Social media is a mighty tool for sharing ideas. Gone are the boundaries which used to keep our political beliefs in a safe little bubble. Now, thanks to technology, we can pop the bubble and unleash our opinions into the air to join a far larger conversation.
Every single human being who can access the internet for the purpose of sharing opinions also opens themselves up to the consequences of sharing those opinions. It’s called your digital footprint, and anyone who can access the internet can also find what a specific person is posting about.
You must navigate the social space wisely. Here are four ways to engage online about hotter political topics without setting yourself up for failure.
Use Audience Options
Sharing on social media is about connecting with other people. Knowing who will see your posts is therefore key to whatever your strategy is, even if you’re a standard user hopping casually into a feed and sharing a link. Let’s run through your options with the major social apps:
- Facebook Profile. Facebook currently lets you set the audience for each post as you share it. Your options are PUBLIC, FRIENDS, ONLY ME, or a custom FRIENDS LIST which you can set up or which Facebook can automatically put together based on your friends’ common details. Public posts can be seen by anyone with internet access; posts to Friends can be seen by those individuals only.
- Facebook Page. Every post shared from a Page is public, to your Page’s followers as well as anyone with internet access. While you can set your Page to allow posts to target the feeds of specific audiences, each post can still be seen by the general public.
- Facebook Group. If your group is an OPEN group, every post can be seen by group members as well as anyone who searches for and finds the group. If your group is a CLOSED and SECRET group, every post can be seen by the group members only.
- Twitter Profile. Every Tweet is fully public. Regardless of who follows your Twitter handle, every Tweet you post can be seen by anyone on the internet.
- LinkedIn Profile. Your LinkedIn posts can be set to PUBLIC, CONNECTIONS, or PUBLIC + TWITTER. Public posts can be seen by anyone with internet access; posts to your Connections will only appear in the LinkedIn feed of your connections on LinkedIn.com.
- LinkedIn Page. Every post shared from a LinkedIn Page is PUBLIC. However, you can set posts to target specific LinkedIn users based on Industry, Company Size, Function, Seniority, and Geography.
- YouTube Channel. You can set visibility of your uploaded videos to PUBLIC, UNLISTED, OR PRIVATE. Unlisted means the video is generally available provided a person knows the link for the video; Private means the video is only viewable through a direct invitation to specific individuals.
One important thing to keep in mind is that, regardless of where you share your posts, anything you publish online can be captured via screenshot and cached into memory. Even deleted posts run the risk of being grabbed, saved, and distributed beyond your selected audience. That’s why you should always “pause before you post,” because you will ultimately own whatever you share—for better or worse.
Find a Private Group for Sharing
We all know the moment well: when you have a very strong idea to share and, if a soapbox sprouted right out of the ground in front of you, you’d be tempted to step right up and start in.
That is the absolutely worst moment you could choose to share your opinion online. In the heat of the moment, you might push “publish” before truly assessing your audience, the ramifications of your opinion, and if your idea thought is based on fact instead of feeling.
Instead, seek out a community where you can safely float your thoughts with trusted participants. Will this prevent disaster? No, but it can provide you with a bit of a buffer for sharing your opinions without tossing a grenade into your feed.
A few places you can gather with your groupies:
- Facebook Messenger;
- Facebook Groups;
- Slack channels; and
- message boards*.
*If you’d like to create an anonymous profile, a message board may be your best option. As with any interactions online, use judgment when it comes to sharing personal information.
Quick note: I don’t share these suggestions to help you create your own echo chamber. My goal is always to educate and promote knowledge, and hearing or reading the same spectrum of opinions can’t compare with learning from those who disagree with you. When seeking or building a community, encourage diversity of perspectives. You may find your opinions being challenged by others yet, if anyone remembers taking debate in school, that’s the best way to learn to defend your beliefs with facts and logic. Additionally, you can learn how to engage thoughtfully rather than rabidly ram your opinions through without attempting to change minds.
Check Sources Before Sharing
Social media is notorious for bringing us updates in the moment; being the first to share an amazing link or meme is incredibly satisfying and brings all of the eyeballs to your feed.
The ability to reach so many with content which might sway minds is an immense privilege (I know when we’re talking hashtags and reaction faces, that may seem a bit lofty, but it’s still true). Before you click Share on a post, you can take action to ensure it is authentic:
- determine the topic of the link and try Googling it for a second source;
- check the link’s source and look around at other content to perceive agendas or leanings in a specific direction;
- use Snopes.com to verify if a story is current or true; and
- go the extra mile and seek a link which refutes the one you want to share.
What? This all takes too much time! You’re right, it takes time and effort… and critical thinking. You have a lovely brain and should use it to its fullest capacity. When you share an erroneous link, you’ll ultimately wish you had taken the time to double-check your source.
Monitor and Guide Your Staff
The more individuals you have on your time, the more you need to keep an eye on feeds. As much as you want to trust your team to always carry themselves well online, let’s remember that we’re each human and can make mistakes.
Empower yourself and your team with the following resources:
- provide training to your team for using settings on their personal social feeds to share wisely;
- write and implement a social media policy laying out guidelines for what and where your staff can share online;
- adopt a clear system to remind, warn, and enforce social media best practices; and
- set up monitoring of your brand online to be alerted when your company is mentioned.
Remember that your goal is to help your staff use social media to benefit the brand, not to penalize them for their personal use. Given the right tools, your team can be your mightiest asset in building your online reputation.
I’d love to help you get started with better brand and reputation management online, especially during critical seasons in our nation. Click below to connect with me for a complimentary Discovery session.