SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.
This week, we asked: Do you feel comfortable sharing political opinions on social networks?
- No 77.92%
- Yes 22.08%
The question of whether your should share political opinions on social networks can be a heated debate in its own right. Some argue that social networks can be powerful agents of political change — just look at the Arab Spring — and that social tools can help highlight important news stories that might otherwise be ignored. Others might say that just because you have the ability to say whatever you want on a network doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a good idea to share your every opinion with everyone you know.
There isn’t really a right answer here, but there are three aspects to this discussion that I think everyone should think about:
- Channel: Do you really want to have a charged political discussion with a distant relative in front of every last one of your Facebook friends? Do you want to take political stands on LinkedIn, where they’re most likely to be noticed by potential employers? Different social networks fill different roles in our lives. While you can end up in an awkward discussion on any platform, some social networks, such as Reddit or Twitter, may make for a better discussion venue than a more personal network, such as Facebook.
- Tone: How you choose to express yourself matters a much as what you actually say. There’s a big difference between starting a conversation and just trying to upset people. Being passionate about an issue doesn’t excuse you from being civil.
- Role: Having a charged political discussion may prove to be especially unwise if you’re posting on behalf of a company or organization. Your employer may not share your political beliefs or may not want to engage in debate around topics that don’t relate to it’s core function. If you want to express yourself, it is best to post as yourself and not your employer. Keep in mind, however, that depending on the nature of your work, the usual “opinions expressed here are my own” disclaimer may not be enough to keep your posts from reflecting on your employer.
The debate is ultimately a question of costs versus benefits. It’s easy to see the benefits of sharing a controversial thought — it can relieve frustration, advance discourse, create awareness and maybe even lead to action on an important topic. But these discussions can also create misunderstandings, hurt feelings and damage your professional life. Only you can decide whether the benefits outweigh the costs — and you owe it to yourself to think the decision all the way through before posting.
Do you talk about politics on social networks? Why or why not? Are there any other guidelines you wish other people in your network would consider?