The Gut-Check Guide to Mixing Personal Opinions on Social Media
Peter Panda

A reader asked recently if she should reveal that she is behind a politically-focused Twitter account. She isn’t doing anything subversive — just poking a little fun at politicians. But the gag account wound up on a listing of “accounts you should follow,” and her follower list exploded.

Because some media outlets like to quote or repurpose tweets in lieu of actual news (okay, I’m editorializing a bit), our reader was contemplating the chance a media outlet may want to quote or interview her about the musings. She needed a small business gut-check guide to mixing personal and business personas on social media.

Here was my raw response:

“It depends on how out there you want to be. It could be advantageous for your personal brand or even business if you’re okay with it aligning with a critique of one side or other in politics. If you depend on clients and such who might take offense, you may want to stay behind the scenes. But you can do interviews as your first name and ask the media to protect your last name and still participate in the coverage. Most mainstream media would respect that.”

Social media can have adverse affects on your business. While you may never develop a snarky Twitter account, you should think through the implications of mixing your personal beliefs and your business messages on social media. It’s more than political opinions, but that’s a great place to start.

There are six questions you need to ask that can serve as your small business gut-check guide.

The Small Business Gut-Check Guide to Mixing Personal Opinions on Social Media

  • Do 100% of my customers align with the belief or opinion in question?
  • If not, do I care if those who don’t choose to stop doing business with me?
  • Do I care if a new customer chooses to not do business with me because of the belief or opinion in question?
  • Do 100% of my employees agree with the belief or opinion in question?
  • If not, do I care if those who do not agree object or even quit as a result?
  • Do I care if a prospective employee chooses not to work for me because of the belief or opinion in question?

 

If the belief or opinion in question would result in potential loss of business or employees, you shouldn’t mix it with your business. That is, unless you are completely comfortable with the potential loss. It’s a delicate balance and a dangerous row to toe. But that’s the bottom-line decision you’ll have to make.

And those questions don’t apply to only political opinions. You should ask the same questions if you incorporate faith into your business or approach. While it might be difficult for some to believe, not everyone in your customer base is Christian. Or Jewish. Or any other religion. Do you pose the risk of alienating those who aren’t aligned with yours by incorporating outward indications of your faith in what you do?

Every business is different. Every one of you will have different answers to these questions depending on the belief or opinion at hand. Asking them will help you make smarter decisions when crossing that personal-professional barrier.

So, what about you? Do you openly share your political or religious beliefs as a business owner? Have you experienced any risk or loss as a result? The comments are yours.

___________

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on JasonFalls.com.

Peter Panda

Pioneering social media panda bear Tagawa “Peter” Panda was born on a Chinese game reserve in 1969. He emigrated to the United States in 1987 speaking no English, with only the fur on his back and $97 stored in a Jansport fanny-pack wrapped around his waist.

In 2003 while searching for food on the campus of Washington University, he discovered a computer lab where he would ultimately teach himself web development, graphic design, and immerse himself into the growing digital media evolution that was erupting at the time.

With his trademark surly demeanor developed during beatings on his boat ride from China to the U.S., as well as having a penchant for eating vast quantities of bamboo, and enjoying Scotch and cigars, Peter is broadly recognized for coining the phrase “social media” in 2004. He joined Elasticity in late 2009 as the agency’s director of social media strategy and wildlife relations. Friend him on Facebook here.

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