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Adi is a social business blogger and community manager that writes for sites such as Social Business News and Social Media Today. Away from the computer he enjoys cycling, particularly in the Alpes. Adi is a DZone Zone Leader and has posted 1242 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Does politics have a place on your community?

03.18.2013
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The recent presidential election was billed as the social media election, with both main candidates using social media to promote themselves to voters.  Despite this however the topic of politics often has an uneasy relationship with many a community manager.

On the one hand it provides an easy source of content as it’s one of those topics that people can readily talk about until the sun comes down.  The flipside of course is that it’s also one of those topics where people seldom change their opinion, so discussions can often succumb to two camps retrenching into their positions and slugging it out.  The discourse can often become a case of quantity over quality, and fallings out are far from uncommon.

And it’s this side of things that causes many community managers to ban the discussion of politics, along with that of religion and your usual illegal stuff.  This post will provide a bit more meat to this discussion, looking at the pros and cons of political discussions.

First the pros.

The pros of allowing political discussionin your community

  1. People are adults – Ok, I’m assuming you’re running a community of adults, so why not treat them as adults?  You’re bringing people together with the belief that together you can do some great things, so you clearly trust them on one level to behave properly, so why rescind that trust when it comes to politics?
  2. Greater depth of understanding – I wrote earlier in the week about the potential for social media to provide deeper relationships between key people.  A bit of off-topic chat is crucial to helping those stronger relationships develop.

The cons of allowing political discussion in your community

  1. Focus, focus, focus – I’ve spoken many times about the importance of a clear purpose for your community.  It needs to tie into key organisational goals in order to allow you to measure its ROI.  The chances are political discussion between members isn’t a key organisation goal, so be careful to keep that in mind.
  2. It can polarise – Research has shown that politics causes people to un-friend people on Facebook more than any other topic.  Whilst encouraging deeper relationships between members is undoubtably good, you need to be careful to judge how important politics is to your members.  If political affiliation is part of ones identity then someone that doesn’t share that affiliation will be seen as an outsider, or even an enemy.  Not ideal for building relationships.

So you can see there are both positives and negatives.  What should you do on your community?

The purpose is the key as that’s what holds your community together and that’s what should guide all of your leadership decisions.

Does the allowing of politics help or harm the achievement of my communities purpose.

The answer to that question will tell you the extent that you allow political discussions in your community.

Republished with permission