When you run a business, it’s important to be careful about the topics you choose to discuss online. Controversial topics can lead to negative reactions from customers and potential customers, which can hurt your bottom line.
So, when is it appropriate to post on a controversial topic? And what should you do if you find yourself in the middle of a heated debate? Here are some tips to help you navigate these tricky waters.
How You Do It Matters
It could be the right decision for you to speak on a controversial topic but the implementation fell flat. You need to treat it sensitively and understand the release of the message. Three tips are:
- Start with an official press release or blog article. Don’t post one sentence on Facebook and call it a day. Dive into the details and include the data that backs up why you are taking that position. This allows you the opportunity to provide more context.
- Encourage opposing viewpoints. The world needs more conversation and less divisiveness. How can you lead the discussion?
- Bad language and insults in the comments shouldn’t be tolerated. It’s okay for commenters to share their perspective, but it’s never okay for someone to bully or insult your team or another commenter. Remove these comments and ban repeat offenders.
You should never post about a controversial topic purely for engagement.
This loses all trust your audience has in you, and it makes them feel like they’ve been fooled into thinking that their opinion matters when really no one cares what anyone else thinks.
Imagine if a company continuously asks about opinions on controversial topics but never reveals its position. If a person did that, would you find them wishy-washy? Untrustworthy? Or perhaps–at best–bland?
Or – what if the company makes a statement in a Facebook post and ignores all comments from anyone with a different opinion. How would this make you feel as a customer? You might feel distanced from the brand. Like the company doesn’t represent you anymore or that they don’t really care about you. Even if you truly loved the company, seeing a post that doesn’t agree with your views and leaves no room for dialogue can be a turnoff.
When is it okay to post on a controversial topic?
I tend to be more conservative when it comes to posting on a controversial topic. There’s just too much at stake. It takes years to build a brand and one wrong Facebook post can destroy everything you’ve done.
But, there are a few reasons that would make it beneficial for your company to post. Here’s my shortlist.
- When it pertains directly to your business. Let’s say you offer services in the same industry as the controversial topic. You are likely already seen as a credible authority on the topic. Therefore, your perspective would add value to the conversation.
- When you feel deeply passionate about the topic. If it’s a subject that really hits you in the gut, you may choose to share those emotions with your audience. It can humanize the business and help you connect with your audience on a deeper level, especially if you know that your audience agrees with you.
- When your employees need you to. Business owners have more of an impact speaking out about injustices on behalf of the business. If you know that your employees are emotionally impacted by a changed law or hot topic, perhaps it’s time to speak out on behalf of your team.
- When your customers need you to. Similar to the above reason, sometimes your customers need to know that you have their back and are standing up for them. For example, if your target audience is career-minded women of childbearing age, then it could make sense for your business to speak out about paid family leave.
This is my guidance when it comes to my business or advising clients about posting on controversial topics. Do you have anything to add to the shortlist? Join The Credible Brand Facebook Community and let me know. I’ll be doing a Facebook Live in the group on this topic next week.
Timing can be important when it comes to posting on a current controversial issue, however, you shouldn’t rush to release a statement. Consider the above reasons to speak out and how to do it effectively before you post.
For more information about building a brand that lasts, purchase your copy of Lindsey’s book, The Credible Brand, on Amazon.