Be careful how you use social media

Did you participate in the social media conversations about the U.S. presidential elections? Or did you just watch from the sidelines?

If you commented, I suspect you did so knowing that there’s always a risk associated with taking a stand. If you didn’t know that before you shared your position, I’m sure you found out quickly.

A social media case history

Take the case involving my publishing industry colleagues A and B. I like and respect and respect both of them.

I started paying more attention to Colleague A’s content when a post that wasn’t related to the election caught my eye. It was on her personal profile timeline, not her business Page, and the privacy setting was “public.” It was visible to anyone visiting her page.

What Colleague A shared was uncharacteristically confrontational. In the discussion that followed, she appeared to be cranky and close-minded — nothing like the person I know. A mutual acquaintance commented to me privately that she had unfriended Colleague A because of that discussion.

Uh-oh. Not good, right?

I wondered if Colleague A was struggling with something. I thought about calling to ask if everything was okay, but we are acquaintances, not good friends, and it was possible that my concern would be misinterpreted. So . . . I kept my thoughts to myself.

Election commentary

Her uncharacteristically dark mood continued with sarcastic pre-election posts. After the election,  she commented about the results — and how some reacted to them — in a way that communicated that she was pleased with the outcome. She criticized those who stated their disappointment.

While her criticism didn’t disturb me, I was surprised by it. There seemed to be a disconnect from her usual cheerful, fun commentary. It felt like there were two social media personas posting on one Facebook account. The upbeat person who used to show up there had been replaced by someone who was sarcastic and angry. It was odd . . . and I started to wonder which persona best reflected the “real” Colleague A.

And as the “Deal with it!” postings continued, I thought, “This can’t be good for her business.

And I was right.

Point counterpoint

my way your wayEnter Colleague B.

Colleague B was offended by Colleague A’s post-election commentary and called her out on it, by name, in a response on her own timeline. She described Colleague A’s position and attitude accurately and explained her own views, and why she held them.

Some might say that Colleague A came across as a bully and Colleague B as a victim; others might say the opposite. But one thing is certain: Colleague B’s post generated an angry backlash against Colleague A.

I wasn’t surprised that Colleague A became a target, but she was.

She complained that Colleague B had aligned her with some of the negatives linked to the election victor and in doing that, Colleague A said, Colleague B was thoughtless and cruel.

In other words, Colleague B’s response was irresponsible.

But predictable.

Consequences of controversy

Colleague A had every right to post whatever she wanted on her Facebook timeline. I liked her honesty and as I read the comments on her posts, I could see that she had many like-minded connections.

But when you write something that will feel confrontational and antagonistic to others, you shouldn’t be surprised when someone who doesn’t agree with you responds to it. It’s a risk you take when expressing an opinion on Facebook or any other social platform, and you have to accept that risk. If you can’t, keep your opinions to yourself.

Are you glad the election is over? Let us know in a comment! 

Like what you’re reading? Get it delivered to your inbox every week by subscribing to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter. You’ll also get my free “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” cheat sheet immediately!


  1. Excellent advice. One thing I learned from my years working in crisis PR–the people that engage are only the tip of the iceberg. Authors who want to take a stand on political issues run the risk of alienating potential readers. For every one that says something there are at least ten who write you off. This is especially problematic for authors who are using their personal Facebook profile to promote themselves as authors by having their profiles public. If you want only like-minded people to buy your books, great. Best reason ever to make sure you personal and professional social media are separate. Thanks Sandy!

    1. Thanks, Chris. Excellent advice, as always! I think what surprised me the most about the election commentary in general was how nasty people could be. Would they talk that way to someone in person? I hope not, but maybe they would. (Yikes.)


  2. We’ve heard it for years… never discuss religion and politics. I won’t write about politics, but I’ll write about Christianity. Why? Because I alone can’t convince anyone regarding either topic. But I can get people thinking about religion and Holy Spirit can advance the convincing, as long as it has to do with Christianity.

    1. Thanks, Michael. From my perspective, religion and politics are in the same category. You’re trying to convince people that your choice is the right one.


      1. Sandy,

        In the abstract, I agree with you that we should keep religion and politics separate from our business. However, after I read this exchange in the morning, I happened to see a two-page advertising spread in a travel magazine from Jeep, the car maker. Atop the left page, it said, “America is a melting pot of different cultures, and what we offer to all is the right to life, liberty and happiness.” Atop the right page, it said, “We are a great nation with strong values and beliefs. We celebrate what we have in common, the ability to express our freedom.” Below, along with a photo of a new Grand Cherokee, was the slogan, “What unites us is stronger than what divides us.”

