Can Discussing Political Issues Help or Harm My Business?
January 14, 2019
In today's world where businesses have direct links to their consumers nearly 24-hours a day, a common question I am asked is "What is off-limits when it comes to discussing current events, news stories, politics and other potentially dividing topics on my business social media accounts?" The answer is "It depends."
Now that is probably not what you wanted to hear, but there are many factors that go into making the choice of whether its right for your business. First, what is the nature of your business? I'm not saying that certain businesses shouldn't be involved in these debates, I'm saying your business's profile should be taken into factoring whether you should share that Op-Ed piece on your business social media accounts, or leave it on your personal accounts.
Here is an example:
Last year, in a nearby community election a business owner was called out in a community social media group because a vocal resident who opposed her views was seen at her retail store. She has been vocal about opposing the re-election the elected officials and people who sided with her called a boycott of her business because she allowed that person to patronize her business. The person calling her out felt like she should have asked that person to leave her business, and people on both sides of the conversation were quick to post their comments.
This example shows the reality that many people can't separate an individual from the business and that can be a hard pill to swallow when it begins to affect your business. Now there was no need for this business to prevent this person who opposed the owner's views from purchasing groceries or supplies or whatever the business sold. But people felt that despite the political cause in question, the person who did not agree with them should have gone elsewhere for their unrelated purchases. People cannot separate the business from the disagreement and that makes things harder for outspoken business owners.
We have seen the division that comes with politics, religion and other divisive topics, so while you may adamantly support or oppose something, there are many factors that must be considered, such as:
Employees: When you have staff members with differing views, its often best to keep those discussions out of the workplace. Aside from being distracting from the tasks they've been hired to preform, it can escalate to the point where employees feel like they are being singled out or feel like work has become a hostile environment because their views differ from those in leadership or portrayed on company social media accounts.
Alienate potential clients: Posting views on company social media platforms can be a "con" in the pros and cons list made by potential clients when trying to decide on what service providers or companies to use. Do you really want someone not to choose your landscaping service based on your political affiliations?
You cannot control the way the message is received: You may share what you feel is a pretty low-key or what you perceive is common for your area, but the receiver may see it as something completely different, even threatening. Some things are best left to one-on-one conversations if you feel like you need to express yourself.
The internet is forever: You may think a shared political view that was posted months, even years ago is in the past, but the internet has a way of bringing those types of things back when you least expect it. Even if you deleted something, you have no way of controlling if it was shared or screen captured by another person and it may come back to do more harm than you realize.
Now all of these examples are important, but it's not to say there is never a time when sharing news stories and information is wrong. If you have a business that benefits from policy and current events sharing that news can be beneficial. We'll go more into depth on that next week, but industries such as medical, legal, financial and education can benefit from sharing political news and current events in a well organized manner. There is a balance between sharing information and providing individual views, learning to distinguish those can be a valuable asset in business growth and identity.