Brands and social media

By: Monique Geisen

From Charmin making toilet jokes to Old Spice starting arguments with brands all over Twitter, sassy social media branding is one of the biggest current digital marketing trends.

In April, Wendy’s went viral when they challenged a customer to get 18 million likes on a tweet in order to get free chicken nuggets for a year. The tweet by Carter Wilkerson requesting retweets for nuggets garnered the largest number of retweets in history at 3.7 million and started a hashtag campaign “#nuggsforcarter”.

But what makes these risky social media moves so popular? The answer is tricky to figure out. A study by Sprout Social showed that 72 percent of consumers like when brands are humorous on social media, however only 33 percent of consumers want brands to be snarky. This means brands must walk a fine line between finding the consumer’s funny bone without striking a sour note.

A big part of finding sassy social success is a brand’s established image. Silly social media posts tend to work well for brands that already have a playful reputation, like Wendy’s and its casual image, or Old Spice and its over-the-top commercials already are expected to crack jokes in public. That’s why when Wendy’s tweets,

Everyone has a good laugh. But when the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) account tweets:

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 6.54.47 PM

Many people were upset. FAFSA is a serious brand that people rely on to help them through a tough time in their lives, so by posting a meme disrespecting their audience, they alienated their followers.

In addition, much like a real social interaction, proper understanding of the right time and place is critical. Certain social trends are a great time for brands to show their silly side, but tweeting at the wrong time can destroy a brand’s social following.

For example, when Cinnabon tweeted this insensitive tribute to Carrie Fisher,Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 6.56.07 PM.png

The post received a massive backlash and the company was forced to delete the tweet and issue an apology.

Social media offers the best and most obvious opportunity to show off a little brand personality, but also offers the most risk. Once a comment is posted on the internet, the entire world will see it and even deleting the post won’t erase it from the internet completely.

And maybe the payoff isn’t worth the risk in the first place, Sprout Social found that only 36 percent of consumers will actually purchase from a brand that they think is funny. This means that although a spontaneous clever tweet may land you in the most popular tweets of all time, that internet fame may not actually drive revenue for your business in the long run. Leaving you to ask yourself: Is the risk worth it?


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