After months of posting about your products and services it’s time to change the pace a little. You’ve got a great idea based on some recent social media star’s faux pas or the storm around a TV show or some politician’s dancing. Fingers go to keyboard and you create your insightful, witty, informative post and you know your readers will love it. You publish.
30 seconds later all hell breaks out.
Next thing you know you’re in the middle of a social media storm of comments, tweets and emails condemning you. If you’ve posted on LinkedIn you’re being told to sod off to Facebook. On Twitter a derogatory hashtag pops up that mocks you endlessly. On Facebook your page becomes a magnet for people who think the Daily Mail comments section is too tame. Whatever you do DO NOT open your email!
This experience can be enough to put people off posting timely, relevant content about current events. It shouldn’t.
The reactions these posts get are rarely fuelled by reasoned and informed analysis of your prose and the points you raise. Most people who react are unlikely to have read the piece fully. Some will get no further than the title, triggering the moment they see “Kim Kardashian” mentioned. Others might start to work their way down, but they’ll skim, missing words and only processing the bits that reinforce the opinion they’d formed before they even clicked the link (the “confirmation bias”). Then there are those who react to the comments others have posted before, probably without reading the post.
So let’s rewind to the start of this story and ask whether you should’ve posted in the first place. In my experience, for what it’s worth, as long as what you’re posting isn’t setting out to be deliberately offensive then go for it. Controversial “opinion pieces” are good for debate and while you might lose a customer or two along the way the chances are you’ll pick up replacements from those who agree with you.
That said, there are some areas where you should apply a fair degree of caution before posting. Highly polarising topics such as Brexit or US President Trump can be difficult to negotiate as it’s all too easy for well-intentioned points to be misinterpreted. Countless times companies have been caught out trying posting onto hashtags that have seen their attempts at a little opportunism lambasted as insensitive.
Tone also plays a role. What you may have intended as a light-hearted opinion piece full of sarcasm and wit could be interpreted as wholesale endorsement. Worse yet, what you thought was humorous could find you in court defending a libel action.
On balance there is a lot to be said for finding inspiration from the world around you. Posting relevant, timely content that speaks to your audience and avoids courting controversy for the sake of it will benefit your business. A misfire here or there won’t harm you too much and it’ll probably add to the perception there’s a person behind the blog.
That can’t be bad.
Image of Kim Kardashian used under creative commons from Anderson Cruz