy, year-round

Part of being a proactive mental health advocate is making sure that you’re continuing conversations about this topic consistently, rather than only talking about it during moments like Mental Health Awareness Month. Having a consistent content strategy will help establish your brand as a true proponent of mental health, rather than being an opportunistic participant. You can make this approach easier by choosing topics that align with your existing values, supplementing your content with resources, and choosing brand partners that resonate with your community.

SANE Australia Case Study

Choose content topics that align with your brand values

Glossier decided not to activate directly on Mental Health Awareness Month in 2021, focusing instead on content that comes from a place of empathy and revolves around issues more closely related to their brand values, like diversity and body positivity. It’s important to remember that there isn’t an easy solution to most mental health issues but their “You Look Good” series is a longstanding campaign that helps promote positive thinking, a step forward for many people. Glossier didn’t receive any pushback for featuring a topic related to mental health, instead of mental health directly.

Provide real resources to community members

Similarly, clothing retailer MadHappy is dedicated to promoting mental health awareness year-round by amplifying the voices of healthcare professionals and providing resources to their communities. They even have a dedicated social media channel that surfaces content such as wellness guides and mental health check-ins for the community. When they posted for Mental Health Awareness Month, their community reacted with almost 100% positivity, championing the brand for its ongoing work in the mental health space.

Local Optimist

Brand partnerships should wholly support the experiences of their partners

Some brands partner with public figures who are vocal advocates of mental health or share their personal journeys as a way to build transparency and awareness. For example, when world famous tennis player Naomi Osaka skipped press conferences and ultimately withdrew from the French Open to protect her mental health, brand partners like Nike didn’t simply stay silent. If your brand partners with someone who is vocal about their mental wellbeing, make sure to support your partner(s) fully, through both moderation and creative content. Additionally, make sure your brand has a plan for supporting these partners on an ongoing basis as they continue to share their experiences more broadly.

Support your audience through reactive moderation strategies and reputable resources

Brands posting about mental health should be prepared to encounter mentions of the topic on their social media channels. Creating a consistent moderation strategy will help social media managers feel prepared to help the community to the best of their abilities, as well as support genuine and authentic conversations online.

Brand moderation that focuses on resources, information, and support for community members is key:

  • Moderator responses should focus on sharing brand verified resources with users, including organizations specializing in counseling, education, and support to a variety of communities. Messaging should always position resources as just that: places to gather more information, but not actual advice from a medical professional.

  • Terms like “overall wellness,” “de-stressing,” and “wellbeing” are great alternatives to stigmatized phrases like “mental health” or “mental illness.” If you’re unsure what language to use, communicate with internal stakeholders about what language your brand is comfortable with using online.

  • Responding to positive experiences is just as important as supporting those who may be asking for help. By simply acknowledging what users are experiencing, your brand will show authentic support for your community.

Remember: there’s always a danger to not moderating, and that’s especially true when you post about mental health. Writing about the importance of talking about and seeking help for mental health experiences without moderating the content and engaging with the community may come across as standoffish and disingenuous. Social media managers should have clear guidelines on what messaging should be deployed for each kind of comment to help moderators stay consistent in their responses to the community.

Consistency and authenticity are the foundation of mental health advocacy

Generating a positive online experience surrounding mental health is absolutely attainable when genuine steps are taken from brands to help promote positive conversations online. If your brand needs any help determining your approach to an inclusive social media strategy, see what Khoros Strategic Services can do for you.

    Would you like to learn more about Khoros?