So, in case you haven’t seen the Pepsi ad from a week ago, you can watch it here. It loosely followed trending topics in their appeal to a millennial audience with images depicting protest marches and a soundtrack that attempts to empower listeners.
However, the ad hit a tsunami of push back as the political ad made it way through social media. Many were pointing out the stereotypes of the different races/ethnicities in the ad, the parallel to important historical photos of police/protesters stand-offs, and the far jump to conclude that pepsi could resolve tensions when the protest was already pretty tame (I mean, people are dancing and playing music, there wasn’t much tension to begin with in the ad).
#BlackTwitter, a huge community for people of color on Twitter, also pointed out in numerous ways that for an attempt to appeal to activists and the Black Lives Matter movement, featuring a caucasian as the protagonist was a poor move on Pepsi’s part. I would argue that the ad was whitewashed, with the exception of a few token actors. For example, after Jenner gives the Pepsi to the police officer, the celebration shot does not feature any people of color (sort of key to appealing to the Black Lives Matter movement.Still from the Pepsi ad viewed on YouTube
Why should you care about what Pepsi does? They’re a big corporation, they can probably bounce back. BUT, they make a great example of what you should be doing–monitoring conversations through social media. Pepsi eventually pulled the ad a day later until after they had already received hundreds of Tweets and mentions from Facebook, 9Gag, Instagram, and other platforms. SNL even made a video yesterday featuring the making of the Pepsi ad.
Why am I telling you this? Because Pepsi should have been paying more attention to the conversations happening among their target audience. If they had been listening to the concerns many people had on #BlackTwitter about recent events (prior to the ad) they could have avoided the plot holes and political blunders in their ad. Following influencers and thought leaders is great on social becuase you can set up alerts for when they post and have a general idea of the conversation–just a narrow slice of it.
Following conversations is different from following accounts; keyword searches, hashtags, and trending topics are ways to get a broader picture and listen in to the whole conversation before you speak. I’ve read several books and heard several professors provide a simple yet significant metaphor–social media is like a cocktail party. You don’t immediately show up to a conversation amongst strangers and start talking away without listening to what is the conversation about, what are the nuances to the context, what value can you bring to the conversation. Only then can you make a lasting impact when you do join the conversation, because it has the tact of someone who understands and has been monitoring before they speak.
Yes, monitoring conversations in social media can be time consuming (trust me, I know!) but it doesn’t have to be. Depending on the budget, there are several software tools available online that can make monitoring keywords and hashtags on several social media sites as easy as a click of a touchpad (or mouse for any of you old schoolers out here). Obviously, the more you’re willing to pay, the more you can play; but, there are free softwares available, such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social. You could also search natively in a specific platform if you are just a beginner or not sure what to search in order to listen in on the right conversation.
In my experiences, I find it is easier to discover conversations natively, but easier to monitor conversations you know you should be following already on a social media management software tool. An example would be if you wanted to find a specific conversation surrounding social media, you might search for “social media” as a keyword, then discover hashtags such as #knowyoursocial or #digitalmarketing. You could then follow these hashtags or other keywords you found to stay up to date and informed on what’s happening in the conversation and contribute to a targeted audience when you’re ready.
Another great resource if you’re truly stuck on what to be searching for is Hashtagify.Me, which helps show common hashtags that appear with a hashtag or keyword that you search for. Have a post about food–#foodie, #foodporn, and #delicious are three suggestions that are used commonly in posts about food.
Looking back at the Pepsi ad, they obviously monitored the conversation too late. So monitor conversations you want to join now, before you post something that might cause controversy and backlash from your followers.