Hearing smaller, marginalised voices has always been a difficult mountain to climb in business and in public. Up until a few years ago, social media platforms looked to provide an antidote to that, offering equal footing for all to have their say, not favouring one account over the other. As features have become heavily monetised and chronological newsfeeds are no more, are big tech firms actively blocking the voices that need hearing most?
For independent brands that have a marginalised consumer base at their focus, many have found their marketing content is actively rejected by platform community guidelines. When a brand’s ethos is centered around showing people in their real-life situations and individuality, this often hurts them. Why is this the case when the demand is so high? The answer may lie in the purposeful blocking of those too diverse for ‘diversity’. In the case of Slick Chicks, who sell underwear for diverse bodies, their message of consumer empowerment and disabled advocacy resulted in a Facebook ban. Dozens of emails and a petition with over 1000 signatures later, it was lifted. We only need to look to the recent Instagram ban of black female bodies to know this issue isn’t contained.
The truth is that any business can no longer afford to ignore the need for equality and inclusivity. The problem lies in what platforms feel inclusion looks like to them, which can often adhere to conventional standards many independent brands are trying to break. With this in mind, fighting for ad space may seem for a difficult challenge for a brand to overcome. In the year of digital, small brands are relying on their social presence more than ever, made harder by the overall lack of organic reach. Many guideline differences come back to how an image is represented visually – the outcry hopefully leading to future social reform. In the meantime, power comes in numbers. As more independent brands report facing these problems, the more confident individual retailers have felt in publicly tackling the silence. Some have changed terminology used in their ads, while others have chosen to favour in-person opportunities. While we still don’t know why certain size variants are affected over others, it’s worth remembering that David can beat Goliath in the famously saturated ad market.
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