Politics. It’s an ugly word in social media circles. All the so-called “gurus” advise against talking about it.
Too controversial. You could alienate your friends and prospects. Neck and neck with religion, it is the topic to avoid at cocktail parties. Keep everything positive. Be nice. Show people you care about them. Provide value…I get it already!
But some of us who really care think decisions made and actions taken by elected (and appointed) officials are extremely relevant, not only to our business and personal lives but also to those of our children and grandchildren. If that is indeed true, why is the subject really taboo? Are we “burying our heads in the sand” to avoid confrontation? Are we too busy to become sufficiently interested and informed? Are we so alienated by “government” in general that we see no difference between the parties? Is losing a current client or prospect more important than losing a future?
Admittedly, I’m a political junkie, but I am also a business consultant, real estate broker, homeowner and taxpayer. I’m single and have no kids, but most of my friends are married or divorced parents. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that politics matters to us, and it probably should to you as well. Every day, it impacts our income, health, safety and overall quality of life–and it will continue to do so indefinitely.
Now, more than ever, there are significant differences between mainstream political parties and candidates in the US. To ignore these differences and hope for the best is both naive and dangerous. Are you immune to political outcomes? If you’d prefer a middle ground to an extreme, shouldn’t you let that be known? Don’t you want to be heard? Our choices today will affect us for decades to come. We’d better choose wisely.
In a way, the recent economic downturn and associated rancor has been good for the country. It has opened a dialogue on the role of government in a free and democratic society. It has sparked discussions about liberty, the Constitution, the plight of the poor, business and governmental ethics and many other important issues. For a former political science major who writes a blog called “The Bigger Picture”, this is good news!
The bad news is that as ideological gaps widen, the level of participation increases and an already heated dialogue intensifies. In such an environment, political passion tends to overtake logical debate. This is where I agree with the social media experts who caution me about mixing business and politics on Facebook, Twitter and other venues. Screaming louder won’t solve anything. Personal attacks are both petty and counterproductive. I will lose you if you think I’m a total jerk!
I contend, however, that there is a relatively “safe zone” when it comes to discussing politics via social media. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, Socialists, Communists–labels don’t matter in this context. Here’s what does:
- Be polite.
- Be calm.
- Be prepared.
- Don’t take it personally.
- Disagree respectfully.
- Find some common ground (if at all possible).
- Part as friends (or at least don’t shoot each other!).
I understand that this is a difficult task, especially when diametrically opposed viewpoints collide. If both sides agree to all of the rules, however, it’s the only possible way to successfully mix the “oil and water” called politics and social media.
I would never recommend a focus on politics for my business clients–it’s quite obvious that they should concentrate on their core missions and value propositions. If, on the other hand, a political discussion becomes relevant to their company, customers or community, I would hope that they would feel empowered to express themselves in both a compelling and civil manner.
Taking a stand on key political issues via social media is clearly dangerous in a business sense, but absolutely critical to “The Bigger Picture”.