January 25, 2015

Rachel Strella

Content Marketing: Should We Engage in Controversy?

social media controversyIn response to the 'become the hub' idea in the recent blog, 4 Ways to 'Ignite Content,' one reader asked me how I feel about controversy - specifically as a way for businesses to differentiate themselves in the crowded online space. His inquiry is compelling - and it's a question I'm often asked - so I thought I would offer my thoughts in this blog. 

When I think of controversy in social media,  I think of folks who have really made their mark this way. For example, some of you may have heard of Gary Vaynerchuk's (in)famous response on social media return on investment (ROI)... What's the ROI of your mother?

Would it work for you?

Before embarking on controversial topics, consider these questions: is it in alignment with your brand? Your personality?  Do you even believe what you're saying or are you saying it for the sake of being controversial? True passion can be motivational - and even influential - but it could also rub people the wrong way.

In my own business, I've avoided controversy because I believe there is nothing 'absolute' in the ever-changing world of social media. I also see the value in a variety of opinions and angles. My goal is to educate, converse and inspire - not necessarily tell people that my approach is the correct way. I value transparency, but I'm cautious with over-sharing or making bold statements that I can't back up.  I'm also not very funny, so I'm careful with humor or quips, too.

If you've never been someone to take a strong approach one way or another, here's my checklist to consider before deciding to start now:

  • a well-researched argument
  • logical, practical examples to illustrate your points
  • willingness to accept and properly handle emotional reactions from readers

We also want to be careful not to cross the line with sensitive topics. Bar rules apply such as avoiding discussion about politics or religion. These topics tend to inflame people and can potentially damage a business if not executed properly.

Like anything online, there's a permanency.  Be cautious of what you say because you can never really take it back, once you do.

I would love to know your thoughts on this topic. Can you think of times when controversy is warranted? Would you take this approach?

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2 comments on “Content Marketing: Should We Engage in Controversy?”

  1. Feel as if I'm stepping in one now.

    It is easy to make bold statements especially when you have emotional ties to controversial topics. The key is to maintain a non-confrontational stance. That could include incorporating views of the opposition in your comments. In addition to redirecting the emotion for awareness and good by presenting a possible solution.

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