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Navigating Today’s Stormy Social Media Waters
01 Feb 2017

Navigating Today’s Stormy Social Media Waters

I saw something funny on Facebook the other day (believe it or not). It was a meme that said, “Remember when Facebook updates used to just be text?” The meme was in response to those colorful backgrounds you now can insert behind your posts, but it resonated with me. I remember when people used to laugh about Facebook because all people posted (so it was said) were cat videos. I remember when Twitter was the platform where you posted what you ate for lunch. Instagram was, well, the platform where you posted pictures of what you ate for lunch.

Things have been kind of different lately. You’ve noticed, right? There are still a few cat videos on Facebook, but now there’s a preface before them. “Need a break?” You might read. “Fight the negativity,” another might say. Twitter, well, it’s hard to avoid news on that platform lately. Instagram is still pretty much the same, at least in my world, but those other two platforms are just, well, they’re just…STRESSFUL!

It’s tough enough to navigate these waters as your own self. If you post something you might make your mom happy but it might really tick off your Aunt Betty. If you share a post, some of your closest friends might start to attack you as if they don’t know you. If you are using social media as a company, it is hard to know what to do, both online and offline. These times are not quite like the lights going out during the Super Bowl, where you can swoop in like Oreo and be clever and funny and redefine real-time marketing. These are times where your brand can be mentioned by a politician in a way you may not like, and you have to have a response ready, as we discussed in a previous post.

Social Media master and New York Times best selling author Chris Brogan recently wrote a post on LinkedIn about what companies should do about all of this. Chris suggests companies just stay true to what their customers want and believe in from that company. Uber customers want rides, for example.

That’s true to a certain extent, and if we were in an environment where the issues were your standard political fare, it would be much easier for companies to adhere to this advice. The problem, though, is that the issues that are most divisive right now are not REALLY political. Should immigrants from certain countries be allowed to come to the US? That’s defining the future of the United States one way or the other. It’s not like debating big versus small government or other purely political issues. Uber found itself on the wrong side of the tracks according to many of its customers because it lowered prices during protests at JFK while taxi drivers were joining in the protest. Technically, Uber did what Brogan suggests and it stuck to what its purpose is. Many people, though, feel this is an epic fail (to use social media jargon).

What should your company do? First, take a step back. Take the pulse of your company, not just as it exists but as it would parallel or juxtapose your brand. Then, take the pulse of your customers. If you are aligned with your customer base for the most part, I think it makes sense now to show your support, whichever side that may be. If you find that your company’s sentiments would not be popular with the majority of your customers, the best idea is to remain as silent as possible on those issues. Stick to what your company does, and keep the car in neutral.

How are you handling these choppy social media waters? We’d love to hear from you.

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/e-coli/3888542890 via Creative Commons

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