The world in which we live has become politically and socially polarized. For many reasons, some nefarious and others unintentional, people are being sucked toward the outlying extremities of the opinion spectrum.
It’s unfortunate, and I don’t see it getting any better in the short run. As socio-political vitriol reaches new pitch levels, some people are finding social media to be too unnerving.
Like you, I have social media connections who regularly pontificate on their immoderate points of view. Why do so many professionals, especially business owners, executives and salespeople, do this? I suppose the urge to argue and the dream of winning over others drives them even though they risk repercussions.
As a general rule, I don’t publicly share my socio-political opinions.
For me, political opinions are bad for business. No matter what side of the aisle you favor, about 40 percent of the people agree with you, 20 percent don’t really care, and 40 percent disagree with you. I can’t afford to alienate the two-fifths of the population that opposes my political stance.
Ideological purists might say, “If you don’t share your beliefs, you’re not being true to yourself!” Others might say, “By shying away from the political debates of our time, you’re selling out!”
I can see where those people are coming from, but the fact remains: making strong political statements is a risky proposition. The things you say on social media can hurt you. Social media chickens do come home to roost.
Just think of the people who have missed out on new clients and career promotions, because they got carried away with controversial statements. We often don’t even realize who we have ticked off.
Of course, nobody is perfect. If you’re passionate about your opinions, it feels good to let them out on a public forum especially if you make a well-structured, convincing argument. Despite my attempts at self restraint, I do sometimes slip up. I have said things in public that would have been better left inside my head.
But none of us are immune from the consequences of our words. Given that, is any social media worth the risk?
If you’re careful what you say, social media are probably the most cost-effective way of building and maintaining your personal brand.
Professionals need a widely recognized and highly respected personal brand. When a large number of people have heard your name and have a positive feeling associated with it, you stand a better chance of winning new business, landing a new job and making a bigger difference in the community.
The key is to develop a system of “checks and balances” in your head — anytime you are about to post something, think about your personal brand.
If your purpose for posting a message is emotionally driven, it’s best to pause for a moment and cool down before you start writing. A little time and perspective can go a long way in preventing the consequences of a provocative post.
Consider whether the post advances or damages your personal brand. Consider how it will come across to someone who doesn’t know you well or isn’t intimately aware of the subject you’re talking about.
When posting, it pays to think like a journalist. In other words, don’t assume you’re only communicating with close friends or family. Instead assume that the world will read your post. Theoretically, if just one person shares or forwards something you write, there’s a chance your message could go viral.
In some ways, these precautions might feel like a little overkill. Perhaps you think I’m demanding too high of a standard and that you don’t want to worry so much about everything little thing you post. I understand, but remember social media are like fire — if used properly, social media benefit your life; if used improperly they can kill your career and your business.