April 28, 2020

Tackling Taboo Topics on Social

Christina Sirabella

In recent years, honesty and authenticity have become absolutely crucial for brands—especially on social media, where so much of the content we see on a daily basis is exaggerated or staged to elicit a certain feeling or action. In fact, 81 percent of people feel that brands must be transparent on social media.

Brands have started to realize that being bolder and braver—and leaning into topics that were previously seen as “taboo”—is actually good for their engagement, brand sentiment, and ultimately, their bottom line. The fact of the matter is that these subjects shouldn’t be taboo, and the best part about using social media to talk about them is that it helps give people a safe space to connect. Here are a few of those “taboo” topics, as well as some brands that are leading the way in using social media to tackle them.


Period and sexual wellness products brand LOLA is one of the brands that has completely changed the conversation about periods on social media, from providing education around things like what the color of your period blood means to creating series like #FirstPeriodFridays and #PeriodRoutines in which women speak candidly about their period experiences. Instead of tiptoeing around the topic, LOLA dives right in to talking about periods openly and provides its consumers with straightforward information they can trust.

Menopause is a phase of life that the vast majority of women enter at some point, but most know next to nothing about—and Bonafide, a brand that provides natural solutions for treating menopause and PMS symptoms, is looking to change that. When talking about menopause on social media, the brand strikes a balance between approaching the topic with humor while also providing valuable education about how its products can alleviate symptoms of menopause.


If you haven’t yet heard of CBD, it’s essentially the cousin of THC (the major active ingredient in marijuana) that isn’t psychoactive. It’s a naturally occurring substance that’s used in products like oils and edibles to provide a feeling of calmness and relaxation—and it’s very trendy these days.

Even though CBD is non-psychoactive, there are a few unique rules around promoting it on social media: brands cannot support CBD content with paid advertising dollars, and they cannot directly promote the sale of the product. So, CBD companies have been using their social media platforms primarily to educate and inspire their customer bases. Many brands have also leaned into influencer (and petfluencer!) marketing as a way to generate awareness. Onyx + Rose is a CBD company, but you might not know that from your first glance at its Instagram page. The brand really leans into the wellness space with its content, and its feed does a great job of showing how the products fit seamlessly into anyone’s typical wellness routine while also providing its followers with education about the product.

Men’s Health

Men’s health has always been, and still is, a taboo topic—especially when it comes to sex-related health issues like erectile dysfunction. Hims, which was founded in 2017, has spent the past three years bringing men’s health issues such as erectile dysfunction and hair loss to a younger consumer. The brand encourages men to have open conversations about these issues instead of simply accepting fate. Hims takes its educational role seriously on social media, but also doesn’t shy away from funnier posts that give its pages a lighter and more approachable feel.

Mental Illness

Social media and mental health go hand in hand. It’s been proven that the “compare and despair” attitude of social media exacerbates mental health issues, but at the same time, brands are increasingly speaking out about the issue and trying to turn social media into a place where people can talk openly about their mental health struggles.

In the past few months, brands have leaned into this topic even more, given that COVID-19 has affected the mental health of nearly half of Americans. Snapchat launched its Here For You tool to help users who may be feeling anxious or stressed over the coronavirus pandemic. The tool is designed to surface “safety resources” from mental health experts when users search for topics like anxiety, depression, suicide, or bullying. Meditation app Headspace put out a collection of free meditations called Weathering the Storm, and it also introduced an Instagram Live series called #TakeTen where its co-founder and a daily special guest guide viewers through a mini-meditation and mindful moment.

Right now, we’re experiencing a cultural shift in which brands are no longer keeping silent about typically taboo or underrepresented issues. Consumers are increasingly expecting more open, honest, and nuanced conversations from brands around topics like mental and sexual health—and it’s up to companies to rise to the occasion.

Is your brand tackling any of these “taboo topics” on social?

Tags: Best Practices, Content Marketing, Instagram, Snapchat, Trends

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