This is an area that is often up for debate, but it is our opinion that there are some topics that should be avoided if you are using social media to try to grow your business online. There are people out there whose views on this issue are diametrically opposed to our own. The rationale of the people who disagree with us is that when you work with people, you should work with the kinds of people who would take you for who you are. That means if they want to turn you down because of your religious choice or your political views, it’s better to know that on the front end. We see the logic there, but especially if you are just starting out, you may not have the luxury of being so choosy. If you fall into that crowd, here are five topics that we suggest you stray away from.
A lot of people struggle with this one. If you are proud of your religious beliefs (as many people are) and if your religion plays a major role in your life, it can seem foreign to censor mentions of those beliefs. Our response to that would be that mentioning religion on occasion can be fine, but there is a boundary many people don’t like to cross, one where they feel you are trying to impose your religious beliefs on them. If you feel you can walk that nuanced walk, carry on, but we recommend treading carefully.
Politics can be a lot of fun to talk about, and it can be a lot of fun to argue about. The problem is that in the online world, it’s extremely difficult to keep conversations about political beliefs civil. The primary reason for this, I think, is that you can’t see a person’s body language or hear a person’s tonality. Something that might be said in jest can come across as being rude or crass unintentionally. This is worsened by the fact that everyone is on the defense in those kinds of discussions. If you are worried about creating a polarizing conversation that could get out of control or that could make existing or potential customers feel alienated, it is probably best to reserve these discussions for people you know you can talk to freely.
3. Off-Color Jokes
I have a pretty bizarre sense of humor, and when I get to know people well, I might make statements that, if taken by themselves, would seem rather uncharacteristic. I stray away from that kind of humor in the public streams of Facebook and Twitter precisely because of the chance that someone might take a comment like that out of context and misread my intent. If a person is considering doing business with you but then perceives you are rude, racist, sexist, or something else, it could prevent you from working with that person in the future. Again, if you are well-established and can afford to be picky about with whom you work, go for it. If you are just starting out or if you work with customers that tend to be on the conservative side of things, we advise caution.
We don’t have to tell you that talking about sex online can get out of control quickly. Even sharing content privately via direct message or Facebook private message can get you into trouble. Besides, most of your customers and prospects probably really don’t want to get to know you THAT well. In a lot of ways, talking about sex can get out of control in the same way an off-color joke can. For a person who knows you it’s easier to converse about things in a personal or in a funny way. The general public, however, may lack that all-important context.
5. Your Health
We talked about this recently, but delving into details about your health can, unfortunately, have a negative impact on your business. If you are always writing about health troubles, people may wonder how able you are to do your work. Moreover, I have always abided by what I call “the colonoscopy rule.” Would you go into a meeting with a client and talk about your colonoscopy results? Hopefully not. So why share such things with the wider online world?
We understand, as we said at the start, that there are people who will disagree with this advice. What is your take?
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/supernintendo_chalmers/3827043121/ via Creative Commons