As Black Lives Matter protests continue across the world in the wake of George Floydâ€™s death in the US, many are showing their support to Black and Indigenous communities through social media.
However, not everyone has got it right. From brands appearing to capitalise on a â€˜trendâ€™, to influencers coming across as insensitive, the damage goes beyond the black tile controversy.
â€œWielding influence is more than just posting pictures or videos and having a lot of followers and likes,â€ Shanygne Maurice, a beauty YouTuber and inclusivity activist, told HuffPost.
An influencer, Maurice said, is â€œsomeone who uses her voice to consistently advocate for the betterment of others, the environment and the world in generalâ€.
Celebrities And Companies Cop Backlash
The posts attracted thousands of comments on both Instagram and Twitter, with some arguing that Watson, with a platform of more than 57 million Instagram followers, could have done more to amplify Black voices, especially considering her role as a UN Womenâ€™s goodwill ambassador.
Other commentators highlighted Watsonâ€™s stylistic choice of bordering each black square in white, arguing that she had focused on maintaining the aesthetic of her Instagram feed instead of communicating a message of solidarity.
Brands have also come under fire. Luxury French brand Celine copped backlash after it posted an Instagram message that it â€œstands against all forms of discrimination, oppression and racismâ€. The company was called out for not dressing black celebrities in the past.
Makeup brand Lâ€™OrÃ©al has also been called out by model Munroe Bergdorf, who said her Lâ€™OrÃ©al contract was cancelled in 2017 after she spoke out about racism in the wake of a neo-Nazi rally.
How Do Brands And Influencers Authentically Support Black Lives Matter
Brands capitalising on this moment and using the Black Lives Movement to market goods will not be tolerated, said Bobby Akinboro, an influencer, DJ and Microsoft employee who spreads his message across Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
â€œMy biggest call to action was for people to stop all marketing campaigns trying to capitalise on the issues at hand,â€ a move that cost him 200 Instagram followers. â€œItâ€™s okay,â€ he said. â€œIt is what it is. I donâ€™t need people to follow me that donâ€™t see the issue.â€
When HuffPost US spoke to Black influencers about what they want from brands, social media strategist and blogger Jennifer Jean-Pierre said the intent behind sharing a message is important. One tweet isnâ€™t going to cut it.
â€œWhile it is understandable that people do not have the â€˜rightâ€™ words to say, silence is never the answer,â€ she said. â€œThe posts are needed but they must be followed with action. I would like to see brands donating towards Black Lives Matter, Color of Change, the Minnesota Freedom Fund and helping start funds for Black businesses.â€
Brands need to be â€œauthenticâ€ because â€œa black square really means nothingâ€ and customers will see through it, said Swinburne University media and communications expert, Dr Diana Bossio.
â€œWhile it is true that younger demographics especially are much more interested in brands that have good social credentials, particularly around politics and the environment, they are also very aware of what is authentic,â€ Bossio told HuffPost Australia.
â€œIt is very easy to post a black square or hashtag on social media platforms – but it is just as easy for online users to see and publicly call out those who have used that hashtag but have not put their money where their mouth is.
â€œIf a brand hasnâ€™t actually changed their policies, hiring practices and done the work, then a black square really means nothing.â€
Swinburne University marketing expert, Dr Julian Vieceli, said: â€œAustralian brands in particular need to make sure that they have supported Indigenous issues and not just that they have made a donation to the cause.
â€œAlso, overlooking the issues in Australia and only concentrating on the overseas issues is going to look poor for Australian brands.â€
Do Influencers Continue To Promote Brands?
â€œIf you are an influencer you will have some brand associations, and these all contribute to your brand image and how people perceive you,â€ Swinburne University marketing expert, said Vieceli.
â€œBrands, after all, are just how people perceive you and can change instantly.â€
When it comes to interacting with brands, Jean-Pierre urged influencers to be explicit with language. Now is not the time for rhetoric. â€œAsk questions instead of accusing,â€ she said.
â€œ[The influencer] Chasing Denisse created templates for influencers to use to explain why they may not be able to fulfill any contractual obligations as well as templates to email companies and brands regarding their silence.â€
What Black And Indigenous Influencers Want From Their Followers
â€œNow is the time to be uncomfortable,â€ said sports journalist and model Arielle Chambers. Which means, donâ€™t expect filtered content. â€œThe general public loves Black culture, so they should show up for Black people.â€
More importantly, she wants her followers to connect on a human level. â€œDonâ€™t look at my social media and think Iâ€™m some fictional character. Donâ€™t look at me and â€˜not see colour.â€™ Iâ€™m real. Iâ€™m Black. Iâ€™ve been Black and I wouldnâ€™t want to be anything else.â€
Megan Milan, a model and humanitarian, encouraged viewers to â€œbe more understanding. Please do not make us scapegoats,â€ she implored.
Television host and DJ Lillian Ahenkan (aka Flex Mami) recently addressed criticism suggesting she hadnâ€™t spoken up enough about the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Ghanaian-Australian told her over 74,000 Instagram followers â€œI donâ€™t just talk about race when itâ€™s trendyâ€ and that â€œif you â€˜needâ€™ me to post links so youâ€™re aware of the problem, you are the problemâ€.
Highlighting â€œwhatâ€™s happening is NOT NEWâ€, she said she â€œconstantlyâ€ speaks about race issues, especially on her Bobo and Flex podcast and â€œnot just when itâ€™s trendyâ€.
Lillian asked her followers to â€œassess and quantify what youâ€™re doing on an individual level to dismantle racismâ€ and not â€œlet footage of extreme racial acts desensitise you from your own complacencyâ€.