The creative capabilities of social media, coupled with how people are now consuming content, presents brands with the ability to act more “human” and find new opportunities to connect with their audiences. Social allows Merriam Webster to cultivate a brand voice that uses sarcasm as a response to the United States’ current political climate. It enables Totino’s Pizza Rolls to insert itself into high profile events like the Super Bowl without a million dollar ad buy. And through dank memes and parody rap videos, social makes brands like BarkBox, monthly pet subscription service, relevant to millennials. Each of these bold social strategies have led to both extensive media coverage and chatter among the social experts.
But do these strong, often sassy social brand personalities actually correlate to sales? The Q2 2017 Sprout Social Index found that three-quarters of consumers surveyed believe there’s value in brands exhibiting humor on social but only one-third actually want brands to bring on the snark full force. More importantly, only 36 percent are willing to purchase from brands they believe are funny. This pales in comparison to the majority of consumers, who buy from brands that are honest (86 percent), helpful (78 percent) and friendly (83 percent).
So how does your brand decide if the virality of snark is worth the risk? The answer lies with your audience.
Know Your Audience
Your brand can’t be everything to everyone. One person’s “annoying” is another person’s “cool”. In order to walk on the right side of that line l, you need to first understand your what your brand inherently stands for. Then, you need to recognize just who your social audience is and what they’re looking for from you. Speak to your audience the way your audience speaks to you, and provide them with what they’re looking for—not what you want them to be looking for. Join the conversations that are relevant and avoid the ones that aren’t.
My daughter loves theater and is obsessed with Hamilton the Musical. On Instagram, the cult hit posts user-generated and brand content that correlates to the key themes of the show.
The brand’s Instagram personality is political, celebratory and rooted in relaying historical facts in an approachable and accessible fashion. By laddering up to the key themes of the musical itself and incorporating content its own audience produces, what Hamilton shares on social really resonates which is evident through the tens of thousands of likes and positive comments on nearly every post.
Unlike my daughter, my fourteen-year-old son is less interested in behind-the-scenes footage of hit musicals and more interested in what Slim Jim is sharing on social. During our annual family road trips, he needs to snap into a Slim Jim at every truck stop. It’s a habit that drives my wife and I crazy and it’s prompted him to follow the brand on Instagram.
The gas station snack food isn’t trying to appeal to theater super fans with unpolished, authentic UGC like Hamilton. Instead, Slim Jim’s content is centered around gaming, sports, crass innuendos and bro-humor that speaks directly to young men like my son.
Regardless of who you’re targeting, certain brand behaviors can come across as annoying rather than cool or entertaining. This is important for brands to get right – 51 percent of consumers say they would unfollow a brand that annoyed them on social and 23 percent would walk away from your brand completely by vowing to never buy you again. Which proves that a successful ROI is less about whether or not your brand is sassy and more about presenting a personality that mimics the brand positioning and matches the function of your product or service.
Taking the Plunge
Before committing to a strong personality on social, you need a deep dive into who your audience is on each platform and what they’re expecting from your brand. For instance, Sprout found that Millennials are 75 percent more interested in brand personality on Instagram that their older counterparts and 25 percent more likely to appreciate brands who use slang. Across all age groups 83 percent of consumers are eager to see the key characteristics of your brand’s personality come to life on Facebook, where brands have the greatest ability to mix content formats and target appropriate audiences.
If you think your brand is ready to take the plunge into the social snark pool, start by incorporating humor into your one-on-one conversations and see how your most engaged audience reacts to your tone and voice. If the feedback is positive, test a playful voice in your editorial content, and continue to adapt and learn from there.
Remember that the virality of snark on social isn’t necessarily going to drive ROI. And, depending on your community demographics, it might even be a turnoff. Focus on what the majority of consumers want and what any brand, regardless of audience, can execute: Honest, helpful, friendly behavior on social.