Politics Correct…aka step away from the smartphone

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There’s a line I use in my Social Media training classes, it goes “Avoid publishing your views on politics, controversial stories or partisan sporting events”.

Well we’re about to enter silly season on the Politics bit, so hold onto your smartphones it’s General Election time!

To put it into context I’m usually training or coaching marketing teams or business owners who’s focus for Social Media is to create conversation, interactions and opportunities with their customer base.  It’s natural, healthy and (in my opinion) fantastic that we can get involved in the debates around Politics and political events/stories.  However, there are a very small (very, very small) group of business leaders or businesses in general that can wade into the debates that are already happening without fear of it potentially having a direct impact on client relationships and sometimes even the bottom line.  If you are reading this article the likelihood is that you aren’t one of this very, very small group, so why run the risk?

In a politically charged environment, platforms such as Twitter become a largely healthy area for debate.  However, it is also a platform not designed to deliver the nuances of political opinion and argument…though some would love to convince you that soundbites/throwaway declarations are all you require to be “involved”.

Authenticity is of course paramount to success across social media, our messages resonating and reinforcing the brand we’ve all worked so hard in crafting.  So why then should we not follow through on this authenticity by giving opinion on our political leanings?  Simply put, the words “opinions are my own and do not reflect those of my company/employer” are not enough.  In building your own “brand” across social media as a business owner/leader you have become linked lock, stock and smoking barrel to your company.  In this context it’s extremely easy for customers/potential customers to make the leap from a personal opinion to one of the company.

Of course it’s not quite as black and white as all that, and the situation isn’t helped by individuals using company branded profiles as their own (if you’re doing this then it’s time you stopped).  Some individuals have become known outside of their company for their political activism – be that local, regional or national, and it is therefore important that these people continue this authentic path.  However, if your political views have never made it to the wonderful world of Social then I’d advise this isn’t the time to start.

Instead, why not look forward to the many, many social media gaffes we can expect from politicians on all sides in the coming weeks.  The 2010 General Election was the first to be run with the world of social media surrounding it.  You’ll remember the first televised debates and the huge reaction across platforms 5 years ago.  Fast forward again to today and social media has grown and developed massively since then, so this is very much the first General Election that will be fought “on” social media…and it is already claiming victims even before the election began for real.

Last year Emily Thornberry was forced to resign from the Labour Party after the infamous “white van” tweet, and with every click, like, favourite, share and retweet scrutinised there have already been faux-pas with clumsy fingers and thumbs.  With the politically charged atmosphere across platforms the hunger to spot one of these, usually genuine (I’ll take them at their word) errors of co-ordination can ensure a frenzy of negative reaction that may become unstoppable for candidates.

Social Media has a habit of snowballing issues quickly.  So my advice is why place yourself and your business in harms way?  Leave the opinions on politics and politicians for the offline debate and stick to creating great content that gives your clients, customers and suppliers a distraction from the huge amount of politics that is coming our way over the next month.

They’ll thank you for it!

Simon Brooke is a Director and creative thinker at Happy Creative, a strategic marketing and creative branding agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to www.happy-creative.co.uk or @Happy_Creative

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