Whenever a disaster or a major event happens, every company that participates in social media has to make a decision about two things. The first is whether or not they comment at all. The second, if they decide to comment, is in what form they will comment. They also need to do try and make some predictions about what the potential fallout from their posts might be. The potential for negative consequences does, of course, rise if the event is controversial in some way. A comment on Mother’s Day reminding everyone to celebrate mothers is probably not going to generate any negative consequences at all, as the majority of people would agree that celebrating motherhood is a good thing to do. A comment on something like the historic Supreme Court decision last Friday can lead into much murkier waters.
Posting about something controversial is always more of a minefield than posting about something on which everyone agrees. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t comment, it just means there might need to be a little more calculation before the comment is made. Here are some things to consider before posting about a controversial issue on social media.
How passionate are you about this issue or event? Does it impact you personally in some way? Does it impact a large portion of your customer base? Does this issue or event have relevance to you or your company or are you just chiming in because everyone is mentioning it?
What negative consequences could result from posting about this event? As I explained in the seminar I did at the DAX Show last year, it only takes a moment to shoot yourself in the foot on social media. Whether it’s trivializing a storm that caused billions of dollars in damage, or using a day when thousands died to sell yoga classes or holes of golf, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can cause a huge wave of bad publicity. If you’re going to post about controversial or sensitive events, you need to be prepared to experience backlash, and have a plan to deal with that backlash should it happen.
Do you care if people disapprove of what you post? This circles back somewhat to how passionate you are about the issue – if it impacts you personally, or impacts your customer base, you may feel that the disapproval of some is worth supporting a cause about which you feel strongly. In some cases you may feel that voicing your support is so important that it doesn’t matter if you lose customers as a result.
The main thing to remember is that the decision to post or not to post should be arrived at in a thoughtful manner, after you’ve considered all the consequences. Yes, in the first heat of happiness or disgust or whatever emotion you’re feeling, the urge might be to throw something on your company pages, but don’t give in to that urge. Take the time to rationally examine your choices, looking at both the positives and the negatives and then decide whether or not you will comment. Running through a decision process like this may only take a couple of minutes, but those few minutes could save you hours of grief.