The old adage “Don’t talk about religion or politics” is a good rule to live by when it comes to family and friends.
But what about when it comes to social media?
In an era of countless social and political hot topics, more organizations are taking a stand for what they believe in.
J.C. Penney, for example, hired Ellen DeGeneres, who’s openly gay, as its spokeswoman last year. Earlier in 2012, the brand also released ads around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day that depicted same-sex parents. And Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz endorsed President Obama for a second term less than a week before the election.
Though the brand’s Facebook page stated that Mr. Schultz’s political views are his own and that Starbucks as a company did not endorse any candidate, it’s all the same for many consumers. No matter if it’s a company’s CEO, spokeswoman or advertiser, when one states an opinion, it reflects on the organization as a whole.
Voluntarily alienating a portion of fans and consumers is a huge risk these brands took when choosing a side. To be sure, those companies that choose to publicize their positions have gotten both positive and negative feedback, especially with the immediate sounding boards that social media outlets provide.
This begs the question: Should brands discuss controversial subjects?
It depends on your brand, but if you choose to take a stand, keep these tips in mind:
Once you’ve publicized your stance on something, it’s out there for the world to love, hate, respect or criticize. Don’t try to take back your comments and don’t stay silent. Be prepared with responses to both praise and condemnation. You shared your position: own it.
Know your audience.
Consider the demographics of your most popular consumers, both on social media and otherwise. Young audiences, for example, might be more supportive of an organization’s stance on gay rights than a fan base skewed towards baby boomers.
Keep it on brand.
When Oreo posted a picture of a rainbow-colored cookie on its Facebook page with the caption, “Proudly support love!” back in June, it made sense. For one, Oreo had taken risks before. More importantly, the post wasn’t out of the blue. It was part of an overall campaign that used images to connect Oreo to the trending topic of the day.
And if your company is going to come out and support something, you better make sure you practice what you preach. For example, Kraft Foods, Oreo’s parent company, offers domestic partnership benefits.
What do you think: Is it better for a brand to be transparent or neutral when it comes to social and political issues?