Social media has given every individual a public voice, and people are eager to share their opinions on the latest hot-button issues. But as a business, it’s important to remain neutral on controversial topics to avoid risking your reputation and losing customers. With your employees actively posting on social media, however, the lines can be blurred on the matter of sharing views that may not necessarily reflect those of the company.
To help business owners handle this situation tactfully and professionally, we asked 13 members of Young Entrepreneur Council the following question:
Controversial topics are bound to come up in a business’s social media accounts. What’s one tip you have for dealing with these issues?
1. Consider what following up might entail
Before responding to cultural flashpoints through brand media channels, one should consider what the follow-up will entail. Purposeful rhetoric is fine, but if the messages of change don’t connect in a meaningful way with your product or service, it’s best to sit back and let other voices be heard. —Magnus Simonarson, Consultwebs
2. Try to remain apolitical
It’s important to try to remain apolitical when it comes to business. Posting political content on business social media, especially at this time, is probably not the best idea for your company’s social media. If someone comments on your business content, whether or not it’s about politics, sometimes it’s best to just leave it there or even just respectfully thank them for their comment. —John Hall, Calendar
3. State your beliefs and stand behind them
As a simple rule of thumb, we try to stay out of politics on social media. If it is unavoidable, our goal is to state our beliefs and stand behind it. We believe you should be proud of who you are and stick to it—don’t hide from it. —Zach Binder, Bell + Ivy
4. Clearly define your policy on what can be posted
It’s important to have a clearly defined policy on what can be posted on your business pages. Of course, another possibility is that customers or random trolls will post something on your pages. In that case, all you can do is remove it, which is why you have to monitor your social media all the time. If necessary, apologize if something inappropriate gets posted. —Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting
5. Remain true to your core values
Make sure that you stick with your brand’s core values. Ultimately, if your brand has certain core values, that will always rule over the culture that you are creating and what eventually gets communicated via social media. Ensure that you have a strong strategy for communicating, and know which topics you are prepared to avoid. —Nicole Munoz, Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc.
6. Don’t argue over controversial topics on social media
A war in Instagram comments makes your brand look terrible, even if you feel justified in your opinions. It’s worth having a discussion with your team about what types of comments will be deleted (outright hate speech, for example), and which will be allowed to stay (controversial opinions that aren’t meant to cause harm). Once you have your rules in place, stick to them. —Diana Goodwin, MarketBox
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7. Address it directly and transparently
Address the negativity or controversy directly and transparently, and handle the situation as appropriate from there. Allowing controversy to fester, or worse, running away from it, will more than likely do damage to your brand. —Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
8. Speak up only if you really care about the issue
Surveys say that about 70% of consumers want brands to take a stand on social issues. Moreover, 66% of those consumers say it’s because they believe that brands can create real change. This means you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up, but under one important condition, which is essentially caring about the issue that you’re about to bring up. —Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
9. Try to prevent controversial issues from day one
The saying “prevention is the best cure” holds good in this situation. When onboarding new employees or holding a company-wide seminar, it’s important to highlight that you value a safe and positive work environment. It’s also helpful to figure out ahead of time how to deal with controversial topics or statements. Create an internal plan that you can refer to when such topics do come up. —Blair Williams, MemberPress
10. Use it as a learning opportunity
Use controversy as a springboard for listening and learning. Controversy gets people talking, and is your chance to listen first, respond second. Take in what others are saying and understand how your core customers are responding. Then you can more appropriately address any concerns, navigate the conversation, and demonstrate you are present and care about what the customer has to say. —Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.
11. Make sure your team is on the same page
To deal with any controversial issue or crisis, it’s important to talk to your employees and ensure that everyone’s on the same page. If you and your team are aware of what’s going on and what the expectations and protocol are, there are fewer chances for hiccups. Setting boundaries from the beginning makes it clear what the next steps are for your team. —Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
12. Approach it from a factual point of view
Our golden rule is we avoid controversial topics whenever possible. There are ways to approach these situations from a non-biased, factual point of view. We believe that people are free to say and think however they want, but we have specific guidelines for our social media groups that encourage constructive conversations that focus solely on our industry. —John Turner, SeedProd LLC
13. Foster a culture of diversity and equality
In my business, it is rare for controversial topics to come up. If they do, they are related to the industry at large rather than political topics. A big reason for this is that we have a culture that fosters diversity and equal opportunity. There’s an unspoken understanding that such topics are not welcome. If they do come up, I personally step in and bring the focus back to work. —Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
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