12 Ways for Businesses to Deal With Hot-Button Topics on Social Media


Social media has given every individual and organization a public voice, and people are eager to share their opinions on the latest hot-button issue. So should your business take a stance on controversial topics, or stay out of the fray?

To find out, we asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following:

Q. What is your best advice for businesses for dealing with controversial issues on social media

1. You can take a stance, but don’t try to please everyone

When controversy arises on social media, typically you will want to avoid it at all costs and remain neutral. However, if it’s a controversy that is related to an issue you are passionate about and you know your audience will connect with it, then state your position loud and clear. Just avoid trying to take a stance that attempts to please both sides—your audience will see right through it. —Bryan KeslerCPA Exam Guide

2. Pause, then decide on a consistent response

The key is to avoid being reactionary and jumping straight in. Take a quick pause and ask yourself: What’s been said? What’s at the heart of it? What is the ideal outcome? Be honest and transparent while remaining committed to a tone that reflects your brand’s values. Decide on a core response and never deviate from it. Oh, and don’t allow rogue team members to weigh in without consultation. —Eng TanSimplr

3. Use your team as a focus group

Test possible approaches and brainstorm ideas with your team. You can’t always predict on your own how people will respond to a specific message. If you’ve hired a diverse group of people, use them as a quick focus group and draw ideas from their responses. —Duran InciOptimum7

4. Respond quickly to customer service controversies

If the controversial issue is a customer service issue, it’s best to respond as soon as possible to calm the customer down, and figure out the problem. The last thing you want is an angry customer tweeting a lot of negative publicity about your company. Respond to complaints and move the conversation to email. —Syed BalkhiWPBeginner

5. Focus on solutions

Controversy on social media often doesn’t solve anything. Rather, it only adds conflict and brings out the worst in people. I tend to avoid getting involved. If I’m directly asked about an issue, I remain positive and focus on mentioning how we can help make things better or find real solutions. —Serenity GibbonsNAACP

6. Don’t take a firm stance unless you have to

We consider professionalism to be a virtue since it allows groups of people who have little in common and who may dislike each other to work together effectively. It’s a good idea to approach controversial issues in the same way. In some cases, such as net neutrality, speaking out may be necessary, but in general, it’s best to avoid taking a firm stand on a divisive issue and alienating your customers. —Vik PatelFuture Hosting

7. Stay out of political issues

Remember your customers come from all walks of life. Your best bet is to stay out of it and focus on your mission. Leave politics to politicians and be respectful to your customers. It is difficult to speak for your whole team and whole consumer base, so remember your place and try not to get too preachy. —Derek BromanDiscount Enterprises LLC (DEGuns)

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8. Show your brand values and build hype

A lot of businesses I have worked with try to stay away from political or controversial issues, but the truth is hype can go a long way for you. It’s about spreading the word about your brand and getting people to talk about your business—good or bad. Don’t stay away from controversy, and always let your values show through. —Sweta PatelSilicon Valley Startup Marketing

9. Actively listen without taking sides

Our business is health insurance coverage, which is a very hot topic on social media these days. When we have a vocal social commenter on either side of the topic, we remain neutral. Remaining neutral does not mean being dismissive. We can still be empathetic to other people’s views and experiences. If we can make a person feel like we’re listening and can understand their frustrations, many times they will move past it. —Jeff PittaSenior Market Advisors

10. Amplify others’ voices

The best way I can think of to handle hot-button issues on social media is to avoid making any kind of statement or endorsement of your own. Instead, you should amplify the voices of other people by offering a public forum for them to express their opinions. This way, people’s voices are heard and you aren’t forced to take a side, which could alienate your followers. —Bryce WelkerAccounting Institute for Success

11. If you speak up, have a goal in mind

If a controversial issue pops up in social media, the first thing to do is ascertain whether or not it demands your involvement. If, for whatever reason, you can’t avoid engaging the problem at hand, then stay focused on the ideal outcome. Why do you need to say something? What do you hope to achieve by saying something? Backwards plan your strategy from there. —Ryan WilsonFiveFifty

12. Own your stance

The best way to handle a controversial issue is to be upfront and honest about where you stand. Coming right out and saying what you believe cuts others off from forming incorrect opinions. It may sting having to speak up, but it’s always worth it. —Colbey PfundLFNT Distribution

RELATED: Biggest Social Media Mistakes Made by Businesspeople

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