How Can I Be Social in a Political Powder Keg?

We’re navigating dicey waters nowadays. With politics assuming as large a role in our feeds as quizzes and recommendation posts, engaging online continues to call into question what each of us believes and how (or if) we should express it via wifi.

There are all sorts of arguments for or against verbalizing political opinions online:

“I do business with my connections and don’t want to alienate a customer.”

“I can’t separate my politics from the rest of my posts.”

“Today it’s more important to stand for something than to stand for nothing.”

“It doesn’t change anyone’s minds anyway.”

It’s a hot mess out there.

The time for you to decide how you’ll navigate the social-political waters out there is now, if not already long past. But if you’re just now reaching the point where you need to plot your path forward, here are a few crucial considerations for you:

1. Decide what you’re willing to risk. Speak out or stay silent: either way, you stand to lose or gain something.

You may be thinking, “If I simply avoid sharing or engaging in political topics, they’ll never come up again.” That’s a fairly naive stance to think that your political sway is never going to impact your customer or your relationship with them.

Also, we aren’t just talking about business risks. Your moral compass, and whatever direction it points to, plays a huge role in shaping your motivations, your goals, and your results. If you decide to force your business endeavors in a different direction than your compass, that’s also a mighty risk to take.

2. Drop your assumptions. This one is tough, because we humans love to assume!

Whether or not you decide to allow your digital persona to wade into political waters online, you’re naturally prone to putting other online users into a box based on what you know about them—which is usually just a drop in a very large bucket.

Stop assuming things about others and using those assumptions when you interact. How awkward is it to find yourself typing and publishing a pat statement about why another person is wrong, only to have them come back with how you were wrong first

Instead, ask questions. Ask a lot of questions. By putting a ? at the end of your post, you instantly assume the role of listener, of one who wishes to understand instead of to attack, and of a learner who can be taught. (Also a very human trait.)

3. Own and stick to your beliefs. Once you know what you stand for, grab the wheel  with both hands and hold on for the ride.

In this uncertain landscape, one thing is the gospel truth: you will always encounter someone who passionately disagrees with you. The very definition of belief is “trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.” Talk about a huge foundation on which someone stands! So if yours is threatened or you threaten someone else’s foothold, things are bound to get tense.

This is where research and true facts (as opposed to alternative ones) come in. Have credited research and statistics to back up your beliefs (to make your footing more obviously solid to others). If you can’t find the stats… well, perhaps you have another quest ahead of you.

4. Don’t be ignorant, don’t be an asshole, and above all don’t be an ignorant asshole. Yeah, this just went PG-13, but I’m willing to stand behind that statement.

You will win over exactly no one good if you are a jerk about it. I know, it’s very tempting to go for the zinger where you mentally (and ‘fess up, even literally) fist-bump yourself for your drop-the-mic comment.

But if your victory comes at the cost of unnecessarily embarrassing someone or, worse, ejecting them from a discussion when everyone could actually have learned something… what exactly did you win here? A momentary feeling of superiority?

Instead of going for the kill, think bigger picture and higher road and go for the change of heart. It may feel less satisfying, and the discussion may not even have a pat result for you, but you just planted a seed instead of decimating the growth which could be just ahead.

You can do this.

None of us is perfect at this. That darned human condition ensures we’ll always stumble and experience the awkward of interacting with other carbon units. But hopefully these general guidelines can help you put your best foot – or keystroke – forward with a fair share of confidence and, in the long run, who knows? Our world could become a better place for everyone.

How do you choose to interact online when it comes to politics?

4 Ways to Avoid Political Social Media Snafus

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 post targeting screenshot | Really Social
Use targeting for your LinkedIn Page posts.
  • 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.
YouTube visibility settings screenshot | Really Social
Set visibility on each of your YouTube videos.

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.

Let’s discover!

 

I Am The 2%

My hide is chapped.

No, really – there is actual chappage on my hide which was likely incurred by braving some cold-ass temperatures last night to put in an appearance at my precinct’s caucus meeting… and I just lost you, didn’t I?  For those without a thesaurus handy:

Precinct = neighborhood or zone.

Caucus = gathering or meeting.

Meeting… um, see above for evident redundancy on my part.

Once every four years, they hold these meetings as candidates of my party make their way across the country in attempts to glean my vote as well as the votes of my fellow state inhabitants.  Most of you (98% of this state in fact, at minimum, based on last night’s turnout and stats) are absolutely clueless as to what goes down at these events, so let me enlighten you.

  • Sign in that you attended for your precinct.
  • Grab a cookie provided for free at your table and have a seat.
  • See a few people in the seats next to you who apparently are your neighbors AND of your political persuasion (at least generally).
  • Have a quasi-knowledgeable citizen/neighbor walk and talk you through the agenda which includes:  vote for committee chair, vote for county delegates, vote for state delegates and vote for congressional delegates (PSST, if you become a delegate, for the cost of two venti Starbucks you get to go hobnob with other delegates where actual candidates and political figures will be!).
  • Write down your ideas (collectively) for issues you want to be the platform of the party for election season.
  • Have another cookie.
  • Discuss and debate with those who are verbally capable at your table the where and why-for of your choice of candidate, your thoughts on issues and current events.  (The result is a flavorful concoction of communication enhancement and mind-broadening.)
  • Discreetly grab a few more cookies for the ride home (which will take all of two minutes) and head out of there.

In total, the above list took 78 minutes to reach completion at my specific caucus.  I came away with a free cookie (hey, I’m watching my portions), the title of county delegate and the promise of getting paid $100 to be an election judge on November 6, 2012.  But more than that, I walked to my VW waiting in an ice-glazed parking lot with a sense that I actually put to use the right bestowed upon me by generations of Americans who have bled and even died so I might freely complete that bulleted list above in the company of my peers and neighbors.

There are worse ways to spend a frigid winter evening once every four years.  You might try it once in a while.