Everyone has access to social media today, and everyone can write anything they want to literally anyone on social media, and the world can see what you’re talking about. However, removing and changing this content after it has been published can be a real hassle, and it is already in the hands of other folks from the moment that you share your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn post, or YouTube video. Typically, this isn’t a problem, but what about those topics that you’re passionate about and are a little controversial? On a blog, you have a lot more control over what content appears and you can remove it more easily, but if Google, Archive.org, or another archiving service indexes your blog you won’t be able to remove content from those services cache easily.
What if you are the organization that wants to place advertisements on websites? You’re going to want to be careful to avoid controversial content. Businesses should take care to place advertising on relevant sites with a consistent message, as this is usually a much better way to go to secure their brand.
Topics to Avoid at a Dinner Party and Your Social Media
The typical three topics that you should avoid at a dinner conversation: politics, religion, and sex are very polarizing topics. If you are known as an expert in a topic that ISN’T one of these three subjects, then your readers and subscribers could find your writing offensive regardless of your intentions. Consider: do you want to anger almost HALF of your potential readers because you wrote about a very polarizing topic?
The topic of religion has been very polarizing since people started declaring themselves faithful to a spiritual body. To some folks, the mere mention of an omnipresent deity is offensive. Consider this tweet from a professional football player:
Here is a message from a professional athlete, someone that children look up to and may consider a “hero” and he’s providing a link to some religious materials. Clearly, the commenter who replied was offended by his message, regardless of the positive spin on it. Regardless of the author’s intentions, he has alienated an element of his fan-base.
On the other side of the religious posts, posts about sex and sexuality can receive similar negative sentiment from readers. Consider folks with the following names associated with their Twitter accounts:
- “too gay too function”
- “the gay robot”
- “shes too gay for you”
- “laughing lesbian”
- “the lesbian mafia”
These profile names may be offensive to more conservative readers, and could alienate them from even considering reading your content and if your ads are surrounding controversial content on a news or social media platform, the association will be made, either consciously or subconsciously. Either way, the damage is done. The very presence of these terms in this article will trigger some readers as offensive. However, for folks in those communities where this content is acceptable, these accounts could be considered humorous and popular. The key is to know your audience, and target them appropriately, on sites that are relevant to that audience.
Let’s look at the topic of politics, and in the United States we are seeing polarizing discussions in all forms of media. Commentary for or against the administration of any nation can be met with very hurt feelings, and lead to a lost audience. Consider this tweet, and the damage it could have on your brand:
How much better would your company be if you focused more on tech, and less on liberal propaganda?
This was an open comment, not attached as a reply to a specific tweet but the commenter is clearly upset. Even more interesting is that the commenter in this scenario is casting anger at the company as well.
Sticks and Stones
Replies and comments like these on social media from readers who are ‘triggered’ or offended by content written by others are typically ignored and folks attempt to avoid “engaging the troll”. The authors of these posts and Twitter accounts take very little offense to these commenters, and don’t dwell long on the readers who are unhappy, but your content or brand can still be showing next to these comments
While ignoring the commenters is a good strategy to contain these messages, the online content is permanent and will always be available somewhere on the internet. If you are on the “other side” of this content, promoting the less popular side of the discussion, how would it feel to have 60-70% of your readers upset at you and walk away from your brand, blog, Twitter account, or YouTube channel?
Consider the story of YouTube broadcaster PewDiePie, whose real-name is Felix Kjellberg. At one point, his channel had more than 57 million subscribers and some of his videos received more than ten million views in the two months following publication. By comparison, he has more subscribers than the most viewed television program of all time (the MASH series finale) that was watched by 50 million households and millions of ads were shown around his content.
Felix is from Sweden, and has some different values that folks in other parts of the world. These values have started to show on his YouTube channel, and it has negatively affected his revenue model. His comments on race and jokes that featured Nazi images offended many and led to his removal from YouTube premium services and Disney cancelled a contract with him. While Felix does make a very tidy income from his YouTube subscribers and remaining advertisers, the loss of these additional contracts was a significant financial impact to him and there is no way to measure the damage to the advertiser’s brands that were supporting his content. Once their potential customers saw their ads surrounding controversial topics like the PewDiePie videos, the damage has been done, those customers cannot unsee it and their brand will have a negative association in their brain.
When you write a blog, or manage a site that serves advertisements, you should be aware of the motives and capabilities that your advertiser network uses when they place content on your site. Conversely, you should also be aware of where an ad network is placing your own ads. Consider this well-known ad from Samsung that was placed on Google’s ad network after the iPhone 6s was released:
Here’s a scenario where searches for a product deliver results that place at the first position on screen, the top competitor. Certainly, a brilliant marketing maneuver by Samsung, but what about those sites that were posting reviews of the iPhone and were receiving this advertisement on their page?
As the owner of the website, you own all content shown, and anyone can take a screenshot to demonstrate how you are supporting companies and organizations with their advertisements on your site. A placed advertisement will be viewed by your readers as an implicit endorsement of the product, because your site is compensated for that ad.
Consider that when you place an ad as well. Are you appearing on sites that you would want endorsing your product? Is the content on par with how you want your brand to be recognized? Taking the time to find the right sites for your advertising is time well spent.
Not all advertisements from Google and Facebook are ‘honorable’ or have good intentions. Many services are trying to trick the unsuspecting and are very eager to purchase content on your site to lure some of your wealthy readers to hand over their money or perform tasks for them. Regularly, Google and Facebook work to remove many of these advertisers, but they are not always successful. As recent research has shown, the Russian government bought hundreds of thousands of dollars in Facebook advertisements in an effort to disrupt the American presidential election. By accepting those purchases and placing those advertisements, Facebook has implicitly endorsed their content and could face questioning from the US government.
Resumes and Interviews
Your online content is your online resume, it’s your online billboard about who you are. Job recruiters and human resource departments now search online for any perspective hire and review the content that they find. Your blog, twitter account, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, and LinkedIn materials are all reviewed by most employers before determining whether to extend an interview. Are you portraying the personality that your new employer would want to hire? Does the advertising on your blog support a position that your future employer might disagree with?
While some of this content may turn away prospective employers, it could also attract offers from like-minded organizations. Returning to the story of pewdiepie, at the height of his popularity and before his racist commentary, he received contract offers from Disney, (at the time) the second largest entertainment company in the world. Your content on the web and social media can be very valuable, and sustained curation of those materials can and will lead to good things.
Find your niche and stick to it. Authors, producers and advertisers who step out of their area of expertise can get burned easily by angry readers who disagree with opinions and positions of what they are presenting or presented next to. If you curate your content and present likeable content around your topics, whether you are discussing technology, cooking, gardening, or whatever it may be, you will find a following and you will find success. Be wary of taking or spending advertising dollars without engaging and working with your advertising network to ensure that you receive top quality advertisements or advertising placements that you could comfortably endorse or be endorsed by.