#ausvotes  2013 has kicked off and our politicians are taking selfies, posting slogans and seeking likes on their favourite social media sites. For the rest of us, it’s a time when we have to look at policies, evaluate the leaders and try to make a decision on polling day. For me, I try to hide under my desk until it all goes away (seriously, who else is completely done with Australian politics?).

For some brands, the decisions made in Canberra will have a direct effect on their bottom line, so using social media as a platform to share their position is important. After all, explaining why a particular policy is affecting a consumer’s favourite brand may influence their vote.

The car leasing industry has set up @fbt_whosnext to lobby against changes to the Fringe Benefit Tax on business cars with the help of paid Twitter ads and promoted posts.

The car leasing industry has set up @fbt_whosnext to lobby against changes to the Fringe Benefit Tax on business cars with the help of paid Twitter ads and promoted posts.

UNICEF is vocal in its opposition to cuts to foreign aid.

UNICEF is vocal in its opposition to cuts to foreign aid. 

Now, I’m all for brands to tell me why a particular policy could send them to the wall. I mean, if the government introduced legislation that would push the price of my macchiato up to $5, I would want my local cafe to tell me about it, and I would get all protesty. But this isn’t always the case. Some brands simply take a personal political opinion and tarnish their brand with it (and this is where the ‘unfollow’ button is a wonderful thing). It can be cringe city when a brand you love, and that you are used to getting updates about, starts taking a hard political line.

But what’s wrong with taking a side in politics, Charles?

Not much sir/madame.

The issue is when a brand talks politics for the sake of talking politics. By this I mean slandering a particular party/politician or jumping on the personal-abuse bandwagon (‘Doesn’t the prime minister have silly hair and googly eyes!’) etc. There a few things that, as a social media manager, you can do to avoid alienating a large proportion of your online community:

–  Stop, breathe and think before you tweet.

–  Ask yourself if this opinion reflects your brand and your consumers.

–  Consider whether this will actually add any value to your community.

If you are a brand and want to take a hard line on politics or completely speak your mind, may I suggest doing it on your own personal account? Be sure to  distance yourself enough from your employer and abide by your social media policy. Oh – and always check which one you’re tweeting from, as Thai Airways discovered early this month.

Thai Airways confused everyone with this tweet. Safe to say this was their community manager forgetting to use a personal account.

Thai Airways confused everyone with this tweet. Safe to say this was their community manager forgetting to use a personal account.

 

Lobbying a particular piece of legislation that directly affects your business in a polite and considered manner makes sense. But when your brand makes hard-line statements, personal attacks or general remarks that don’t directly relate to the brand itelf,  remember your customers won’t always share your political views – and your social media presence speaks to them about your business. Unless it’s policy that directly affects you, it is best to steer clear of it and avoid alienating your online community.