There's a lot going on in the news right now. Between Caitlyn Jenner's transition, the fight for equality in many different forms, the hunting of Cecil the Lion, and, not to mention, the upcoming election, Twitter and Facebook are constantly a-buzz with hashtags. Trending hashtags, on both Twitter and Facebook, are a great way to get your business profile some traction, but should you stay away from the political ones?
Let's take a look at some of the recent involvement with political hashtagging:
A big, recent example of brands using political hashtags is the Supreme Court ruling for same sex marriage in all 50 states. Countless companies took to Twitter to show their support with the hashtag #LoveWins. Gap, Uber, Cheerios, Snickers, and AT&T are a few of the huge companies partaking in the hashtag. If you look under the comments of each post, you can see that not every customer was a fan of the sentiment. However, for some businesses, politics isn't about business.
When Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced the brand's support of the movement back in 2012, a shareholder pointed out that Starbucks sales had dropped since the announcement. Shultz responded:
"Not every decision is an economic decision. Despite the fact that you recite statistics that are narrow in time, we did provide a 38% shareholder return over the last year. I don't know how many things you invest in, but I would suspect not many things, companies, products, investments have returned 38% over the last 12 months. Having said that, it is not an economic decision to me. The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people. We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace diversity. Of all kinds."
The question is, can small businesses afford the same luxury?
Politics have a tendency, unfortunately, to pull people apart. It's a big reason I discourage political conversation in the office - I'm a big fan of thought-provoking, respectful dialogue, but political conversation can often lead to tense feelings, which is bad for the workplace. Gap, Cheerios, Snickers, and AT&T could have very well have lost thousands of customers due to their simple use of a hashtag, but fortunately for them, they can afford such a loss. A small business on the other hand cannot, so the risk of becoming politically involved in the public arena is much greater. Next time you find yourself looking through the trending hashtags for something to draw attention to your business, ask yourself if your business can stand to lose customers. If not, stay away from the political hashtags. Instead, wait until your business is wildly successful enough to change the world one hashtag at a time.