Social Media for… Shock Value?

2 Aug

I read this article yesterday about the possible good that can result from offending people via social media. In case you didn’t click over to the article, Michael Gray, the author, summed up his point via twitter:

To be clear, I think innovation and uniqueness are two ways to unleash a potentially explosive campaign… however, I disagree that being offensive is a good tactic. In his post, Michael offers the example of Kenneth Cole’s tweet, which was published during the height of Cairo’s political uproar:

Michael argues that if brands or companies are confined by their attempts to appeal to everyone, then they lose the ability to differentiate themselves from the pack. I’ll counter by saying that offending a lot of people is not a good way to differentiate yourself. Being called repulsive and insensitive is hardly the impression most brands would like to make.

Differentiation on social media doesn’t mean jarring your audience with an offensive statement, but just the opposite. It’s about being a transparent brand; someone your audience can trust and understand. A brand that consumers don’t feel is deceptive or dishonest. Case in point, Entemann’s recently faced a similar predicament when they made a careless tweet using the #notguilty hashtag which was trending shortly after the Casey Anthony verdict was released. Apparently the social media personnel responsible failed to check why #notguilty was trending before releasing the tweet. The unintentionally offensive tweet was quickly removed, followed by sincere apologies and forthcoming explanations by Entenmann’s about their mistake.

Differentiation is about personality. It’s being human with your audience, and speaking their language. Consumers don’t want to interact (positively) with a brand that makes an offensive joke about something tragic, personal, or controversial. They want a brand that they agree with and respect, or at the very least a brand that they understand.

Differentiation is about value. Each time you tweet, what purpose does that tweet serve? Are you continually spamming followers with a link to your online store? Or are you offering them advice they may be looking for, an article that they may be interested in, tips for better using your brand? Do your tweets provide a service to customers, beyond simply advertising your brand?

Finally, differentiation is about engagement. Is the brand interacting on a regular and timely basis with consumers? Are they responding to both positive and negative social media posts? I recently re-tweeted this article about Wells Fargo’s Twitter strategy. Impressively, Wells Fargo responded to my tweet:

Even more impressively, this isn’t the first time they’ve tweeted at me after I’ve mentioned my experience with their customer service. It’s this type of social media engagement that fosters brand loyalty. Not a tasteless tweet made about a country’s crisis.

Do you think offensive tweets serve a positive purpose? Did Entenmann’s do the right thing? Did Kenneth Cole? What other ways would you suggest brands differentiate themselves?


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