As social media continues to play an increasingly greater role in companies’ promotional and customer engagement efforts, some businesses have discovered that on these platforms they are free from some of the limitations that come with traditional advertising. Realising that social media is the Wild West of free expression some brands have dived into the fray with great gusto.

We have companies which have invested money and effort into infusing personalities into their social media accounts. This has resulted in some brands whose posts on social media can give some comedians and socialites a run for their money. These accounts make hilarious commentary on current events, take jabs at other users and tear into their competition. However like with almost everything in life the good stuff usually comes with some bad. Let us examine some of the possible advantages and drawbacks of being wickedly witty on social media.

The pros

Getting attention

People follow what or whoever they find most interesting on social media. Unfortunately in the business world, very few industries are in any way interesting. However do not despair, no matter how boring or run-of-the-mill what your business offers, you can still command a powerful social media presence. By crafting funny, interesting and well-timed commentary on popular topics you can still grow a sizeable online audience whether you are a fast food outlet or a granite quarry.

Drawing attention away from your competition to yourself

As I have already pointed out, social media is the one place where you can openly call out your competition and make jokes at their expense—something which is considered so cringe-worthy in traditional advertising that there are often explicit rules to prevent it. Social media savvy businesses often initiate hilarious onslaughts on their competitors to hijack the attention of the people who follow these accounts. Smaller businesses often use this tactic on their bigger and better-known competitors: few things will win your brand attention quite like provoking whoever is behind the social media account of a big corporation into making a snarky comeback—assuming said account has a significant social media following of course.

Viral marketing

Funny posts get shared. Whether it is just a joke with your brand name attached or an actual funny advertisement, if people enjoy it they will share it until it reaches significantly far more eyes than your actual social media audience’s. Also, brands openly poking fun at their competition is still sufficiently new for people to still want to share these scuffles amongst each other.

Keeping customers engaged

When a business posts far more than just announcements and updates on social media it stays in the minds of its audience for longer. Customers are fickle and sometimes the only thing that stands in the way of brand loyalty is that they completely forget about businesses/brands the moment they run into new ones. When you maintain your customers’ attention for longer through regular funny posts it becomes harder for you to slip their minds.

The cons

Backlash when something goes wrong

Sometimes topics and subjects trend because they are either controversial or there is a lot of emotional weight behind them. When the primary goal of a company’s social media communications is being funny, it is easy for it to clumsily step into the midst of a very sensitive topic and then pay dearly for it. Google “corporate social media fails” and you will know what I am talking about. Another problem is that these posts are often crafted by people with little to no oversight and they tend to have their personal opinions, biases and senses of humour which can offend the sensibilities of some members of the public. For example, someone in charge of some car insurance firm’s social media accounts thought it was okay to jokingly ask if the late actor Paul Walker had insurance in response to news about his death in a car accident.

Conflict with the brand image you are trying to develop

Sometimes despite all the previously listed benefits of this approach to social media, you may be angling to develop a more serious brand—there are lines of business where this is beneficial. Unfortunately in such cases your efforts at seriousness will both be contradicted and defeated by your playfulness on SM.

Your account may not be taken seriously

If you are outrageous enough online, your SM accounts’ primary purposes such as communicating announcements and offers to customers will suffer. This is because for many it is quite difficult to acknowledge the sincerity of an announcement that is both preceded and followed by jokes.

You may inadvertently discourage customer communication

Another unfortunate side effect of online sassiness is that you may unintentionally be discouraging customers, both current and potential, from talking to you via these platforms. No one wants to talk business or submit a genuine query to an account that appears to be in the hands of an obnoxious teenager (yes that is how some company SM accounts nowadays).

In conclusion

So should you start being more hilarious or more serious on social media? The answer is not simple; all I can say is that you should choose whatever you think will align best with the brand you are developing and the kinds of services or products you offer.