Should Brands on Social Media Get Clever? Survey Says…Probably Not

When Wendy’s got involved in #NuggsForCarter and what would eventually become the most retweeted tweet of all time at 3.6 million retweets, other brands jumped on the opportunity. Discussing politics and taking a stance 71 percent of respondents find it annoying when a brand talks politics on social media. Consider the way a brand approaches political speech. The brand directly calls on its customers to take action for a political cause. Slang 69 percent of respondents find it annoying when brands use slang on social media. The survey may label audience attitude as “annoyed,” but businesses that use slang evoke a special kind of exasperation from social media users. Using GIFs in posts and replies More than four in ten respondents (42%) say they find it annoying when brands use GIFs. But really, the success of the GIF when used to engage customers through social media depends on the context. Risky comebacks on social media 67 percent of respondents find it annoying when brands make fun of their competitors. What’s more, 81 percent of respondents feel that way when brands make fun of their customers.

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When it comes to social media for businesses, there’s an undeniable pressure to be funny and edgy. It’s become commonplace for brands on social media to join in on the current conversations sweeping the nation, armed with a stockpile of GIFs, memes, and topical references.

But perhaps it’s time to ask — just how important is it to be clever on social media?

There’s a notable uptick in these efforts when a company darts into the national spotlight, like when Wendy’s first adopted its sassy approach to community management. When Wendy’s got involved in #NuggsForCarter and what would eventually become the most retweeted tweet of all time at 3.6 million retweets, other brands jumped on the opportunity. Microsoft, United, and Amazon all retweeted the message on their corporate accounts.

It’s easy to feel inspired when these daring risks pay off big-time. But more often than not, this approach backfires in small ways. Many companies end up trying a little too hard, enduring ridicule from those who were supposed to be potential new leads and loyal customers.

In fact, the Q2 2017 Sprout Social Index reveals some interesting facts about audience attitudes surrounding these common brand behaviors.

To break down a few of the findings and discuss how they translate into a brand’s social media engagement strategy, let’s explore some real-life approaches to each tactic.

Discussing politics and taking a stance

71 percent of respondents find it annoying when a brand talks politics on social media.

This is a tough one, because it works against what we know about people’s buying behavior being influenced by a company’s beliefs and values. A recent study by Edelman found that 57 percent of consumers said they are “more likely to buy from or boycott a brand because of its stance on a social or political issue.”

So what accounts for the conflict between these two findings? Consider the way a brand approaches political speech. There’s a clear difference between brands that take up a cause and reflect their efforts through action, and those that jump on a political bandwagon in the moment.

Take REI. The…

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