Major brands are learning that fun and business are not mutually exclusive when it comes to social media. Companies are gaining recognition with consumers by actually using social platforms the same way consumers do: with humor and occasional sarcasm.
Seeing corporations humanize their Twitter feeds and Facebook pages is a refreshing shift from the norm, and let’s be honest, it’s really entertaining. Seeing a company respond to a dissatisfied customer with a response other than “We’re sorry to hear that,” or watching competitors battle it out in 140 characters, makes social media exciting. But, even with all this fun, there are certain rules and protocols.
Here are four rules that companies should follow in order to inject some sass into their social media activities without losing their class:
1. Remember: The Customer is Always Right
This is old adage applies in the new communications environment. Customers use social media to complain about a product or service, it seems, every second. The knee-jerk and sometimes automated response is to apologize and offer some sort of corrective action. More creative companies are adding a bit of sass to the equation and the very best are doing it without causing offense.
We have previously seen a Pandora’s Box opened when a company attempts to argue with customers via social media. To make the best of a bad situation with an unhappy customer, apologies are always in order. In the right situation, a layer of humor can also help, particularly if the original complaint included a humorous tone. A great example is the UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, which gave the following response to a customer complaining about a recently purchased sandwich.
The corporate account also issued an apology to @OctoberJones for having to “wrestle” his way through the sandwich. Well done, Sainsbury’s.
2. Spar with the Competition
More and more companies are using humor in social media to promote their brand name against the competition. Comparing and contrasting one product against another is not revolutionary. But publicly engaging in a friendly battle of words is. Finding the happy medium of promoting a brand without seeming crass can be achieved through subliminal, and sometimes, ironic messaging. The best example of straddling the line between humor and rivalry was perfectly executed by Oreo and Kit Kat. When a user commented on her love of both products, Kit Kat set the stage for a Twitter battle by initiating a game of Tic-Tac-Toe with Oreo. When Oreo’s turn came, it swiftly ended the duel of wits by “taking a bite” of the Kit Kat and then stating, “couldn’t resist.” This interaction between rivals, from using the candy shapes to picking Tic-Tac-Toe to complimenting the deliciousness of its rival, showed brands can engage in friendly and snarky competition.
3. Poke Fun at Yourself, Too
Brands naturally want to increase page views and sell product. Media outlets and various commentators regularly criticize corporate brands for using social media for this purpose and essentially doing it without tact or creativity.
In a stroke of genius, Tide Detergent decided to give critics, specifically The Onion, exactly what they railed against: a cheesy, product pushing video on Facebook, produced for the purposes of attracting as many views as possible. Tide’s rebuttal was praised by AdWeek, MediaPost and the video currently has more than 32,000 views on YouTube. Tide came out on top in this “battle” by recognizing the validity of the criticisms and having the wherewithal to make fun of themselves in a ridiculously overt way.
4. Think Outside the Box
Companies tend to believe creativity on social media can only be directed to customers or the competition. Engaging other brands in unrelated industries can be surprisingly effective. Responding to brands that are not competitors highlights one of the most enjoyable aspects of social media: unexpected humor. A perfect example is the “battle” between Old Spice and Taco Bell. Taco Bell addressed Old Spice’s “call out” of its fire sauce with the perfect response.
Consumers are observing and enjoying the friendly snipes and snarky remarks brands are injecting into their social media engagement. Just take a look at the examples above — they received hundreds of retweets, YouTube views and positive coverage in industry and mainstream media about their responses. Those with the right personality and tone are receiving praise, and rightfully so.
What other examples show the positive outcomes of selective sass on social media?