Getting sassy on social media (without putting your foot in your mouth)

Sass leads to laughter and laughter holds people’s attention, making your company memorable and humanizing your brand. Think you can’t pull it off? Everyone from fast food franchises to police departments have managed to go viral with a little bit of feistiness.

So how do you avoid alienating your base?

Compare and contrast: sass versus crass

Head on over to Wendy’s Twitter account and you’ll find the fast food giant regularly trolling customers upon request, making snappy comebacks, and playfully insulting its competitors. The deadpan commentary on lighthearted topics keeps things fun even when the responses are mildly insulting. Examples: there’s the infamous nugget tweet that went viral, and the icy response to a troll who insisted Wendy’s beef was frozen.

In contrast, let’s look at Z Palette’s catastrophic social media management. While Wendy’s will happily, and yet kindly, make snappy comments to trolls and followers, Z Palette outright insulted its own customers on Instagram after the brand received some less than stellar commentary on a new product launch. The result was a mass exodus of customers, influencers, and retailers.

What’s the difference? Wendy’s acts in good fun, responding sarcastically to off the wall comments while always taking real complaints seriously. Meanwhile, Z Palette decided to veer toward crass cruelty.

Know (and talk to) your audience …

Social media content is only funny if your base understands it. When Denny’s riled up the internet with its ‘zoom in on the syrup’ tweet, they knew that their base was 1 – probably on a smartphone, and 2 – inclined to venture down rabbit holes. Elder-Beerman probably wouldn’t have gotten the same reaction.

But you can’t just send ‘sass’ into the void – while funny commentary plays well with most consumers, what they’re really looking for is a brand that actually talks to them and each other. Taco Bell and Old Spice generated a lot of laughs with their back and forth, and JetBlue regularly hits it out of the park with conversations with customers like this one.

… but always test your post first

Prior to posting anything on social media, ask yourself the following questions before you even begin to draft the post:

  • What is my audience interested in right now?
  • Are there any similar posts to what I’m thinking of saying?
  • Does commenting on this or making this statement fit my brand voice and tone?

Once the post is formatted, run it through the following test before you send it out into the world:

  • Can this be misinterpreted?
  • Will this offend any one person or group of people?
  • Will my audience find this confusing?

If the answer to any of the above is ‘yes’, head back to the drawing board. And remember – you can incorporate your message, too. Sure, random observations and kindhearted jabs at followers increase engagement tenfold. But you can work sass into your overall message as well. When a local Kansas news network made a slight gaff about blowing into a Tostitos bag to see if one was sober enough to drive, the Lawrence Police Department responded with ‘If you have to blow into a Tostitos bag to know if you’re intoxicated, for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT DRIVE.’

Even if your brand’s voice doesn’t fit with constant sarcasm and joke making, injecting a little bit of spirited humor into your social media presence goes a long way toward engaging your base.


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