Dealing With Controversial Matters on Social Media

Social media has given everyone a public voice, and people are eager to share their thoughts on the latest hot button topics. As a company, however, it is important to remain neutral on controversial issues so as not to endanger your reputation and lose customers. However, if your employees actively post on social media, the lines can become blurred when views are exchanged that may not necessarily reflect those of the company.

To help business owners deal with this situation tactfully and professionally, we asked 13 members of the Young Entrepreneur Council the following question:

Controversial topics will inevitably crop up on a company’s social media accounts. What tip do you have to deal with these problems?

1. Think about what a follow-up could mean

Before responding to cultural hot spots through branded media channels, consider what the follow-up will mean. Purposeful rhetoric is fine, but if the messages of change aren’t in a meaningful way related to your product or service, it is best to sit back and let other voices be heard. – Magnus Simonarson, Consultwebs

2. Try to remain apolitical

It’s important to try to be apolitical when it comes to business. Posting political content on business social media, especially at this point in time, may not be the best idea for your company’s social media. When someone comments on your business content, whether it’s politics or not, sometimes it’s best to just leave them there or even respectfully thank them for their comment. – John Hall, calendar

3. State your beliefs and stand behind them

As a simple rule of thumb, we try to stay out of politics on social media. When it is inevitable, our goal is to state our beliefs and stand behind them. We believe you should be proud of who you are and stick to it – don’t hide from it. – Zach Binder, Bell + Ivy

4. Clearly define your policy on what can be published

It’s important to have a well-defined policy about what can be published on your company pages. Another possibility, of course, is for customers or random trolls to post something on your pages. In that case, the only thing you can do is remove it, which is why you need to constantly monitor your social media. If necessary, apologize if something inappropriate is posted. – Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting

5. Remain true to your core values

Make sure you stick to your brand’s core values. If your brand has certain core values, it will always ultimately determine the culture you create and what will ultimately be communicated through social media. Make sure you have a strong communication strategy and know what topics to avoid. – Nicole Munoz, Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc.

6. Don’t argue about controversial topics on social media

A war on Instagram comments can make your brand look terrible even if you feel justified in your opinions. It is worth discussing with your team what types of comments should be deleted (e.g. hate speech) and which can remain (controversial opinions, which shouldn’t do harm). Once you’ve set your rules, stick to them. – Diana Goodwin, MarketBox

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7. Address it directly and transparently

Address the negativity or controversy directly and transparently and deal with the situation accordingly from there. If you allow controversy to fester or worse, run away, it will most likely do damage to your brand. Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

8. Only speak when you are genuinely interested in the problem

According to surveys, around 70% of consumers want brands to take a stand on social issues. Additionally, 66% of these consumers say they believe brands can make real change. This means that you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up, but on an important condition that essentially deals with the topic you are going to bring up. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

9. Try to avoid controversial topics from day one

The adage “prevention is the best cure” applies in this situation. If you are hiring new employees or holding a company-wide seminar, it is important to highlight that you value a safe and positive work environment. It is also helpful to find out in advance how to deal with controversial topics or statements. Make an internal plan that you can refer to when such issues arise. – Blair Williams, Member Press

10. Use it as a learning opportunity

Use controversy as a stepping stone to listening and learning. Controversy makes people talk and is your chance to listen first and then respond. Take in what others are saying and understand how your core customers are reacting. Then you can more appropriately address concerns, navigate the conversation, and show that you are there and care about what the customer has to say. – Matthew Podolsky, Florida, PA Legal Advisor

11. Make sure your team is on the same page

In order to resolve controversial issues or crises, it is important to speak to your employees and make sure that everyone is on the same page. If you and your team know what is going on and what are the expectations and protocols, there is less chance of hiccups. Setting boundaries from the start makes it clear what the next steps are for your team. – Stephanie Wells, impressive shapes

12. Approach it from a factual point of view

Our golden rule is to avoid controversial issues whenever possible. There are ways to approach these situations from a non-biased, factual point of view. We believe people are free to say and think any way they want, but we have specific guidelines for our social media groups that encourage constructive conversations that are solely focused on our industry. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC

13. Promote a culture of diversity and equality

Controversial topics rarely arise in my business. If so, they relate to the industry rather than political issues. A big reason for this is that we have a culture that promotes diversity and equal opportunity. There is an unspoken understanding that such topics are undesirable. When they come up, I personally step in and bring the focus back to work. -Syed Balkhi, WP Beginner

CONNECTED: Could your company’s social media policy land you in legal hot water?

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