When social media are done right, they allow people to connect on a human level. Talking about your vacations, your sports teams, the victories and triumphs of your children is fair game. Some Facebook and Twitter users like to keep it more professional, only sharing business-related stories and non-contentious discussions about the law.
But what about politics and religion? Are these topics that lawyers should openly discuss over social media? Jayne Navarre, a legal marketing consultant and author of Social Lawyers, posed this question to her Facebook followers and received some interesting responses.
“I was raised in an era when you didn’t discuss politics or religion without taking a major chance on the potential repercussions,” Jay Jaffe, one of the fathers of legal marketing, shared. “And, that was way before the Internet. In this day of instant global communications, I think that the same rules apply, only to the tenth power.”
The evidence suggests that Jaffe is exactly right. According a Pew Internet & American Life report that Navarre posted on her blog, virtualmarketingofficer.com, “Almost four in ten users discovered through postings by ‘friends’ that their political beliefs were different than they thought. Some users even blocked, un-friended, or hid those users’ posts from the news feed because they so strongly disagreed, or they were just sick of seeing so many posts all the time.”
I don’t question these statistics, but I hope that as lawyers and leaders in our communities we can engage in civil dialogue about positions that really matter to us without offending others. I would like to think the clients that hire me do so because of the quality of my work, not my political or religious allegiances. That said, I don’t want to intentionally offend anybody. So, here are a few guidelines for conducting civil dialogue on social media venues:
No name-calling. This especially includes not comparing people who disagree with you to Hitler. Much of the political rhetoric on Facebook and Twitter toes a party line and demonizes anyone who disagrees. If you intend to insult an entire political party, you probably shouldn’t do it on your professional Facebook page or Twitter feed.
Keep your facts straight. If you are posting political content, make sure it comes from a reputable source, not some long-discredited Internet rumor. This political season is already nasty enough. If you have an opinion to share, make sure it is an educated one.
Share great content, not conclusions. Many lawyers are terrified of getting into arguments over political issues, but you can easily share open-ended ideas without offending anybody. Let your followers draw their own conclusions.
Every lawyer has a personal brand. What you say and do defines your brand. If politics are a major part of your life, it makes sense for politics to have some part in what you talk about online. Just be prepared for the repercussions.