There are a multitude of headlines about social media and politics. There is no denying that social media has changed politics and provided candidates, political parties, pundits and voters a direct line of communication to one another. However, at what point, if any, do your personal politics influence or interfere with your business and/or personal brand?
Political Protocol According to a certified etiquette/protocol consultant Karen Hickman, “That old adage of avoiding politics and religion in conversation is still good advice. If you are using social media for business, people are not following you for your political opinions unless you have a job as a political or religious pundit. Going public with your political views can cost you business.” A study by Intel indicated that 39 percent of adults in the United States would not associate with people whose opinions they disagreed with online.
Others forward the idea that mixing social media and politics allows you to be proactive in the political process. A study done by the Pew Research Center demonstrates the key role social networking sites (SNS) play in politics:
36% of SNS users say the sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” to them in keeping up with political news.
26% of SNS users say the sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” to them in recruiting people to get involved in political issues that matter to them.
25% of SNS users say the sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” to them for debating or discussing political issues with others.
25% of SNS users say the sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” to them in finding other people who share their views about important political issues.
However, as the Emily Post Institute notes, the point of networking through social media and politics is to have constructive dialogue, not escalate it to an online social war.
Personal Politics vs. Business Brand So where does that leave us on social media and politics? Like so many things the answer is more shades of gray than black and white. There are pros and cons to being political on social media. If you are going to post about politics on your social networking sites, keep these thoughts in mind:
You are a brand ambassador. It doesn’t matter whether you are posting on your personal or business social media profiles, you are a brand ambassador for the business you work for. If you are the business where do you draw the line? People will associate your view with that of the business. Maybe your business is well-known for being supportive of certain political views, and having employees share theirs can help forward the overall message. On the other hand, you don’t want your view mistaken for a company position, particularly if the company has been careful not to take one, or holds an opposing view to yours.
What is your content strategy? Seems like a simple question, but may be the most important in deciding whether to post political commentary in the first place. Whether for personal or business, it is all about how you are perceived. Is sharing your view, or the company’s, on political issues online, in line with your overall content strategy? Will it help forward your brand and drive traffic? Knowing the answer to these questions can make your decision to go political or not much easier.
Keep emotions in check. Despite it being social media, we are all aware of how impersonal a Facebook rant or firing off a tweet can be. The message sent is not always the one received. Words can hurt and intent misunderstood across the Internet chasm. Don’t escalate a discussion to a social war by responding immediately to something that has “fired you up.” Step back from the discussion and think before you respond, if you respond at all. Sometimes the best approach is to respectively agree to disagree.
Words linger. What you say and how you say it can strike a chord and leave a lasting impression. And when it comes to social media and the Internet, nothing is ever truly deleted. Should you choose to comment, choose your words carefully, as they could be polarizing for or against you, if not now, in the future.
Where do you stand on mixing business, social media and politics? Let us know on Facebook!
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