With just a little more than two weeks before the 2012 Presidential Election, it feels nearly impossible to go online, watch TV or even speak to someone without hearing a political opinion. As a consumer, this may not be an issue other than getting annoyed by a friend’s point-of-view. But as a brand, you risk losing half your audience – or half your customers – and half your revenue.
According to the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 94 percent of respondents use social media to market their businesses. Compare that number to the increasing number of consumers who following brands on these sites: Twice as many consumers followed brands in the past two years according The Social Habit 2012 study by Edison Research.
So if you’re reaching out to consumers and they are reaching back, what happens when you share your political beliefs?
“It’s a topic that only serves to divide our fans and take our happy, fun business topic into ugly territory. It’s not worth it. I feel it’s like religion. Better to keep it to yourself unless you’re prepared to deal with the consequences,” says Laura DeVries, co-owner, Cupcakes-A-Go-Go, Madison, Wis.
Brands that have found themselves in this territory include Chic-Fil-A, Planned Parenthood, KitchenAid, and even Sesame Street is getting pulled into the political scene lately. Other brands are learning from their mistakes. “Individuals who agree with me would reply with positive comments or retweet my original tweet. Others who don’t agree with my political beliefs would reply tweet their disdain or quietly look for an alternative cafe to patronize; example: Chic-Fil-A,” says Lance Ratze, owner, Yola’s Cafe, Madison, Wis.
At the beginning of the month, President Obama came to Madison for a campaign stop. Cupcakes-A-Go-Go made Obama cupcakes for his visit and posted a picture of them on its Facebook page. However, DeVries says they took a proactive step to posting a political picture. “[We] explicitly asked fans to not start any political hash-throwing … that the post was in support of our current president being in our town, which was a cool thing to have happen, regardless of who you like,” she adds.
Steven Buchholz, chef and owner of Crema Cafe, Monona, Wis. also avoids the political fray when posting from his company accounts. “I have gone to the Switzerland approach and stay as neutral as I can. I recommend this approach by steering clear of politics unless you can take the heat of irritating some folks. Some folks are set in their ways and don’t [want to hear] anything about your views if they differ from theirs,” he says.
Posting your politics can be a risky move, but it can be even riskier if you’re still developing your brand as is the case with Cupcakes-A-Go-Go. “I respect anyone who has a strong enough business to take a stand on their beliefs and I would never say if I think they should or should not speak their political mind,” DeVries says. “However, for us, we are just too new to afford to lose customers over politics. It’s a profit issue for us and a risk we can’t afford to take.”
Ratze says owners need to ask themselves two questions before posting anything political: How many customers or potential customers can I afford to lose? Is it worth it?