Social Media Strategist
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Social Media marketing, strategy and professional development blog for Jon-Stephen Stansel, a social media strategist living in Austin, Texas.

Snark Isn't A Strategy

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Brands are getting snarky on social media, but is it an effective strategy?

-by Jon-Stephen Stansel

You’ve seen the Tweets. You’ve read the blog posts. “You’ll Never Believe What Wendy’s Said on Twitter!” “MoonPies Shuts Down Troll in Savage Twitter Post!” Brands are going snarky on social, posting snappy and sarcastic replies to their critics on social media and attracting some major attention. And as much as I love to see trolls get smacked down, it is time for this trend to stop. This strategy might get attention in the short-term, but as a long-term social media strategy it’s risky and most-likely counterproductive. Here’s why:

It’s Been Done

Wendy’s, MoonPies, Merrium-Webster. These brands are using snark effectively. Their witty comebacks and sarcastic tone have won them followers and media attention. But like many other over-played social media tropes, simply copying the success of others is not going to help you achieve your goals. It’s been done, and done well. We’ve seen it. Show me something new.

It’s High Risk, Low Reward

Snark can go wrong quickly. Wendy’s use of the anti-Semitic “Pepe the Frog” meme shows how even a brand very skilled a snark can make a drastic misstep. With snark, the opportunity to offend is wide-open. Do you really want to risk alienating a customer who isn’t in on the joke? And what do you get for taking this risk? Notoriety? Fleeting social media fame? At best, you might get a viral post. But at the end of the day is it worth it? Which brings us to our next point…

Does It Move Product?

While being snarky on social might bring media attention and publicity, does it really further your bottom line? Is it increasing sales or just adding publicity value?  Don’t be snarky for the sake of being trendy. Have a clear purpose and strategy for it. What is your ultimate goal for being on social?  If being snarky doesn’t help you achieve those goals, don’t do it.

It’s Inconsistent with the Voice of Your Brand

Most brands who are snarky on social, are only snarky on social. Their tone doesn’t match the rest of their brand voice on other channels. Consider this when making the choice to go snarky. Are you okay with a dramatic shift in brand identity on one of your largest marketing channels? Or can you go all in and have a unified voice across your platforms? Do you want that voice to be snarky? (Take a look at KFC or Old Spice for great examples that went all in with an unconventional voice.)

Sarcasm isn’t Good Comedy

Sarcasm isn’t clever or witty. Truly funny people don’t rely on sarcasm for laughs. If you are going to be snarky on social media, be Oscar Wilde not Chandler Bing…Seriously, go rewatch an episode or two of “Friends.” Chandler isn’t as funny as you might remember. He’s actually kind of mean. An eye roll isn’t comedy.

Snark might seem like an easy way to get some engagement on social, but is it really worth it? Would you rather be the brand that is known for being consistently helpful than the brand that is really good at insulting people?

Note: This post is in no way to disparage the work of @MoonPie, @Wendys, or @MerriamWebster. Seriously, they do great work. They have the snark thing down and do it beautifully. But it is important to state that their social strategy won’t work for every one…and also, they’ve already done it. Come on. Don’t be a copycat.