Political season makes everybody a little crazy.
Politicians are masters at motivating people to move.
From the outside it makes people look insane.
However, the fact that politicians are able to get their supporters to a point of near frenzy is inspiring for a marketer.
Most marketers rarely can cause the slightest twinge of emotion. Politicians can make you cry over quantitative easing.
This frenzy inducing force has created an interesting situation when mixed with social media.
If you spend much time at all on Facebook you probably have run across a person who is spouting off about some political issue.
This, in itself, fascinates me. I distinctly remember being taught not to talk about politics and religion in public. But it’s often people older than me who are doing this very thing. I see political commentary on Facebook and Twitter all the time.
Personally, I’m glad it’s happening. Why do you hide the things you care most about? The answer is because other people care about the same issues, but from other perspectives. So you are likely to butt heads. Avoiding conflict at the price of burying your values seems not worth it.
But the outcome of this is sometimes that it becomes unbearable to hear the opinion of people you disagree with.
Strongly held opinions transform in the human mind into fact.
We must always remember as marketers that humans are feeling creatures that happen to think. It is not the other way around.
We feel something incredibly strongly and then process it in our brains as a logical conclusion.
We do this all the time about things that we truly know very little about.
- Global warming.
- Genetically modified crops.
These are all issues that you probably feel strongly about one way or another. You probably feel so strongly about them that you feel that your belief is truth and fact.
But the reality is very few of us know much about any of those issues. And further, projecting the outcome of changing policy on any of those issues is virtually impossible to do. You’ve probably heard of the butterfly effect in chaos theory where the flapping of a single butterfly’s wings can have untold, nonlinear, massive consequences.
If that is the case, how the hell do we know what the outcome would be if we removed all genetically modified crops from the planet?
The answer is simple. We can’t know. But yet we feel so strongly about it that our beliefs become truth in our minds.
This “belief = truth” processing of information when mixed with social media has a direct effect with our personal relationships.
Social media offers a kind of windshield that makes us more likely to let our guard down and be more emotionally open with our thoughts and beliefs. It’s the same with road rage. People become enraged at the driver next to them for making, what is usually, a minor infraction. They would never do this at Wal-Mart or Target if a person did something similar with their shopping cart because there isn’t that barrier of metal and glass between the two people.
Social media provides a barrier of digital space that allows us similar comforts, often at the peril of other people’s feelings.
I have now seen two interesting consequences of this “belief = truth” mentality when mixed with the digital windshield of social media.
In the first instance I saw someone post on their Facebook wall that they will be defriending anyone who is against gun control laws. That produced an interesting flurry of comments from both sides.
This interests me because I wonder if it potentially carries over into off-line relationships. It would be highly unusual for all of your friends and family to have the same beliefs on gun control laws.
The social media digital windshield makes you feel comfortable enough to make a statement like that. However, most of the people we are friends with on Facebook are also our friends and family off-line.
So, if this person actually does defriend these people on Facebook how will she treat them when she encounters them off-line?
If you blew your horn, flashed your bright lights and yelled out the window at your spouse on the road because they were driving too slow, would that interaction not exist when you got home? I think it would.
If you make a comment on Facebook that you will be defriending anyone who does not believe the same way as you, wouldn’t that interaction carry over into your off-line relationships? I would think it would.
In one respect, I think it’s valuable for your friends and family to know your position on social issues. In another respect, I think drawing a line in the sand that you will no longer be friends with people who disagree with you can have surprising butterfly effects in your life.
The second instance of interest to me was that I saw a person deleting comments from a political discussion on their Facebook wall that they didn’t agree with.
The person whose comments were deleted wrote back and said something like, “You can’t delete my comments. I have the right to freedom of expression.”
The person whose Facebook wall it was said that it was her wall and she could do whatever she wanted to do.
This is interesting because we all become publishers in the social media era. We decide what gets posted and what gets removed. We all are publishers of our own little newspapers. Some businesses and people have enough followers that it reaches the scale of an actual publication.
Both of these interactions were very influential to me. I think we can learn something here as businesses.
Individuals that cut off friends and family because they disagree on political and social issues is potentially damaging to the relationships in these people’s lives. That said, it galvanizes the relationships of their friends who have the same beliefs. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing. They are becoming closer to people they connect with. And they are willing to let the relationships of people they disagree with fade away.
In this way the digital social media windshield is allowing these people to muster the courage to take a firm stand on issues. Admit it, don’t you prefer to spend time with people who agree with you? You look forward to those meetings.
On the other hand, businesses almost always refuse to take a stand on social issues. The result, I think, is a fake, two-dimensional relationship that we have with our customers and prospects.
What I’m suggesting here is that we actually learn from what individuals are already doing in social media.
Some individuals are drawing lines in the sand based on passionately held beliefs. They appear to be willing to let relationships go with people of differing beliefs. I think the result ultimately is stronger, closer relationships.
I know that there is a concern in society that we are all separating ourselves further from people who disagree with us. But I have seen no evidence that yelling at each other about emotionally held beliefs has any value. When have you ever walked away from a conflicting political conversation and felt that you have been persuaded in some way?
We, as businesses, can also learn from what politicians have been doing since the beginning of politics. Politicians are just running businesses. They realize that nearly 50% of people are going to completely disagree with them. But they only need 51% of people to mostly agree with them.
However, we as businesses position ourselves in hopes of appealing to 100% of the people. And in doing so, we make nearly no connection with any of the people.
I am beginning to believe that businesses should probably take a greater stand on their beliefs.
Very few of us in business need all of society to like us. In fact, small businesses need a very small percentage of people to like them.
What I’m suggesting here is that by strongly siding on political and social issues as a business you are instantly emotionally connecting with 50% of the US population. By not taking a stand on any issue, you are emotionally connecting with no one.
We know for a fact that people buy from who they know and who they like. People like other people who are like them. In fact, wouldn’t you rather do business with people that you liked?
It is very possible that the way to be successful in business is to be politically incorrect. We need to take a stand.