Airing one’s personal views on Twitter and other platforms can pose potential problems for marketers and advertisers, says Steve Dunne.
I don’t mind admitting it, I love social media.
I’m pretty active, both in posting content, comments and observations, and in replying to others.
My favourite is Twitter, which, while often resembling a war zone of opinions and views and is not for those with a thin skin or feint heart, can also be inspiring, entertaining and enlightening.
The other day, in a conversation with some clients about prospective speakers for a conference, I was presented with a view that I had never considered before. So do your personal views and comments, broadcast in the open arena of social media, impact the perception of the brand you work for? Even if you say that your views are not necessarily those of your employer?
I would imagine if you are junior or perhaps a middle manager commenting on Brexit, government policies, politicians or political parties, this is OK. I suspect that few consumers, suppliers or business partners, would link your views to their perception of the brand you work for.
But what if you are the chief executive, managing director, marketing director or commercial director and you are vitriolic, uncompromising and assertive about your political views on social media?
‘Brands are a means of self-expression’
What if you are the public face of your brand and your personal views are diametrically opposed to those of a significant segment of your brand’s target audience? Does that impact their perception, not of you, but of the brand you represent?
For decades, marketers have known that consumers select brands that they believe reflect their own. The brands they wear, use, or consume are a means of self-expression, acting as a sort of lifestyle beacon to their community and the world around them.
Car, clothing, cosmetics and yes, travel brands, actively pursue this concept in their marketing and advertising.
So if a senior manager, or the public face of the brand, is out of step with the views of a part of the consumer market, does that work against the brand?
One of the oldest mantras in sales is that people buy people. No matter how strong the product, if you don’t like the salesperson the sale becomes more difficult.
‘World is more polarised’
Does a celebrity chef airing their strong political views on social media impact their wider business interests? Does a celebrity sports commentator, airing on social media their fervent views on Brexit, impact their employer’s image and reputation?
It’s a moot point. But perhaps one worth considering for all travel brands.
Unfortunately, people don’t see the world as a series of silos in which what you say, do or believe, in one area is completely separate from what you represent or who you work for in another.
Now I am acutely aware that this line of thought is not without its dangers. What about freedom of speech? What about the world being made up of different views and robust debate being healthy?
Of course, if everyone kept to the middle of the road only talking about safe topics then social media itself would become terribly bland.
But it is a conundrum for brands and, as the world becomes more polarised, it is a real problem for marketers.
Social media guidelines for staff and brand leaders could be one way of dealing with the thorny issue of expressing yourself on public platforms although, it could be argued, that might be seen as draconian.
In the end, it may just boil down to common sense. Not being too rigid in one’s views; resisting the temptation to debate personally-held views too robustly and accepting that not everyone sees the world in the same light as you.
Or, that we acknowledge that while rank has its privileges, sharing our political views and opinions on public platforms may not be one of them.
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