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Walking the Line: Tackling Controversy Without Causing Offense to Your Audience

So you’ve got your Facebook page going. It’s been rolling along and you’ve been enjoying interacting with your followers – but then along comes something you’d like to discuss. Something controversial, perhaps, and something that may stir up some heated emotions.

How exactly do you handle this without offending anyone?

First off, let’s look at the definition of controversy: disagreement, particularly when prolonged and heated. Who hasn’t seen at least a little bit of this on Facebook? Let’s be honest: who hasn’t been at least a little amused by it – at least when it doesn’t affect you?

That said, when controversy makes its appearance on your page – whether that page is personal or professional – it’s a different story. This is your brand and your livelihood you’re building here, and it’s your image that you’re trying to protect. So how do you do it and continue to connect with your audience without shying away from the topics you’d like to address?

Here’s your first rule: know where to draw your line in the sand. If you’re posting about something controversial, you’re doing it – hopefully – because it’s a topic about which you care deeply. That means you’re not necessarily going to agree with everyone about it. That’s okay. You’re not required to agree with everyone about everything. You’re human and have your own mind and ability to express opinions.

Keep this in mind: it’s not about telling everyone what they say is right. No one expects that. It’s about how you express yourself about controversial issues – that is what’s going to either make or break you in the eyes of your audience.

Look, for example, at the Amy’s Baking Company debacle on Facebook a while back. If you’re not familiar with the story, Amy’s Baking Company was a restaurant profiled on chef Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” show. The husband-and-wife owners were so bombastic that they caused Ramsay to walk out of their restaurant – and that’s something given that Ramsay is bombastic himself.

In the aftermath, proprietors Samy and Amy Bouzaglo engaged in personal attacks on their Facebook page, defending themselves in vigorous and often vulgar ways. This approach is not going to appeal to your audience. Trust me.

Instead, take a reasoned and reasonable tone. Keep a cool head.

Remember that arguing on Facebook can be much like arguing at a dinner party – and your page is your dinner party. By keeping a rational manner about you, even as you stand your ground in an argument, you can successfully refrain from having anyone throw the stuffed tomatoes. Virtually speaking, of course.

Here’s another rule: be polite. Of course you’re not going to agree with everybody. You’re not expected to. However, you as the owner and de facto moderator of your page are expected to keep a handle on the arguments that may ensue on that page. Set the tone from the top. When you first introduce a controversial subject, do it in a considerate and well-considered way that makes respondents want to take a similar tone.

One last thing to keep in mind: it’s better to have people debating on your page – as long as it’s done in a rational manner – than to have silence. Controversy isn’t always a bad thing. It’s all in how you choose to handle it, so think before you post! You’ll thank yourself later.

I’d love to know what you think about this – leave me a comment below or on my Facebook Page!

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