Beware the Social Media Political Trolls This Year

2012 is an election year.  Radio, television and print are all very thankful because candidates big and small will all purchase advertising time.  Social media was around in 2008, the last presidential election, but it wasn’t as popular or far reaching as it is now.

We all have friends that post political content.   They’ll post content from sites that reflect their political ideology, which will probably run contrary to what you think.  You’ll read the post, tell your friend that they’re stupid and then post a link to the same facts, but from your political perspective. 

If social media didn’t impact business and all this chatter was strictly between friends then it would be no big deal.  However, unless it’s a DM or message on Facebook it’s up there for the world to see.  If this year’s election is like the one in 2008 then about half of the people will like your comment, while the other half will disagree with it.  Is it worth alienating half of your potential clients to forward a link or graphic that’s already made its way around the internet?

This gets especially tricky if you’re in industries like banking, healthcare or energy.  Every one of those industries has supporters and detractors who are very passionate about the policies and practices that impact them.  If you work in healthcare what do you do if someone posts an inflammatory opinion about the health care reform act?  How should a company that had an executive an embarrassing and public golden parachute react?

For business you need to be certain that your social media policies are in place and protect the company.  If you’re going to take a stand on controversial issues you need to know where to draw the line and have alerts go to key managers when it reaches a certain point.

For individuals you need to know that you’re not going to change anybody’s opinion with a biased graphic that’s been debunked on Politifact.

Everyone needs to know that, thankfully, the public gets most of their information about politics on cable news and not Twitter or Facebook.  The recent survey from Pew breaks down where folks get their news from and the biggest loser is print, especially when you compare 2008 to 2000.

This graphic though is truly amazing.  The reach of social media in elections is huge.

How should you handle political trolls this year?  That depends on how much you know about the issues and how passionate you are.  Business can certainly overcome disagreements of political opinion, but it can also influence where the contract goes.

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