February 14, 2017

How are You Handling Political Comments on Social Media?

By Cassi Price

What You Need to Know Before Posting Your Views

According to a recent Pew study on social media and politics, the vast majority of Americans on social media have expressed frustration over the political tone and content on social media lately…and for good reason.

In the past few months, our social media platforms have become overrun with political content, most of it taking one side or the other with passionate discussions to follow in comments. With a large percentage of followers now participating in these discussions, voicing and defending their views, it can be confusing as a marketing manager for a healthcare organization to decide whether or not to engage.

Before You Jump In, Consider Some Numbers

Because there are compelling arguments on both sides of this issue, let’s highlight the statistics to consider before you jump in with your personal views as a professional in a position of service to others in healthcare:

  • 64 percent of Americans on social media revealed that they have less in common with their friends than they thought. If you believe the classic service rule that people do business with people they like, then you’ll have to believe that posting your political views could affect your professional relationships.
  • 46 percent of Americans found interactions on social media regarding politics to be stressful and frustrating, and that statistic was shared equally among Democrats and Republicans. While some healthcare organizations believe they are taking a stand and their patients will respect them for it, this study shows your patients are more likely to become stressed or frustrated with your post no matter the content.
  • 83 percent of Americans will not engage with political content they disagree with. If you’ve been sharing your political views on social media and have received no negative feedback, it DOES NOT mean that no one disagrees with you.
  • 39 percent of Americans on social media have blocked or minimized content seen from someone because of politics. Not only will someone become frustrated with a political post, but a large percentage of users will simply block the offender, never seeing other content from them again.
  • 20 percent of Americans have expressed that social media has modified their view about a political or social issue. While there may be negative response to sharing political views, social media is also incredibly effective in inspiring change. If you feel strongly enough about an issue, and are willing to weather possible negative impact on your position within your healthcare organization, the study reveals that your posts could actually lead to change.

Consider the Effect On Your Personal Brand

Today, your private postings on social media are more accessible than you think and will be linked to the healthcare organization you work for. That being said, besides the statistics presented above, there are a few questions to ask yourself before taking a stand that will affect your personal brand:

  1. Are your hospital’s culture or views in line with the issue?
  2. How does your management or hospital board feel about the issue?
  3. Can you handle the backlash?

Ultimately, you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons. Do you feel strongly enough about the issue to put your healthcare organization or professional brand on the line for it? If you do and other individuals of authority at your hospital agree, then proceed, but proceed with caution and prepare for backlash.

Cassi Price, manager of marketing strategy at VGM Forbin, is a member of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network.

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