How Social Media Managers Are Using Humor When Interacting With Competitors and Consumers, And It’s Going Viral

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In the social media world, there’s always something new happening. United Airlines did this, Pepsi did that, Coca-cola said this and Southwest said that. Every single thing posted is heard by someone, but how do you ensure that hundreds, thousands, even millions of people see your content?

Lately, especially in the last few months, brands have been taking their content on social media to new heights in attempt to achieve the *viral* status that we’re all pining for. How are they doing it? They’re trying humor.

One of the first to take the plunge at humor, Wendy’s took a swing at Hardee’s after the competitor fast food chain when a Twitter thread started about the different 4 for $4 deals offered by both restaurants.

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When Wendy’s was knocked down, they picked themselves up, brushed off, and came back with a comment that was priceless. As the original 4 for $4 deal creator, Wendy’s asked “Tell us the fourth person to walk on the moon without googling it,” insinuating that the first person was the only one that mattered to the world. The tweet has received 19,00 RTs and 47,000 likes as of April 20th, and people all across the Internet were talking about the humor that Wendy’s used to defend their product. The social media account seems to rely on humor for a lot of their voice, and it has proven successful so far. Is it smart for an account to take a humorous approach to a brand threat? It seems like for trusted, well-backed brands, it’s a good way to show you can joke around, but you’re also serious about your product.

Another brand that’s taken the leap and cracked a joke is Southwest.

In a college student’s boredom, or just his desire to see how they’d react post-United Airlines disaster, he DM’d the airline on Twitter claiming he had a bad experience with one of their flight attendants. Jokingly he led the customer service agent on and then ended with a photo of Britney Spears, making it clear the entire conversation was a joke.

Instead of reacting with a rude or negative comment, or ignoring/blocking the follower, Southwest’s customer service rep used it as a chance to join in on the humor, and responded with “Ooops she did it again,” cracking a Britney-related joke and winning over the Internet. Shortly after the student tweeted it out the tweet went viral, and it now has 76,000 RTs and 120,000 likes. Clearly, good, clean humor can create a positive viral moment for a brand.

What does this mean for other brands? In short, it means that now consumers are expecting brands to respond to their outrageous tweets or Facebook comments, and they’re anticipating humorous, viral content from other accounts as well. It also means that brands need to be aware of the tone and humor that their audiences respond to.

In addition, it means that brands now have a way to engage with their followers on a different, more relatable level and that it could be an asset to organizations that often have mistakes, like airlines and restaurants. I think in general, brands have to assess the climate and tone of their comments and engagements on social media and make a strategic decision about what types of responses will work well and fit their brand. A brand should never alter its voice or standards just to make something go viral.

How can brands use, but not abuse, this new, trendy approach? It’s a delicate balance, between trying to get the attention of your followers and trying not to make jokes that don’t go over well. (See, Digiorno’s poorly worded tweet with a lack of context about their pizza.)

Brands can use it for humorous, catchy marketing campaigns or to interact with people for customer service purposes, like Southwest did. But it’s important that they understand the conversation and have a purpose for their response, otherwise it can be misinterpreted like Digiorno’s tweet. I always think that a brand should make sure to stay on message with whatever it posts, but if it can find a way to make a positive viral impact, it should go for it.

This trend is also a good way for a brand who might’ve had something that’s potentially a crisis, find a positive way into the limelight, encouraging people to ignore the negative thing that happened. While all press is good press, viral press for positive or funny reasons is even better press for a brand.

What does this mean for the social media industry?

Customers are longing for individualized, person-to-person engagement, something that in 2017 happens over the Internet or through a smartphone. In order for a brand to make an impact, it needs to have meaningful interactions with its consumers. Word of mouth marketing and viral social media can have both a positive and negative impact on a brand and its account, so it’s important for them to be wary of crossing the line, but still excite followers.

Originally published on Marisa Russell’s Syracuse blog

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