Taking on Controversial Topics in Social Media
My 14-year-old daughter came home appalled the other day because a friend had declared she was not a feminist and not interested in the concept of fighting for women’s rights. My daughter couldn’t understand her friend’s indifference. Her ire wasn’t surprising – like her mother, this one is inclined toward strong opinions and voicing them.
This is a teenager who looks forward to voting in the next presidential election, expects to drive in two years, can sign up for any number of sports and is applauded for her accomplishments in math and science. Though these are opportunities she might take for granted, she understands that they were fought for and won by previous generations of women and men who demanded equality. And, she has a sense that there are still inequalities and biases.
So, when the world celebrates and calls for attention to women’s rights through International Women’s Day, it seems an obvious opportunity to spread a good message. And yet, I, like many business owners, found myself hesitating. It’s an important topic, but it’s more politically charged this year and came with a call for women to strike, which raised another set of issues.
As bloggers and social media community builders, we’re always in need of material, and holidays along with national events can provide that. Some of them are easier like Thanksgiving and Veteran’s Day. Others, like Christmas and International Women’s Day, raise questions such as, “Will you offend clients and customers who don’t celebrate or support the day or cause?”
Should that stop you from advancing something you support or believe in? Though I am opinionated and willing to make it known in tight circles, I tend to be more neutral to the broader public. This is due in part to my roots as a journalist charged with presenting the news without bias and in part out of respect for those who hold different views. Therefore, when a business owner hesitates to jump onto to a popular bandwagon, I understand.
But there is another side to be considered. Not everyone is your ideal customer. As much as you may turn away some, you may attract others. There will be those who support you because of what you support and stand up for. Also as a business owner and professional leader, you have a special opportunity to be an influence in your community.
How do you decide when to speak up? Here are some questions to consider:
- How strongly do you feel about the topic? If this is something that defines you or is of high value, it may be worth putting out there because this will attract the people with whom you want to do business.
- Who are your customers? It’s always good to be clear about who your target audience is, and in this situation, you can use that information to help make a determination about what to do.
- What are your goals? Hot button issues get attention. Reporters now routinely do roundups of Tweets about certain subjects. You could reach a much wider audience. You could also get people talking, although you won’t have any control over what they say.
- Who do you want to take into consideration? It may not be your customers that you’re worried about but your relationship with partners, vendors or associates. These relationships are valuable and you may not want to jeopardize them regardless of what might happen with customers.
- Is it worth the risk? There are two parts to this. One is how much do you stand to lose, and the other is how important is the cause? There is wisdom in picking your battles. Sometimes, it’s better to hold off. But, if the issue is urgent enough, it’s worth risking everything.
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In these ‘Trump times” It seems refreshing to read that there are people who wish to carefully weigh their public comments rather than spout off any vitriolic statement that comes to mind.
March 15, 2017