Should You Or Your Business Be Funny On Social Media?

Catriona Pollard
on July 17, 2018

Social media can make or break a business.

We all remember at least one funny social media post from a business. While social media can be effective for increasing engagement with your brand some businesses get it so wrong.

It is important to realise when a joke will work well and when you shouldn’t head down that path.

Jokes about race

It‘s common sense to most people that jokes about race are never funny. They’re offensive, and can do so much harm to a business.

Last year Dove ended up in hot water over a Facebook ad where a woman of colour removes her top to reveal the white woman she has become from using Dove body lotion. Although not the intention of the ad, it is important to realise how it can be viewed by everyone.

Dove received a lot of backlash for this ad and after removing it from its Facebook page and a formal apology was issued. A little too late for most people as the Twitter post received a huge amount of negativity and many users calling for a boycott of Dove’s products.

A more recent example sees Roseanne Barr from hit sitcom ‘Roseanne’ ruining her career over a tweet she made comparing Valerie Jarrett, an African American woman who was a senior advisor to Barack Obama, to an ape.

The reboot of her show has since been cancelled, along with other consequences such as reruns of her show being cancelled on channels. Barr has since apologised blaming it on taking an Ambien tablet and being late at night. To which Sanofi, the company which makes Ambien, responded “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.”

Many praised Sanofi for their response and their twitter likes on that post alone sky rocketed from an average of 20 to 186 thousand. That one response for Sanofi is a great example on how humour can benefit your business.

Jokes about a current event

Just like Sanofi, making a joke about a current event can be really effective if they’re done in good taste. Netflix has done this as they know their target audience very well and know what appeals to their audience. For example, using the recent Royal wedding to their advantage.

During the Royal wedding Netflix decided to make a joke about the wedding being part of the storyline for Suits, the popular show on Netflix where Megan Markle was a main character. This worked well for them, people thought it was hilarious and Netflix continued to stay on top of trending topics.

But not all tweets about a current event go well. An April fool’s joke went wrong for Elon Musk CEO of Tesla, this year. He thought it would be funny to tweet about Tesla going “completely and totally bankrupt.” It seemed innocent enough until Tesla’s shares dropped as much as 8.1% the following day.

Without realising what impact that joke could have, especially now when so many people look to social media for the latest news and information, it’s safe to say, we should all learn from his lesson and think before we hit ‘Tweet’.

 Jokes about animal cruelty

Grill’d was in the line of fire after a joke saw many people unimpressed. An Easter campaign last year saw Grill’d launch a ‘Bunny Burger’. The Facebook post had people under the impression that the featured burger had a rabbit patty. What made it even worse was Grill’d writing on their website that the burger was made from “ethically sourced Australian rabbit, as well as pork belly and duck fat”.

The burger was actually a vegan burger marketed “a burger fit for a bunny”. The backlash saw thousands of people commenting on the post “disgusted” in the chain’s humour.

This didn’t stop them from repeating the exact same campaign a year later, which saw equally the same amount of backlash and had people questioning Grill’d about mocking their target audience.

It is important for businesses to think twice about posting, to make sure nothing can be taken in a way unintended. It is important to know the values of your stakeholders and know what humour will work and also know the potential backlash you could get from a “harmless” post.

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