        Now you could be cynical about this and regard this as just another marketing ploy, but to me it shows an example of how you can bring in political ideals in an inoffensive and maybe even inspiring way. Certainly Jeep took a risk in voicing these sentiments and relating them to their cars, but I think they were tapping into some kind of non-sectarian politics, if that makes sense.

        Seeing this ad reminded me of many times when I have read other people’s religious sentiments that are quite different from my own but which I totally respected, because they were phrased in a non-aggressive way that was clearly simply their own experience or that was rather universal in meaning or intent.

        In sum, I think political and religious feelings can be touched on in business if it can be done in a non-arrogant, non-divisive way. But one should do so only rarely and very consciously.

        Marcia Yudkin

        1. Thanks, Marcia. Jeep has done a nice job with that. People will say, “See? Even Jeep agrees with me” — even people with opposing opinions!

          Well done, Jeep.

          Thanks for the thoughtful feedback!


  3. Spot on! If I didn’t know better, I think I “know” who you are talking about. But then, there were plenty of people who fit this description during the heated elections.

    I was actually shocked to see a friend/colleague go to what seemed “the dark side” with her outbursts. She is normally a level headed person but it was as if the demons of the election got hold of her.

    If people dared to disagree with her it was all out attacking.

    To say I was shocked was an understatement. It was not at all characteristic of the woman I used to know.

    Did it color my opinion of this woman? Yes… it most certainly did. Because I now did not feel like I could express an opinion that didn’t agree with hers without being the target for her attacks.

    And life goes on in the world of Social Media. Not that we shouldn’t express our opinions, but let’s not stoop to the low of lows that make people not even want to engage in an intelligent discussion.

    Nice post!

    1. Thanks, Kathleen! Sometimes the surprise comes not from the person’s beliefs but in how they’re expressed, right? That says a lot about someone — and it sounds like perhaps you learned more than you wanted to about this individual.

      Thanks for chiming in — always good to her from you!


  4. Great article and it fully confirms my (and I am sure many others’) policy of never discussing politics on social media.


    No matter what you say about politics (more now than ever) you risk annoying someone, likely many someones, and that usually hurts your writing business.

    The US election was so polarizing discussion of it spilled over into Canada. I heard some pretty strong opinions about an event over which Canadians had zero influence.

    I can only imagine the minefield US authors must step through if they care to express a political opinion on social media. Just not worth the angst, lost business, and ruined relationships.

    My two cents.


    1. Thanks, Brant. I did notice my Canadian friends weighing in — and arguing about the merits of the candidates. You’re right about the fact that they had no influence on the outcome, but that outcome does have an impact on them, unfortunately. I kind of like that they got involved in the discussion!

      It’s nice to hear from you here — stop back!


  5. Great post, Sandy! Like Brant, I NEVER discuss my political views on any venue where my name is attached – social media, blog, ezine, etc. I made that decision to keep them separate a long time ago.

    Way I see it, there’s virtually no upside to making those views known (and especially in such a polarizing election like we just went through) and all manner of downside. Just not worth it.

    As far as I’m concerned, when sharing info/posting/tweeting, etc. to folks in my communities, my only job is to share information that can help forward their particular paths—whether in the realm of self-publishing or commercial freelance writing. And to do that requires ZERO sharing of one’s political positions.

    It’s pretty darn likely that many of the people with whom I communicate regularly in cyber-space hold very different views than mine, and the productive relationship we have would be needlessly jeopardized if we shared them. No point!

    1. Thanks, Peter. Sounds like you use social media only for business purposes. Business and politics don’t mix.


  6. I think Marcia is dead on in bringing up the Jeep ad. In a case like that, you’re putting out a statement in response to the election but you’re really just affirming values. I attended a rally a few weeks ago held to reaffirm the same values and the name of neither candidate was mentioned. Although, like many, I am thankful the election season has ended, we still need to see how things will fare under the new administration. In general, I rarely post on social networks about politics though I have left one or two non-confrontational posts on Facebook that tied into issues under discussion by both candidates. Jay Lemming

  7. Well, If you’re concerned about selling books, and you’re an elephant, you have 62,000,000 potential customers. If your a donkey, you have 64,000,000. If you have a page turner, you have the whole jungle full of readers. Regarding this election, folks, we have big problems. Sorry grandkids.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *