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Do you have a duty of care to protect your talent and staff from social media abuse?

With increasing numbers of people being targeted with social media abuse, we explore the role of organisations in providing protection

No-one can deny that social media toxicity is a problem that ruins lives - celebrities, commentators, referees, actors, ex-MissUSAs. According to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people working in the arts, sports and media, have higher suicide rates than the general population. For each person who isn't driven to suicide, there are hundreds who suffer in silence - seeing it as the unavoidable high price of fame.

In the 12 months since we launched Arwen, we've seen increasing numbers of organisations reject this status quo and committing to protect the talented individuals they work with.

These organisations are in the vanguard of change. They recognise that they directly benefit from the publicity and prominence of the high profile people they work, who often end up being victimised for that role.

Until now it was left to the individual to bear the pain of that toxicity, as well as the emotional and financial cost of protecting themselves from the worst elements.

  • The female celebrity that participates in your 3-week long, titillating game show, and receives sexist, body-shaming and misogynistic comments as a result
  • The muslim footballer with millions of followers, paid to play for your global team, who receives bigoted comments from white supremacists
  • The PR spokesperson, paid to represent your controversial public project, who receives threatening and insulting comments
  • The black weatherman employed to give weather forecasts, who receives hate messages from racist climate deniers
  • The singer on your label, who's shamed online for their struggle with mental health
  • The disabled comedian, who appears on your TV show, and receives threatening, ableist messages

Sadly we have real world examples of all of the above. And in too many cases the individual was left to fend for themselves. The organisation wouldn't take responsibility.

But this is changing. As it has to. We're blessed by some brave and trailblazing clients, each of whom have decided to stand up, say enough is enough, and commit to a Social Media Duty of Care.

To protect the people that they work with, from the social media toxicity that results from that engagement.

Not only is the individual protected and their wellbeing and safety are preserved (sometimes with Arwen, sometimes with other solutions), but what these organisations are also seeing are a number of other unanticipated benefits:

  • Protecting fans - each organisation instinctively understands that the vast majority of their fans and followers are impacted by toxicity. Research shows that 38% are forced out of the conversation by a minority of toxic users (3-5% on average). These organisations spend huge amounts attracting and engaging fans. So creating safe online environments, where people are comfortable to actively participate, makes sense
  • Protecting social media marketing spend - they know that, if 38% of people disengage from promoted content on social media, that’s destroying a full third of their online marketing spend. if you want to reach young people online, you need clean socials. Research indicates that removing toxicity leads to a 34% increase on ROAS (Return On Advertising Spend)
  • Protecting brand value - they know that fans and followers disapprove of brands that don’t walk the walk. Many have embraced diversity-and-inclusion in their organisations, and project it through their brands. They know that if they then fail to protect their diverse people from hate on-the-ground, they will be called out on it and it will cost al media team protection - every company has a handful of staff who, often unrecognised, are continually trying to clean up the organisation’s social channels
  • Protecting the social media team - every company has a handful of staff who, often unrecognised, are continually trying to clean up the organisation’s social channels. With toxicity rising 20% since 2019, and spambots up 350%+ year on year, they’re overwhelmed, fighting a losing battle. 83% of social media managers report feeling burnt out

It’s time to stop passing the buck. It’s time employers started protecting their talent and high profile employees on social media. It’s the duty of care you give in return for the exposure and ‘organic reach’. The good news is that there are considerable side-benefits of cleaning up your social media communities. It’s a worthwhile investment.

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