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Social Media, Politics Pose Risks, Opportunities for Business

Michael Der Manouel Jr. isn’t afraid to wear his views on his sleeve.

In fact, even as the political climate gets more and more divided, the president and CEO of Der Manouel Insurance Group continues to not only talk every morning on KMJ Radio, but also voice his opinions on Twitter. For him, it’s not just a way to get his views out — it’s a form of catharsis towards the issues that frustrate him the most.

“I have a lot of fun on social media. I have a lot of jabbing back and forth with people that I don’t even know — it’s not personal,” Der Manouel said. “I do jawboning back with some elected officials, and I see them out in the public and we laugh about it. So it’s not all serious stuff, but it’s kind of a release.”

However, for all the fun he does have, Der Manouel does have to exercise some caution. He’s also sure to emphasize that he speaks not for the company, but rather for himself. The size and maturity of his company also gives him some cushion to speak up. It’s something that Darren Rose, founder and CEO of Rose Strategic Communications, also advises to keep in mind.

“The chances are you’re always going to offend somebody, and the smaller the business, the greater the risk,” Rose said. “The larger the business, the risk can be assessed, but I think the thing is they need to think about their audience, and think about their customers.”

According to Rose, political expressions on Twitter have the potential to be either highly advantageous or destructive to a company. If caution isn’t exercised, it can have an adverse impact, not only on a company’s sales and stock, but also on the morale and retention of employees.

On the other hand, Rose stated that business owners are able to use social media to their advantage by lending their opinion on political matters that affect their areas of business. Social media can give them an outlet to lend their expertise to subjects that are “in their lane” and have a degree of credibility on the topic at hand. For example, Der Manouel frequently speaks on health care and water — prominent subjects in his line of work. Social media can also provide an opportunity for political discussion within the ag business.

“I’ve noticed friends and colleagues who are affected by the negotiation of trade agreements, or the framework that they’re trying to work currently with China,” Rose said. “And the position of tariffs on both sides — that has a big effect on agriculture, so folks in agriculture should definitely voice their opinion… in a constructive manner.”

Bitwise Industries encountered a similar opportunity for dialogue in 2017 during the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) debate in Congress. While the discussion became heated on both sides of the political isle, Bitwise CEO Irma L. Olguin Jr. voiced her support for immigrants under DACA protection. In her argument, she cited Fresno’s rapid growth in tech, and how the high number of DACA recipients (one of the highest in the nation) played a part in that growth. Her defense included a two-minute video on YouTube.

“I think for us, everybody deserves to have their point of view considered,” Olguin said. “We may not agree with that, and so in cases where it’s important to speak up — such as DACA — and especially in defense of an industry, we are excited and feel a calling to do that.”

Olguin, Rose and Der Manouel all noted that there is always room for discussion something which is often lost in social media, where nothing is person-to-person. For his part, Der Manouel said he still prefers to do his political talks face-to-face, saying that the environment can often diffuse tension.

“There’s a guy on Twitter I go back-and-forth all the time with, and then we go have a sandwich,” Der Manouel said with a laugh.

“Think before you tweet,” Rose said. “Take a deep breath. Again, if you can’t say it with a room full of people in front of you…you probably shouldn’t say it.”

Kabrina Speakman