Controversial social media posts…good or bad idea?

Jan 14, 2013

"Angry-Face-Business-ManSmall"Recently I spoke in front of a small group of non-profit organizations and described the various tools of social media in brief and then gave a very brief lesson on proper use of social media posts for their organizations. I always enjoy presenting social media topics to groups. It gives me a chance to really be animated and excited about the subject and help create positive experiences for people with social media. It also opens me up to different opinions on different subjects that I speak about. This last speaking engagement was just such an occasion.

I teach some things that may be somewhat unorthodox to many people out there. I teach my clients that they should create three different types of social media posts to encourage engagement by their audience. I’m talking subject matter not content specifics. The three types of posts are posts that make people laugh, cry, or scream. It’s that scream one that people always get stuck on. Businesses learn to be conservative in their communications because doing something controversial almost always alienates some portion of their customer base. So when I tell them that they need to create posts that will make their audience scream I’m telling them that they should create posts that are controversial. Something that makes people react, and in this case that may be in a negative way.

I had some constructive criticism come from a very pleasant attendee (who was inviting me to speak to her group) that suggested that controversial posts aren’t something that people should be doing on social media because it creates divisions andĀ dissensions within your audience. She suggested that there are enough negative things on Facebook and other social media that it wasn’t necessary to create more discontent. We spoke for a couple minutes longer and I was able to explain to her that the goal of social media is to create conversation. If your audience cares about your company and what you do and there’s something or someone that adversely effects your company then there is a potential reason to let your audience know. It might be a controversial zoning law that makes it so you can’t put up a proper sign, or perhaps a new regulation that creates an unfair competitive environment for your business. These are controversial subjects that might make your audience, and audience that presumably cares about you, stand up and scream at the injustice.

"HappyFaceBusinessManSmall"Of course these are just two examples. There are countless other examples. Even some that are much more divisive within your company audience. But the premise is that you create an environment where people react in a positive or negative way they react and then you can engage with them and they can engage with you.


I always discourage companies from being to overbearing with their censorship efforts. If someone decides to troll your business and tell everyone on your Facebook wall that you’re a terrible business then let them. It just offers the people who care about your business an opportunity to defend you and that defense speaks more volumes than any single troll. So in this sense controversy is another chance to encourage community involvement. I’m not suggesting that businesses go out and get their audience allĀ upset at them, but I am suggesting that you address your audience in a way that allows them to see your business as human and that includes the occasional controversy.

So, am I right? Is it good to create the occasional controversial social media post? Or is it just sowing the seeds of discontent? Sound off in the comment section below.

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